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International collaboration delivers pioneering Geotechnical Carbon Calculator Foundation industry launches standardised open source tool to compare the sustainability of different foundation techniques

The European Federation of Foundation Contractors (EFFC) and the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) are urging the geotechnical sector to make immediate use of their jointly-developed, pioneering carbon calculator tool, the Geotechnical Carbon Calculator.

Developed using internationally recognised standards, the Geotechnical Carbon Calculator is believed to be one of the construction industry’s first standardised and collaboratively produced carbon calculator tools at the European and international level.

Carbon measurement is at the core of the construction industry’s approach to sustainability. The Geotechnical Carbon Calculator uses a standardised emission factors database to make the analysis of the carbon footprint of a foundation project consistent and comparable across the foundation industry.

It will allow foundation contractors to evaluate the carbon footprint of their designs, provide clients with verifiable and standardised data about the carbon footprint of their foundations and enable clients to compare the carbon footprint of one proposal against another.

Work on the calculator, which started in March 2012, has been led by a steering group formed from DFI and EFFC members, and chaired by Soletanche Freyssinet’s Sustainability Director, Marine Lasne. Technical development has been undertaken by carbon consulting firm Carbone 4.

The standardised carbon emissions database will eventually cover all foundation and ground engineering techniques, and currently includes bored piles, displacement piles, micropiles, diaphragm and slurry walls, sheet pile walls, grouting and soil mixing.

“The way the industry has collaborated through the EFFC and DFI to provide data and fund the project is a real achievement,” says Lasne. “Several European companies had already developed their own calculator and agreed to share their knowledge to reach the best possible common denominator for all. The calculator will have a significant impact on the ability to demonstrate and compare the sustainability of different foundation techniques”, she says, “ but success will come from widespread use of the system and we must ensure that it becomes known and accepted by clients  so use and promotion of the calculator by everyone in the industry is vital.”

The calculator is free to download, but users are required to register to use the site at  www.geotechnicalcarboncalculator.com . The site includes full information on the principals and methodology used in the calculator; as well as a detailed user guide.


Various standards exist or are in preparation at both national and international level. These include a suite of standards being developed by CEN (the European Standardisation Body):

  • EN 15643-2 Sustainability of construction works – Assessment of buildings - Part 2: Framework for the assessment of environmental performance
  • prEN 15978 Sustainability of construction works – Assessment of environmental performance of buildings - Calculation method
  • prEN 15804 Sustainability of construction works – Environmental product declarations

Although assessment standards are generally well developed for the construction sector, they are normally written with great flexibility to allow users to define and set specific methodological rules. The downside to this flexibility is that it makes direct comparison of companies, products and projects difficult unless common rules have been adopted. To date, although standardised measurement tools have been developed by a few sectors – each one has been limited to a single country – and there is no sector known to have developed a global tool. The development of such a tool for the foundation sector  therefore:-

  • allows EFFC and DFI Members to provide their clients with verifiable and standardised data about the carbon footprint of their foundations
  • allows EFFC and DFI Members to evaluate the carbon footprint of their own designs
  • allows EFFC and DFI Members to benchmark the carbon footprint of their proposals against the proposals of other companies
  • and establishes a ‘level playing field’ to eliminate spurious and unfair comparisons.

A calculator for all European foundation contractors is therefore is innovative, valuable and in terms of the European construction industry, wholly unique.

Although a small number of companies had previously developed calculator tools for foundation projects, no current tools produced the same answers. Existing tools used elsewhere in the construction industry do not generally take foundations into account.  Because no universal database of emission factors exists, there was no known calculator designed to be used in all European countries.

For more information contact

Dianne Jennings, European Federation of Foundation Contractors, 
effc@effc.org      www.effc.org      Tel: +44 20 8663 0948         Fax: +44 20 8663 0949


Mary Ellen C. Bruce, Deep Foundations Institute
mebruce@dfi.org  www.ddfi.org     Tel:  +1 724 942-4220  



April 28-29, 2016
ISSMGE-ETC3 Piles International  Symposium “Design of piles in Europe - How did EC7 change daily practice?"
Leuven, Belgium

October 12-15, 2016
41st DFI International Conference on Deep Foundations, Seepage Control and Remediation
New York, NY, USA

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