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Wil Sillen

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Dura Vermeer

Climate love

Dura Vermeer plans to halve CO2 emissions in seven years

By: André Oerlemans

Dura Vermeer, the Netherlands, wants to halve its CO2 emissions by 2030 and reduce them to almost zero by 2050. This can be done, for example, through more wood construction, more reuse of asphalt, concrete, steel and other building materials, more low-CO2 concrete, building more energy-neutral homes and the switch to emission-free construction equipment.
“It is a very nice challenge to get started with this. We choose to reduce CO2 and not to offset it,” says Job Dura, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dura Vermeer Groep NV.

Big impact
The infrastructure and construction industry has a huge impact on the climate and living environment. In the Netherlands, the sector is responsible for 50 percent of raw material consumption, 40 percent of energy consumption and 35 percent of CO2 emissions.

Sustainable building more urgent
Dura Vermeer has been involved in sustainable construction for a long time. In 2008, for example, the company was co-initiator of the Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC). It is committed to making the sector more sustainable faster and more thoroughly and is the publisher of the well-known BREEAM label, which certifies sustainable construction projects. In addition, it was the first company to develop an energy-neutral residential area, RijswijkBuiten, ten years ago. "We have also already built 450 timber-frame houses using our Blokje Om concept. Now none of this is new. Only the need to do it has moved up the agenda now that climate change is more urgent than ever," says Dura. "As a family business we think of the long term. From our moral compass, we see the need to reduce climate change and we want to contribute to this. In addition, our customers are asking for it, new legislation is on the way and the goals of the Paris climate agreement and those from The Netherlands."
Ready for annual reporting
One of the new laws from Brussels, for example, is the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This obliges larger companies such as Dura Vermeer to report annually from 2025 on the impact of their activities on people, the environment and society. So about CO2 emissions, impact on biodiversity or human rights. This often falls under the heading Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG). “We are already 80 percent prepared for that. We already largely include that in our annual report,” says Dura.

Educate employees
Although Dura Vermeer has been working on sustainability for decades, the company wants to approach that policy in a more structured way. A vision and a policy plan have been drawn up for this purpose. The basis of this is a uniform measurement method of science-based goals and the formulation of starting points for that policy. Dura Vermeer set it up and recorded it last year. “That also means that you have to educate employees, colleagues and directors about this,” he says. “What does scope 1, 2 or 3 mean? What does net zero mean? And what can you do about it? We will elaborate this per business activity and per business unit in so-called roadmaps.”

According to him, the ultimate goal – net zero – is known, but the company does not yet have the answers to all questions. Gradually, Dura Vermeer wants to learn and adjust and be transparent and honest about this.
Reuse by Urban Miner
The company has plenty of good practical examples. It is already building roads of 100 percent circular asphalt, using recycled bitumen from the roof of Schiphol to make the runway of Rotterdam-The Hague Airport, building circular homes made of wood in Vlaardingen and Nijmegen and opening a so-called Urban Miner in ' s-Gravendeel in the Hoeksche Waard. “An important part of the sustainable transition is the reuse of materials,” he says. “What we do there is collect used materials, see what we can do with them and reuse them in new projects. For example, old, concrete bridge girders that we demolish from structures and reuse elsewhere. For example, we built the new railway bridge at Witte Paarden in Overijssel with recycled steel from an auxiliary structure during the construction of a new sea lock. Now we are working on noise barriers made from old wind turbine blades.”
Role of construction company changed
Nowadays, a construction company is more at the forefront of the construction process. As a result, Dura Vermeer can better manage the use of materials than blindly copy what an architect or engineering firm has come up with. Dura: “As the main contractor, we have more and more control over the design. As a result, you also have an influence on the choice of material. Our role has become very different and that is great. It is ultimately a sum of measures that we have to take. First you have to build knowledge and awareness in your own organization. Then you and your client should steer towards the reuse of material, the use of biobased material or low-energy alternatives such as low-CO2 concrete. Another important starting point is working together with your chain. Over the past two or three years, we have been working with our partners and suppliers to make construction safer, but also more sustainable.”

Most profit in scope 3
Most of Dura Vermeer's CO2 emissions do not come from its own offices, equipment or lease fleet (scope 1 and 2), but from the activities of suppliers and subcontractors, the so-called scope 3. For example, suppliers of concrete, steel, glass and aluminum. The production of concrete alone is responsible for 8 percent of global CO2 emissions. This is due to the high temperatures and the chemical reactions that are required during production. Scope 3 also includes energy consumption and the associated CO2 emissions of buildings after completion. There is still a lot to be gained there, he says. For example, if Dura Vermeer builds a project that uses a lot of energy, but does not use renewable energy, then this will be at the expense of scope 3 emissions.
Emission-free construction equipment
There is not much profit to be made in scopes 1 and 2. Dura: “It doesn't mean much to us. That is a very small part of the total CO2 emissions. If you pay attention to the emissions of your own offices and cars and purchase sustainable energy, you have come a long way.” Then it concerns CO2 emissions. Since the Council of State brushed aside the construction exemption in the lawsuit against the Porthos project, nitrogen emissions have also become important. Every gram emitted during construction must be taken into account. That is why electric excavators, trucks and other construction equipment are suddenly much more important, because they do not emit nitrogen. There are already a few companies working on this. “But for heavy equipment that you have to use to vibrate sheet piles, to dig foundations or cellars, there is no electrical alternative yet,” says Dura. “If there is, we will certainly use it.”

Tenders not only on price
The only question is how much and when construction companies will invest in electrical heavy equipment. The range is small and the price relatively high. Investments in tenders must also yield benefits. Clients should not only look at the price, but also at sustainability. “If they take that into account, you get an acceleration. If they don't do that and look purely at the price, the construction industry will sit back. Then there is no incentive,” says Dura.
Think a generation ahead
Dura Vermeer is a family business. The shares have been passed from generation to generation since 1855. Is a switch to more sustainable construction easier for such a company than for a listed company where shareholders only think about their dividend? Dura: “We have shareholders who hold shares and do not sell them. We have a long-term policy. We have to think a generation ahead. My children won't accept it if you don't think about climate or sustainability. Our main objective is continuity and independence. To guarantee that continuity, you have to be at the forefront of this and be concrete about it. So no greenwashing.”

Attractive employer
Such a policy has more advantages. Dura Vermeer will become a lot more attractive as an employer in the tight labor market. Especially for young people. “The young generation can use Dura Vermeer to make society sustainable. Why? Because we build bridges, tunnels, houses, roads and schools. Because we also have a say in the design and have control over it, you can help shape it,” he says.

In addition, more and more clients are taking sustainability into account in their selection and as a construction company you will sooner be the winner in tenders.
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  • Annett Michuki..

    7 w

    this should be every organization's goal

    • Hilda Wangui

      7 w

      With such impressive ideas the planet will be saved in a great way

      • Munene Mugambi

        7 w

        Let's hold them to their plans

        • Daniel Waweru

          7 w

          This is a great step, Kudos

          • Joseph Githinji

            7 w

            This should be developed by all means, steps on the right direction.

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