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Aecon’s path for sustainable construction

Firm behind CN Tower zeros in on greener construction

The Oneida Energy Storage Project, which Aecon is contracted to work on. (Courtesy Aecon Group Inc.)

Aecon Group Inc.’s (ARE-T) 2022 sustainability report titled Building a Sustainable Future provides a picture for how the Toronto-based construction company behind some of Canada’s most distinctive landmarks is trying to build and operate greener.

Aecon helped construct The CN Tower, the St. Lawrence Seaway, The Vancouver Sky Train and Highway 407.

In the report, Aecon’s president and CEO Jean-Louis Servranckx outlined how the company is adapting to the clean energy transition, which is a “. . . vast transformation that demands investment and expertise from across all sectors of society.”

He says Aecon is devoting “a growing share of our work . . .on the urgent goal of decarbonizing energy systems in support of a net zero future.”

Aecon’s 2022 emissions

In its 2022 reported greenhouse gas emissions, Aecon emitted 186,875 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) in Scope 1 emissions, 3,528 tCO2e of Scope 2 emissions and 3,247 tCO2e in Scope 3 emissions that cover business travel only.

Aecon’s limited Scope 3 emissions knowledge is acknowledged by the company, and Aecon says it will continue to refine its Scope 3 emissions accounting processes in 2023.

It estimates 77 per cent of its total emissions are Scope 3, coming from building materials and other purchased goods and services.

Its 2022 emissions increased in absolute terms from 2020 and 2021, but emissions intensity decreased compared to 2020 and slightly increased compared to 2021.

Aecon has set a goal of reaching net-zero by 2050, with complementary goals like a 30 per cent reduction in intensity-based emissions for Scope 1 and 2 by 2030 (relative to 2020 levels).

The report says Aecon’s greenhouse gas emissions per revenue was unchanged relative to 2021, maintaining a 14 per cent reduction since 2020. Aecon also says it is on track for its target of a 30 per cent reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.

Aecon calculates its greenhouse gas emissions using emission factors and conversions provided by the Government of Canada, Energy Star Portfolio Manager and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

How Aecon is reducing its emissions

Aecon has undertaken several steps to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. For transportation, it has: launched a zero-emission wheel loader pilot, installed solar panels on trucks, used biodiesel and lower-emissions vehicles and trialed zero-emission equipment.

For buildings, it installed solar trackers and electric-vehicle charger installations on its properties.

For construction work, it adopted a low-carbon concrete pilot, solar-powered road signs, battery-powered tools and used eco-friendly road salts.

Aecon also built sustainable projects like a geoexchange installation and a solar light tower.

The company says it worked with Volvo on the zero-emission wheel loader pilot in 2022 to trial an electric compact wheel loader on its Finch West LRT project site. It also purchased a Volvo electric mini-excavator, which is its first piece of electric construction equipment.

Aecon trialed low-carbon concrete through a partnership with Carbon Upcycling and Dufferin Concrete to cut back on its building materials emissions.

In the future, Aecon says it will increase trials and use of low-carbon and zero-emission equipment, continue to explore low-carbon construction materials and consider alternative power for construction sites.

Minimizing waste at the workplace

To reduce construction waste, Aecon undertook initiatives such as removing and reusing 925,000 tons of road base material on the West Corridor Constructors consortium. Rather than “hauling away material from the existing road and bringing in new granular,” Aecon used onsite crushers to “break down and separate the different materials, keeping asphalt and concrete on-site for reuse and separating steel into bins for off-site recycling.”

Aecon recycled 5,000 pounds of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) scrap through CCE Recycling at its Finch West LRT project site.

Aecon’s sustainability projects

The construction firm went through its list of sustainable projects currently under construction.

Aecon was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Oneida Energy Storage Project, a 1,000 megawatt-hour/250-megawatt energy storage facility said to be the largest battery storage project in Canada.

It progressed on the Réseau Express Métropolitain, a 67-kilometre electric light rail system in Montreal that will be emissions-free.

The company also asked its employees for ways to be more environmentally-friendly, resulting in a list of initiatives such as using its facilities for safe battery disposal and cutting vehicle emissions and staff time related to pre-construction notifications.

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