Bramble-eating sheep and recycled concrete

A herd of sheep is grazing on a railway embankment. It is a peaceful image, and an exciting one too because these animals are just a small piece in the big jigsaw that is sustainable construction at Roche.

The construction sector is the heaviest consumer of raw materials in the world and a significant driver of climate change, accounting for 40 percent of global energy consumption. With a view not least to its corporate goals in the areas of eco-efficiency and business, Roche has standardised sustainable construction in accordance with its own requirements and drawn up clear regulations that will be implemented around the world.

A specially developed software tool makes it possible to carry out construction projects worldwide in compliance with the relevant requirements. Dominik Zaugg, Operations & Strategy Manager at the Basel site, and Jürg Walder, Global Lead Sustainability at PT, drew up the concept as a cross-divisional endeavour, so to speak. Ten pilot projects in Germany, Switzerland and the US were evaluated and compared in 2017/18.

Sustainability is a combination of environmental, economic and societal factors. “Energy efficiency might be one of the best-known factors in sustainable construction, but it is far from the only one,” Dominik points out. Other issues also come into play, such as a circular economy, in other words a model of production and consumption in which existing materials and products are shared, leased, reused, repaired, refurbished and recycled for as long as possible.

With the help of the newly created tool, a building’s entire performance can now be evaluated from the planning stage through to the end of its life cycle.

Another key consideration is the direct impact that sustainable construction also has on the people in the buildings. Its role in the competition for talented employees should not be underestimated. Jürg Walder explains: “Sustainable buildings have more daylight, better views and better indoor air quality and their high comfort levels have been shown to increase employee productivity.” Moreover, more and more job seekers pay attention to their new potential employer’s stance on sustainability and environmental protection issues.

When asked for specific examples, the two experts talk about recycled concrete, modular production buildings and those bleating sheep on the railway embankment.

Sheep instead of excavators

When Roche was seeking to build the new provisional multi-storey car park on the railway embankment near Badischer Bahnhof in Basel, it had to provide an equivalent piece of land as “compensation”. A suitable plot was found at a curve in the track at Lange Erlen, which first needed to be cleared of overgrowth that consisted primarily of brambles.

Rather than using noisy, environmentally unfriendly construction machines for the clearing work, bramble-eating sheep and goats were brought in. Within a month they had chewed off all the leaves from the overgrown blackberry bushes, which ultimately killed the plants. What is more, thanks to the animals’ particular taste for bramble leaves, there was no need to artificially reseed the area with other plants. Incidentally, the work of the sheep and goats also impressed German national railway company Deutsche Bahn, which now regularly uses the natural weed killers’ services on its rail network.

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