Heijmans wants to build without emissions by 2026

Certificate holder Heijmans wants to build CO2-neutral after 2023. And the ambition is to work completely emission-free by 2026. So without CO2, nitrogen and particulate matter emissions. Good for the climate, it provides better workplaces for employees and less nuisance for the environment. That is why Heijmans believes that its construction equipment should be made more sustainable. Three Heijmans employees explain how they intend to reduce emissions to zero in six years. Electrification, ambition and money are the keywords in the story.

In 2019, the cabinet presented the Climate Agreement. This is an agreement between organizations and companies in the Netherlands to combat greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is that by 2030 we will emit almost half as much CO2 as compared to 1990. By 2050 that should be almost one hundred percent less. The government also states that by 2030 nitrogen emissions must be 50% less than in 2019.

1000 pieces of equipment

Heijmans also contributes to this. “Our ambition is to build completely CO2-neutral after 2023”, says sustainability consultant Stefan Daamen. “The energy management plan has been drawn up to reinforce this aim. With three spearheads: our fleet, projects and asphalt plants. Groups of specialists examine per topic how we will reduce the total emissions of our business activities. This is not only about CO2 emissions, but also about nitrogen and particulate matter emissions.”

Sustainability consultant Stefan Daamen works daily on how Heijmans can best reduce CO2, nitrogen and particulate matter emissions.

In total, Heijmans has about 1,000 pieces of equipment. “Almost all of these are now equipped with a diesel engine,” says senior buyer Peter Schellekens. "Heavy construction equipment, such as earthmoving and foundation machines, cause the majority of our total emissions on the construction site."

Hydrogen is the future

The key to an emission-neutral construction site is electrification, says Peter, in other words: switching to electrical equipment. The traditional combustion engine is being replaced by one or more electric motors. The power is generated with hydrogen or by batteries that you charge with a plug.

“Small electrical equipment is now increasingly available and we can already achieve a reduction with this. Electrification of large equipment is slower, because a battery pack in the machine cannot provide enough power. Cleaner diesel engines are now the only option for these machines. By using modern diesel techniques, the emission of CO2, particulate matter and nitrogen is already a lot less than before.”

“Hydrogen is the sustainable solution for heavy machines”, says Stefan, “because you can use this gas to store enough electricity to power heavy electric motors. Hydrogen has the advantage that you can cover a considerable distance with relatively little volume and weight. This in contrast to a battery for energy storage. With thirty kilos of hydrogen, the range is about five hundred kilometers. The disadvantage is that you need a lot of electricity to make hydrogen.”

Water from the outlet

Why do you need electricity to make hydrogen? Peter explains: “Hydrogen is a gas that does not naturally occur on Earth. You have to produce it. This can be done, for example, by separating water (H2O) into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2). That process consumes a lot of power.

There is a fuel cell under the hood of an electric truck with a hydrogen tank. This allows hydrogen from the storage tanks under the car to react with oxygen from the outside air. A reverse process then takes place: the oxygen and hydrogen form water again. This releases energy in the form of electricity, with which you can drive one or more electric motors. Water comes out of the outlet. ”

Technology evolves

Another disadvantage is that hydrogen is very explosive. “Not a problem in itself”, says Stefan, “because LPG is too. In addition, hydrogen must be stored under high pressure. Storage and distribution must therefore meet strict requirements. Because the demand for hydrogen is low, the technology has not yet been further developed and the cost price is still too high. And only if you make hydrogen with sustainably generated electricity, is it really "green" hydrogen and therefore a sustainable energy source."

Still, Stefan and Peter think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. They are convinced that the conversion of hydrogen into electricity can be optimized in the coming years, which will also make hydrogen technology profitable. "History repeats itself. In the past, passenger cars could only drive a hundred kilometers on one tank, now the range of a modern passenger car is sometimes more than a thousand kilometers,” says Stefan. “Technology is evolving. That also applies to hydrogen.”


A smooth transition to an emission-free construction site is only possible if everyone contributes. That is why Heijmans, together with GMB and de Vries & van de Wiel, has set up the Emission-free Network Infrastructure (ENI) foundation. The ENI connects various stakeholders, such as construction companies, clients, importers and developers of construction equipment, start-ups and suppliers of energy carriers. The goal is to jointly develop heavy electrical construction equipment on hydrogen or batteries."

The Netherlands is a leader in the field of sustainable equipment. “We are the testing ground for many machine manufacturers,” says Peter. "This is because we set very high standards for our equipment."

Sitting still is not an option. Fortunately, all stakeholders are aware of this. Peter: “Most major manufacturers are researching the use of hydrogen-powered electrical equipment and batteries. Volvo recently launched an electric mini digger and small wheel loader. We have already reserved one mini-digger. In addition, Heijmans, together with GMB and de Vries & van de Wiel, signed a letter of intent this year for the delivery of at least two hydrogen-powered earth-moving machines.

Crank the flywheel

Unfortunately, from a business point of view, our country is a small player in the global construction machinery market. There is hardly any demand for sustainable construction machines in Asia, South America or Africa. Major manufacturers are not eager to make their current range more sustainable en masse. Peter gives an example: “In our country, all construction companies purchase approximately forty asphalt machines from various international suppliers every year, while manufacturer Vögele sells roughly ten thousand of these types of machines worldwide every year. Our influence on accelerating the transition is therefore nil.”

According to Stefan, we have to crank the flywheel ourselves. “This is not only possible with ambition. You also need money. Large emission-free machines are still too expensive. That is why we are now looking for subsidies from our own governments and the European Union.”

Sustainable equipment from Heijmans

Below are a number of examples of sustainable Heijmans equipment:

  • Three hybrid aerial platforms, each 17 meters high, including a 5-ton bus with Euro6 diesel engine and battery pack to operate the aerial platform;
  • Liebherr 930 crawler crane with clean Stage 5 diesel engine;
  • Scania P360 6X2 / 4 crewcab melting truck with electric drive for melting paint road markings. The truck is equipped with a clean Euro6 diesel engine, which does not have to keep running at the job site;
  • Inline Saver with which asphalt teams can apply two layers of asphalt at the same time. This machine is equipped with a Stage 4 diesel engine;
  • Marking machines on battery power;
  • Text information vehicles on battery power with solar panels;
  • Various battery-powered machines, such as vibratory plates, rammers, power cutters and breakers;
  • Pile driver with Stage 5 diesel engine (Nitrogen reduction of at least 80%);
  • Asphalt pavers with Stage 5 diesel engine;
  • Tandem vibratory rollers with Stage 5 diesel engine;
  • Three pieces Spray sweepers with Euro6 diesel engine and solar panels on the superstructure for power supply in the cabin;
  • All forklifts on the yards are electric;
  • Hybrid crusher and sieve for Matching Materials, which works on both electricity and a Stage 5 diesel engine.

Depending on customer request

Clients such as Rijkswaterstaat, water boards and municipalities are increasingly demanding a CO2-neutral construction site. “That is why it is very important that we switch to clean energy sources for many more activities,” says Lars Sies. As a manager in the northwest region, he and his team carry out many road works in the Amsterdam city center.

“At Heijmans, we make it clear how we are working on the energy transition. Only in the region we are eighty percent dependent on customer demand. As a regional company, we operate in a market that is still driven by price. Sustainability yields a lot in the long term, but costs a lot of money in the short term. Fortunately, I see more and more clients asking for CO2 or emission-free work.”

Environmentally friendly and vital

The Lars construction sites are already partly designed in a sustainable way. “In one of our projects, a battery pack powered by solar panels supplies electricity for, among other things, the lighting, coffee machine and heating of the shed. A diesel generator is therefore unnecessary. Other sustainable solutions are small power tools such as a rammer or vibrating plate. Less emissions and noise. Better for the environment and the colleague who operates the machine.”

Lars' team uses a sustainable hotbox in Amsterdam for asphalt repairs. “The adhesive unit and burners are now incorporated in one machine, which is electrically driven. This means we have to use fewer machines, resulting in less movements, fuel consumption and noise pollution for local residents.”

Electrification of small machines

At another job in town, Lars uses two electric mini shovels, one mini excavator and two vans. “I was skeptical, especially about the range. But I am convinced. We now run one full working day without any problems and the power is sufficient. The disadvantage is that we do not have sufficient charging capacity everywhere and we have to take the machine to our workshop to charge it.”

To adjust

The energy transition also requires adaptability for users, Lars believes. “For example, operators must not forget to hang their electric mini-crane on the loader in the evening. During work they have to take the charging time into account, because fast charging is not yet an option for these types of machines. Charging takes about eight hours.”

Lars sees that the switch is increasingly accepted on the construction site. “In addition to major benefits for the environment, our employees also benefit from a healthier living environment. Electrical equipment makes little noise and does not produce harmful exhaust fumes. And an electric rammer vibrates less violently.”

Money box

All these developments contribute to Heijmans' ambition to operate CO2 neutral after 2023. Stefan: “In three years' time, our CO2 emissions must be reduced by 50 percent. We offset the remaining CO2 emissions by planting forests, for example. This is going to cost us a lot of money.

It can also be done differently. I have submitted a plan to the Board of Directors, in which I propose to start with an internal levy for CO2 in 2021. Purely for ourselves. We put the proceeds into a piggy bank, with which we can ultimately invest in zero-emission construction equipment. If my plan is successful, our CO2 emissions will already have fallen significantly and the compensation costs will be considerably lower after 2023.”

To combine forces

The figures show that investing in sustainable equipment pays off. “Since 2009, we have emitted over 20,000 tons of CO2 less,” says Stefan proudly. "Unfortunately, investment and operational costs are still the biggest stumbling block."

Peter adds: “A hydrogen-powered tipper truck that transports asphalt costs about 400,000 euros more than the same truck with a diesel engine. In addition, due to regulations, this truck can take less asphalt than a traditional diesel tipper truck. At the moment, this is impossible to achieve profitable without a subsidy. That is why I hope that we will bear the additional costs of the energy transition on the construction site together with clients and governments. Only then can we accelerate and build completely emission-free by 2026."