Firth’s sustainability journey continues with the launch of an EPD 

Continuing the concrete industry’s strong track record for environmental benchmarking, New Zealand’s leading concrete manufacturer Firth has just released its first Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Firth is among the latest in a growing list of companies publishing data on the embodied environmental impacts of building materials.  
 
“We started collating data on our carbon footprint back in 2010 and made the decision to report by site in 2018,” explains Lily Jones, National Environmental Advisor for Firth. “This move allows for greater analysis on the carbon impact of our operation at a more detailed level.”  
 
Lily says that producing an EPD offers transparency by providing Firth customers information on the carbon footprint of their ready-mix product. “Offering customers this information will empower them to make a choice on lower carbon alternatives and creates a baseline for improvements on our low carbon journey.” 

Sustainability in the local concrete industry 

A third-party verified and internationally recognised sustainability tool, the EPD is a sign of Firth’s commitment to sustainability. Firth’s EPD is the tenth addition to Fletcher Building’s growing collection, having previously published EPDs across their various construction brands including an EPD produced by thinkstep-anz for Golden Bay Cement. The growing uptake of EPDs is also indicative of New Zealand’s environmentally conscious concrete industry which announced it was halfway towards meeting its 2030 emission target this year. 

Identifying hotspots 
 
Firth’s EPD covers ready-mixed concrete manufactured in their 67 plants across New Zealand and provides vital information on concrete’s environmental impacts across different strength grades. EPDs are not only an important benchmarking tool for environmental performance, but also a sound basis for sustainable decision-making. Based on a life cycle approach EPD sheds light on processes with the most significant environmental impact and helps to prevent burden-shifting between processes.  
 
In the case of ready-mix concrete, the most environmentally significant process was found to be cement production, followed by aggregate production, and raw material transport.  Supplementary Cementitious Materials (SCMs) such as fly ash help to reduce the percentage of cement in concrete production. Additional SCMs such as Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag and natural pozzolans are possible options to further reduce cement use and to thereby lower the carbon footprint of the final concrete. 

Introducing the EC³ calculator 
 
Furthermore, Firth are using their leading position in the concrete industry to meet customer demand for low carbon concrete mixes. Firth’s Embodied Carbon Concrete Calculator (EC³) allows the company to design customer-specific low-carbon concrete mixes that still tick all the boxes for strength and durability. With the EC³ tool, Firth can design mixes to meet customers’ desired Embodied Carbon (EC) rating and thus make a meaningful contribution to the low carbon efforts of the construction industry as a whole. 

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Based on the results of an independent review carried out by thinkstep-anz on behalf of Concrete NZ, the New Zealand concrete industry is already halfway towards its 2030 emissions reduction target. Firth’s EPD and EC³ tool are key ways for the concrete industry to close out the second half. 
 
“A unique attribute of concrete is that mix designs can be formulated for individual projects,” adds Dene Cook, Division Technical Manager for Fletcher Building. “To accommodate this the Embodied Carbon Calculator  EC³ allows Firth to calculate the global warming potential (GWP) of any mix from any of its plants.  The calculator allows the mix design engineers to evaluate three streams while developing mix design solutions - cost, strength, and environmental footprint.   This means the development of the best solution for each project.” 
 
Enabling a green construction sector 
 
The information contained in a construction product EPD assists customers to calculate the environmental impacts of their construction projects for a wider, more holistic perspective on the environmental impacts of buildings and infrastructure projects. 
 
Download Firth’s EPD