EPD Australasia

Firth Uses EPD to Keep Improving

Firth is New Zealand’s largest manufacturer of ready-mix concrete and concrete masonry, with almost a century of experience behind them.

The company has a long-term commitment to improving sustainability in the New Zealand building and infrastructure sectors. When it came time to put some solid science behind their environmental credentials, Firth opted for the transparency and robustness of an EPD. In September their EPD for Firth Certified Concrete – Ready Mixed Concrete was published.

We spoke to Dene Cook, Firth Divisional Technical Manager, about the company’s sustainability track record and how EPDs fit into their plans to keep improving.

Firth prides itself on innovation.  How is the company using the innovative spirit to improve sustainability and green building?

Concrete is a unique material in that each mix for each project can be formulated to the unique needs of the project.  In most instances the focus is on cost and strength.  At Firth we wanted to add another stream to the concrete solution process, we wanted to add environmental footprint.  So when we sat down with thinkstep to scope the EPD process, we also wanted to be innovative and develop a tool to look at any potential mix design from any of our plants nationwide.

The outcome of this was the Embodied Carbon Concrete Calculator (EC3).  This tool allows us to look at the environmental impact of any mix design from any plant.  It allows our Engineers to now design mixes based on cost, strength and carbon footprint.  The tool is powered by the same logic used to develop our EPD.  It allows us to have conversations with specifiers and customers on what is likely to be the best concrete solution to meet their project objectives.

What motivated Firth to invest in publishing an EPD?

We have been quietly working in the environmental and sustainability space for some time. We believed that we compared very favourably to our competitors, and that we could lead the NZ concrete industry to improvements. To do this you need to first establish a science-based baseline.  This is where an EPD adds value.  It allows you to look at your business through the lens of environmental footprint, establish where you are today, and develop plans for continual improvement.

How did you find the process of creating an EPD?

We fully immersed ourselves in the process so we understood the key drivers of our footprint.  This knowledge allows us to focus our attention on the most important areas first.  The process is very data hungry, so you need to have good quality data before you embark on such an initiative.  The process, although demanding, was also rewarding as we gained considerable knowledge along the journey.

Now that you have a published EPD, how do you plan to use it?

The EPD did confirm that Firths environmental footprint compares very favourably with our ready mixed concrete competitors.  We see the EPD as an opportunity to establish our credentials with specifiers and open an opportunity to use the EC3 calculator to develop even better solutions.  We are confident that when it comes time to renew the EPD, we will be able to establish that improvements have occurred.

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