Project of the Month . August 2022



Methods for CO2 balancing in the life cycle of infrastructures

Winning project of the VIF 2020 tender (traffic infrastructure research in the field of climate protection)

Status Quo

50% of the world-wide CO2 emissions can be directly or indirectly allocated to the building industry - enabling an enormous saving potential for their carbon footprint. In the sector of civil and underground engineering the decisions have been predominantly taken on the basis of the expected structural life-cycle costs (=primary costs) to date, e.g.: in the course of tenders and competitions. There is no tool generally applicable to the sector for the calculation of consequential environmental costs yet.

DECARBONISATION FIRST follows the idea that future decision-making for building measures will be based on a considerably higher weighting of costs due to the carbon footprint while it aims to increase the acceptance of the associated primary costs at the same time.

Methods and Procedure

The objective of the research project is to create a database with CO2-equivalents representative for Austria (“Cradle to Grave”) for the relevant building materials of infrastructures (bridges, pavement, dams, retaining walls, trough constructions). For this purpose, a methodology for the connection of a life-cycle cost calculation with CO2 balancing (ÖNORM EN ISO 14040 Ökobilanz) considering the spreading of the input parameters is developed.

For the performance of variant analyses of infrastructures, a practical calculation tool is created which determines costs and CO2 equivalents over the whole life cycle (manufacturing, construction, operation, demolition, disposal/re-use). The methodology and the respective benchmarks and parameters are subsequently summarized in a guideline.


DECARBONISATION FIRST provides a major instrument for shaping the resources applied in the course of a building project along the value-added chains with increased environmental responsibility to reach the national climate protection targets.

The project addresses the impending compensation payments of the republic of Austria for the purchase of CO2-certificates amounting to billions of euros and pursues the objective to reduce the share allocated to the civil and underground engineering sector within the shortest possible time to the highest possible extent. In the last few years climate protection has dramatically gained significance in society. DECARBONISATION FIRST immediately meets this social responsibility and ensures that the civil and underground engineering sector can make its contribution to the achievement of the climate protection targets in a measurable form.

Project Status

By the end of April 2022 the mid-term meeting took place with all the project partners and the clients. There the essential milestones already reached, i.e.: “methodical development” and the “elaboration of a detailed GWP catalogue for the addressed assets and their elements”, were presented.

Furthermore, first insights into Work Package 5 “Simulation calculations” were given by providing a comparative prediction of the whole noise barrier portfolio of ASFINAG including

  • estimated reinvestment realization quantities,
  • expected costs
  • as well as the associated Co2 balance

for the upcoming 15 years.


Client . BMK / ASFINAG

Project coordinator & project partner . VCE

Project partner . Umweltbundesamt (Environment Agency Austria), TU-Wien (Vienna University of Technology)