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The construction industry draws on green tech with electric and hydrogen fuel cell equipment

Key Points
  • The construction sector is undergoing a number of changes that could have a far-reaching impact.
  • In future, homes, offices and large infrastructure projects could be built using low-emission equipment.

From the use of "low carbon concrete" to the development of bricks made from recycled materials, the construction sector is undergoing a number of changes that could have a far-reaching impact in the years ahead.

While this shift has yet to take place at scale, it does point to a future where homes, offices and large infrastructure projects could be built using innovative technology, sustainable materials and low-emission equipment.

On Monday, the industry took another step toward this scenario when a multi-billion pound high-speed rail project in the U.K. said electric construction equipment had been trialed at one of its sites.

The HS2 project, which plans to reduce travel times between London and major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, said the piece of kit, called a telehandler, had been used on a section of the development in the U.K. capital.

HS2 said that, across a period of one week, the telehandler was estimated to have saved more than 400 liters of fuel "compared to a traditional combustion telehandler." A telehandler is used to lift objects and has a "boom" which can extend.

The Electric Telehandler 2.6t was produced by a firm called Faresin. Flannery, a plant-hire business, supplied the vehicle, which runs on a lithium battery and is said to produce zero carbon dioxide emissions.

"We were pleased to be the first construction site in the U.K. to trial the Eco Telehandler with Flannery and will be looking at opportunities to bring them on site to reduce carbon and deliver the project more efficiently," James Richardson, managing director of the Costain Skanska STRABAG Joint Venture, which is undertaking works on the HS2 project, said in a statement.

HS2's trial of battery electric equipment reflects a potential shift in how building sites could operate in the years ahead, with a stronger emphasis on low-emission technology and equipment.

Last week JCB, a major player in the construction sector, said it had developed an excavator "powered by a hydrogen fuel cell."

Weighing 20 metric tons, the company said the vehicle had been tested for over 12 months, adding that the "only emission from the exhaust is water."

Last year, JCB said it had commenced full production of what it described as "the construction industry's first fully electric mini excavator." According to the business, its 19C-1E digger is quieter than diesel diggers and has zero emissions.