LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction forum: exploring sustainability in infrastructure

7 April 2016

Kicking off today in Detroit, this year’s edition of the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction forum is dedicated to “Infrastructure Space.” Participants (academics, architects, engineers) will focus on how global infrastructure investment is key to sustainably developing, supporting and connecting communities. This is a great opportunity to discuss what sustainable infrastructure is and how LafargeHolcim can contribute to its sustainability throughout its full lifecycle.


Why sustainable infrastructure?

Sustainable construction is everywhere in buildings, but sustainability principles are gaining traction in another category: infrastructure. That’s why this year the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction has devoted its triennial forum to this topic. Why is sustainability becoming a major topic in infrastructure? The worldwide transition from predominantly rural to urban living and mounting climate change-related issues make the need for sustainable infrastructure more crucial.

Infrastructure is most often sustainable by nature, as it contributes to the community and urban development. What’s more, a lack of infrastructure is a clear handicap to achieving sustainability,” says Head of Sustainable Development at LafargeHolcim Bernard Mathieu. This has prompted the United Nations to include the sustained investment in resilient infrastructure among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

For Bernard Mathieu, the next step is building “high performing, resource-efficient, environmentally-friendly infrastructure that can provide tangible values to communities, as a response to this massive urbanization or by protecting them against earthquakes or the adverse effects of climate change such or flooding.”


Harnessing all relevant expertise to examine the full lifecycle of infrastructure has to become the norm rather than the exception. That’s where the opportunity lies to achieve a more sustainable future.

Eric Olsen, CEO LafargeHolcim
giving his opening remarks at “Infrastructure Space”

Developing the sustainable infrastructure sectors of tomorrow

At LafargeHolcim, infrastructure is part of our DNA, be it with our role in the construction of the Suez Canal dating back to 1864, or our long history in Swiss tunnel construction. Since then, our Group has contributed to many infrastructure projects across the world. Today, LafargeHolcim has developed an expertise in key sectors with "added sustainable value":


Urban public transit

Mass transportation has a lighter environmental footprint than that of automobile-based mobility schemes. For example, LafargeHolcim was a key stakeholder in bringing an ultra-modern tramway line to Casablanca in 2012. From the design phase to material provision, we helped offer the city and its residents a clean, green alternative to cars and buses.


Wind farms

In 2015, money for wind and solar renewables capacity outstripped fossil fuels for the first time and the future of green energy depends on the proper infrastructure to distribute it. Our concrete and cement solutions have been used to erect wind farms in Canada, Brazil and Romania, the largest on-shore wind farm in Europe that supplies 400,000 households with clean energy.


Climate-change resilience

The sustainable development of our communities is only possible if our infrastructure is capable of absorbing “shocks” (such as natural disasters) while retaining their function and structure. For example, starting in next year, LafargeHolcim will supply concrete to The Dryline by the Bjarke Ingels Group, a 12-km protective barrier that will address New York City’s vulnerability to coastal flooding.


Promoting sustainable design throughout the entire lifecycle

Infrastructure can be inherently sustainable, especially in specific sectors such as renewable energies or urban transportation. But to push for even more sustainable infrastructure, we believe that the sustainability of an infrastructure project must be duly considered over its entire lifecycle. “Drawing upon in-depth sectorial understanding and expertise, LafargeHolcim offers unique solutions from the design phase forward that can be used to optimize the sustainability of an infrastructure project,” says Head of Infrastructure Markets Nicolas Swetchine.

That’s why we have developed sustainable solutions encompassing design consulting, material optimization and maintenance. We also use rail transport, evacuate waste via river barge and take necessary measures to avoid empty convoys to minimize the carbon footprint of a project’s logistics.

Here are some examples from key sectors:

  • Roads: Thanks to our road projects and pavement design experts, we are able to co-design projects to optimize the construction material usage and extend their lifetime.
  • Transportation: Through fruitful dialogue with operators and engineering companies, we design solutions to boost the durability of rail tracks, metro tunnels, port breakwaters and quays, airport tracks, and more.
  • Bridges: Sustainable infrastructure design is also about rehabilitation and lifetime extension. Our unique Ductal joint fill solution for bridges can be used for repairs and maintenance.
  • Energy and Natural Resources: In addition to helping construct wind farms, we provide our advanced solutions for mining, soil stabilization and acid water treatment.

In all of these domains, LafargeHolcim offers many material solutions – from fly ash and slag cement to recycled aggregates to ultra-high performance concrete – that increase an infrastructure project’s sustainability while boosting its durability and resistance.