Laing O’Rourke goes all in on low carbon concrete

Laing O'Rourke commits to low carbon concrete on all projects from April this year

Green Steel Deal

Laing O’Rourke, a UK-based engineering and construction company, has announced that it will be mandating the use of low carbon concrete on all of its new projects. The move comes as part of the company’s wider commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions. 

Starting from April 1st, Laing O’Rourke will exclusively use low carbon concrete for all new projects that begin main construction on or after that date. The change is expected to significantly reduce the company’s scope 3 carbon emissions. 

The decision follows a long-term research program co-funded by Laing O’Rourke and Innovate UK, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The research has proven that a range of low carbon concrete options can be successfully deployed on projects as a like-for-like substitute for traditional concrete. 

The low carbon alternatives to Portland cement that Laing O’Rourke will be using include Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag and Pulverised Fly Ash, both of which are industrial by-products with a much lower carbon footprint. 

Compared with 2022 levels, this move will result in an overall carbon reduction of 28%, saving 14.4 million kgCO2e. This is equivalent to planting 120,000 trees or 94 hectares of forest. 

Cathal O’Rourke, Laing O’Rourke’s newly appointed Chief Operating Officer, said: 

“We’ve committed to being a net zero company before 2050 and we are looking at every possible measure to accelerate our progress. In construction, the greatest challenge is reducing scope 3 emissions – the embodied carbon in purchased materials. 

“Reducing all carbon emissions is a priority for our business. The built environment makes a significant contribution to global warming and constructors must work with clients and design partners to deploy new technologies and innovations that make modern methods the norm and enable us to build in less carbon intensive ways.” 

The UK Government welcomed the move. Construction Minister, Nusrat Ghani, said: 

“Reducing carbon emissions from concrete is essential to achieving net zero carbon by 2050. 

“I’m pleased to see the leadership Laing O’Rourke is showing, through innovating and adopting the use of low-carbon concrete on all the construction projects it delivers”. 

Concrete zero

Laing O’Rourke became a founding member of ConcreteZero in 2022 and is already decarbonizing beyond the program’s near-term objectives. ConcreteZero is an initiative in partnership with the World Green Building Council that brings together businesses across the global concrete value chain to simultaneously scale the demand for and supply of low-carbon concrete. 

By joining ConcreteZero, businesses involved in construction commit to sourcing only net-zero concrete by 2050, with interim commitments covering 20% of concrete procurement volumes by 2025 and 50% by 2030. This commitment is important as cement, a key component of concrete, accounts for between 4% and 8% of the world’s carbon emissions.  

The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts a 12-23% increase in concrete production by mid-century from 2018 levels due to trends such as urbanization. This means that there is a need for companies to reduce emissions from the sector. Concrete currently contributes to 8% of global annual emissions. The United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the population will live in an urban area by 2050, with many of these yet to be built. 

It’s worth noting that concrete production is more fragmented, with 80% of global production completed by SMEs. Initiatives like ConcreteZero can help these businesses transition to low carbon options by scaling the demand for and supply of low-carbon concrete. 

Read more on Firstplanit

Read more about Net Zero on Firstplanit and check out our article on if carbon markets can help us to reach net zero.

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