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Östersund has the EU's first zero-emission construction site

The builders are very satisfied, especially with the quieter working environment.
- Anne Sörensson, climate strategist

Imagine a construction site that is almost silent, with no smell of exhaust fumes. A utopia, no it exists right now. The Ottfjället preschool in the municipality of Östersund is being built with electrified construction machinery. It is the first emission-free construction site in the EU.

Today, the construction site is unique, but it needs to become the new normal. The construction sector accounts for a large part of the greenhouse gas emissions that need to be drastically reduced.
So how do you go about it? Watch the movie on the right and read the interviews below with those who planned the construction.
The initiative is a collaboration between Östersund Municipality, Skanska, Volvo and Fossil Free Sweden.

Drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
Better working environment for construction workers
Greatly reduced disruption to local residents

New ways of working and lack of machinery two challenges

In the fall of 2023, a groundbreaking initiative is underway in Östersund. The construction of a new preschool will be emission-free, using electric machinery.

Anne Sörensson, climate strategist at Östersund Municipality, and Sofia Grelsson, project manager for the building, are among those who have ensured that the initiative has been realized.

- The construction industry accounts for a large part of Sweden's climate impact, about 20% of total emissions. "By building without emissions and setting procurement requirements, we can reduce emissions on a construction site, and we want to inspire others to do the same," says climate strategist Anne Sörensson.

What are you doing?

We are building a new preschool in Östersund, Ottfjället preschool, and the construction site is 95% emission-free. We wanted it to be fully electrified but it was 95 percent because some machines were not available electrified. Construction started in June 2023 but preparations began in 2021, including a feasibility study. The inauguration took place on June 9, 2023 and the preschool will be completed by December 2024.

Which machines are involved?

Inside the construction gates, electrically powered excavators, wheel loaders, trucks for internal mass transportation, toads, tower cranes and concrete and filler pumps are used. What is not electrified is the roller and transportation in and out of the site. There are electric rollers but not as large as needed. To reduce the need for asphalt, we decided to use tiles inside the gates instead of asphalt. According to the feasibility study, an estimated 95% of the machines are electrified.

Who is involved in the initiative?

The municipality of Östersund is the client and Skanska is building. Skanska is also co-financing half of the cost increase of SEK 4.6 million. The total budget for the preschool is SEK 92 million. Volvo Construction Equipment is contributing most of the electric construction machinery. Last but not least, Fossil Free Sweden has initiated the initiative, which is part of the Climate Leader for Public Procurement project in which Östersund Municipality is one of six participating municipalities. Climate leader for public procurement is about stimulating more ambitious and coordinated climate requirements in procurement and strengthening companies that want to switch to delivering fossil-free products and services.

Why are you doing this particular initiative?

Each municipality would have a spearhead project within the Climate Leaders project. We chose to build an emission-free preschool with electrified machinery. A lot of renewable electricity is produced in the municipality and county, and power was available at the site. We have good experience from early electrification initiatives in terms of cars, charging stations and buses, and a transition to electricity is also underway right now in the electrification of the truck sector, especially on the business side.

How does the building contribute to Climate Neutral Östersund 2030?

In concrete terms, according to the feasibility study, we emit about 64 tons less greenhouse gases than we would have done on a fossil fuel construction site. You might think that's not much in the grand scheme of things, but it's important to start making demands and requesting electrically powered machines and pave the way for many more climate-friendly construction projects. Oslo, which is not part of the EU, is ahead of us. There, public actors have set joint procurement requirements and succeeded in getting an incredible number of buildings to become emission-free. It is small and medium-sized enterprises that dare to invest because they trust that they can be contracted. We want to contribute to a similar development in our municipality and in Sweden. Other positive synergies include the creation of a better working environment for the builders on site, with lower noise levels, less exhaust fumes and even vibrations. Less noise is also good for the environment. We have also gained a better insight into how the municipality's processes, such as budget and procurement, need to be changed to facilitate similar initiatives.

You are the first in the EU to achieve this. How have you gone about it?

The project has been anchored in top management and we have had committed politicians and put a lot of energy into it as civil servants. An important factor has been early dialogue, both internally with everyone in the municipality's organization who became involved, but also with the companies we wanted to work with. Last but not least, we should mention Fossil Free Sweden, which has been involved, encouraged and supported us in the project.

What challenges or obstacles have you encountered in the process?

This had not been done before, so some municipal processes took longer than usual. The biggest challenge was linked to the dramatic increase in the cost of construction, an increase that was not due to the additional cost of building emission-free. This meant that it was uncertain whether construction would start at all. Another challenge is that at the time of construction there were not many zero-emission construction machines and experience of working with them. "We received three tenders and only one supplier was able to deliver an electrified workplace in line with our expectations.

Is the preschool itself also climate-friendly built and intended to be climate-neutral?

The focus of the project was to build emission-free, the money was not enough to build completely fossil-free. However, it is quite a good level. The preschool is being built according to Miljöbyggnad silver requirements and is being built in wood. It will be connected to renewable district heating and the municipality also buys renewable electricity. The plan is for the preschool to open at the end of 2024. "I haven't heard that it will be a climate-neutral operation, but it's an exciting challenge that we can take with us.

What happens in the future, will all construction in Östersund be emission-free?

Yes, I hope it will soon be the new normal, but we will start by evaluating this project. So far, it has gone very well. The machines are working well and the schedule is being kept. The builders are very happy, especially with the quieter working environment.

In the future, it will also be easier to find more electric machines on the market. For example, there is already an electric asphalt paver that did not exist when the project started. There is also a climate premium at the Swedish Energy Agency that can be applied for by those who want to invest in work machines.

Procurement: 'Only one supplier met our requirements'

Sofia Grelsson is a project manager at Östersund municipality's project unit and also project manager for the construction of the Ottfjället preschool.

What is the procurement model for Ottfjället?

- The procurement is a call-off of a concept preschool procured by ADDA. Skanska was asked to build a preschool as the model best suited the client's business and was available in our market. Not all suppliers in the agreement can deliver throughout the country. Based on the call-off of the concept preschool, a subcontract for the land has also been procured where the requirement for an emission-free workplace has been in focus for selection and qualification.

How did you formulate the climate requirements for Ottfjället?

We asked groundwork contractors to submit an option for a zero-emission workplace. This was partly to ensure that the costs of the groundwork were put out to tender and that we got a quality mark on the investment for emission-free workplaces. The option was that the groundwork would be carried out without emissions and that all work machines in the area would thus be electrified.

What was the response from the supplier market and the competition in the procurement process itself?

We received three tenders, two of which were complete and could do the job in a conventional way with any engine. Only one supplier was able to deliver an electrified workplace in line with our expectations.

What is the value of the contract?

Approximately SEK 75 million. The budget for preschool is 92 million SEK according to the political decision of the City Council in March 2023.

Three tips for other clients

More about the building

Contact us

Caroline Hildahl, Process Manager Climate Neutral Östersund 2030,

Climate neutral Östersund 2030