Ambitious and Sustainable: Constructing Norway’s new Motorway

Green transition 4 December 2020 Heather Mason

Heather Mason is part of Ramboll’s project-team working on the expansion of the E6 Ulsberg-Vindåsliene motorway in Norway. Norway is experiencing a boom in motorway construction, and client Nye Veier has set ambitious climate goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the construction and operational phases of the new E6 motorway.

3 min

The new road line is part of a larger expansion of the E6 motorway. Replacing an existing E6 section with a low standard and a high accident risk, the project will improve accessibility and traffic safety while focusing on sustainable alternatives to previous plans for larger structures such as bridges and tunnels.

Minimising carbon emissions for road construction

Our first initiative was to modify the original road line. As we are working with a 30 km stretch, we decided to work with smaller sections since these are interchangeable. By doing so, we optimised the line by avoiding big constructions and specific terrains, like marshlands, that require a lot of work and emit large amounts of CO2, wherever possible. We also focused on the materials and their transportation. Our focus was to find CO2-efficient materials within all disciplines – road, bridge, water and drainage – while specifying biodiesel instead of regular diesel for transport.

When managing carbon emissions on a project of this scale, documentation is key. We are always documenting and sharing new information between the different disciplines and contractors. We measure the carbon emissions by collecting the total material use from the project’s road and bridge designers, among others, and entering the information into the greenhouse gas emission tool (VegLCA from Statens Vegvesen). Put differently, the discipline leaders design in an Industry Foundation Class (IFC) model, and the material quantities are exported from that for us to use in VegLCA.

Implementing the sustainability initiatives in your planning

The VegLCA tool uses a set of very detailed greenhouse gas emission values for the emission factors for each type of material. These can be adjusted as the project progresses and up until the point where the specific products are chosen for use. CO2 emissions are considered for each section to assess which solution is most beneficial for the environment. We prefer working in sections as they can always change in order to find the best and most sustainable solutions. Afterwards, we use environmental product declaration (EPD) values for the chosen products.

We approached this project intending to always find the optimal solutions. It included examining interdisciplinary solutions for life on land and life in water while limiting the greenhouse gas emissions and bettering the Norwegian infrastructure. This is where the project excels.

VegLCA tool

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration has decided that all projects over NOK 51 million must use the VegLCA tool to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. The tool can be used to carry out comprehensive life cycle assessments of road infrastructure projects but is also used for calculations of greenhouse gas budgets through the several phases of a construction project.

 

EPD

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) documents the environmental qualities of construction products. It is based on a life cycle assessment and is a standardised and transparent method for documenting the energy and resource consumption as well as the environmental impacts of a product’s life cycle.

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