Lemminkäinen as asphalt maker
Road-maker Lemminkäinen started by paving yards and footpaths.
The history of Finnish asphalt paving began in Helsinki in the 1870s, when the Aleksanterinkatu Street sidewalks were paved with poured mastic asphalt. At first, Lemminkäinen paved yards and sidewalks with poured mastic asphalt, prepared in wood-heated bitumen boilers.
New business: road paving
In the 1920s, a so-called emulsion macadam method was developed as an alternative to the most commonly used paving method, cobblestones, and Lemminkäinen followed the new trend without delay. The company bought a licence to produce a bitumen emulsion suitable for road paving and started its own emulsion production. Although the technology was short-lived, the company nonetheless acquired valuable experience and amassed knowledge of paving techniques. The global recession, which began in 1929, brought private construction activity to a standstill, so a new business opportunity was more than welcome.
The new field developed rapidly. The company moved from paving footpaths to paving carriageways. With the volume of traffic growing steadily, the switch was gradually made to hot mix asphalt, a mixture of mineral aggregate and bitumen, as a street paving material. The first pavement of this type was completed in Finland in 1930. In 1934, Lemminkäinen designed the company’s own asphalt mixing machine. Product development continued and by the end of the decade, the company already had three of its own asphalt plants.
Jorvas road made Lemminkäinen’s name as an asphalt paving contractor
Lemminkäinen certainly needed the capacity since paving works were expanding beyond the boundaries of the city. In 1938, Lemminkäinen got the contract to pave the western approach road to Helsinki, the so-called Jorvas Road. This 18-kilometre-long stretch of road from Lauttasaari to Espoo was paved in the summers of 1938 and 1939. The scale of the project was unprecedented in Finland: it was the largest continuous section of asphalt-paved road in the country.
The Jorvas Road served as a good advertisement for Lemminkäinen’s road department, and the work came flooding in. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war brought this booming business to an abrupt end. After the war, road-paving business was slow until it picked up again in 1948, and soon the company had its entire fleet of asphalting machines on the road again.
New equipment, new technology, new countries
In 1950, the company acquired an asphalt paving machine to replace the traditional manual method of laying the asphalt. The approaching Olympic Games in Helsinki brought paving projects to Lemminkäinen at the airport and at the stadium built by Oskari Vilamo’s construction company. Further projects were carried out in Kuopio and Oulu. In 1952, the net sales of Lemminkäinen’s road department was the largest among all departments of the company.
In 1959, a new oil and stone-based road paving method was introduced. The first normative regulations for the asphalt paving industry were adopted towards the end of the 1950s. New machines were needed for both mixing and laying. As the fleet expanded and the machines improved, the process of paving got more efficient.
Market leader in paving in Finland
The company’s paving business grew bigger in the 1960s: new machines were purchased, new asphalt plants were erected, new branches were opened and more people were hired. Lemminkäinen became the market leader in Finland, carrying out more than 30 per cent of all road-paving projects in the country. Asphalt rubber and other running track surfaces emerged on the market and their development continued for decades. Soon, Lemminkäinen became the leading supplier of running track surfaces in the country. Later, the company developed special asphalts for other purposes, such as for arctic conditions.
From 1978 on, Lemminkäinen carried out paving projects in Kostomuksha and Enso in the Soviet Union. These projects marked the beginning of the company’s still-ongoing operations in Russia.
In 1994, Lemminkäinen started expansion and renovation work on the runway at the Tallinn airport. The runway lasted in top-notch condition for 20 years and did not need repairs until 2016. The repair and expansion contract for the airside area was awarded to Lemminkäinen.
Paving in the Baltic region
By the 1990s, Lemminkäinen had become an established operator in Denmark, the Baltic countries and Russia, but it carried out projects in other parts of the world as well, such as in Africa. After the acquisition of Icopal, Lemminkäinen became the third-largest contractor in the Danish market. Likewise, in Norway, Lemminkäinen became the third-largest asphalt contractor, after an acquisition in 2001.
In 2002, the company opened an asphalt plant in Lithuania and built a wastewater treatment plant; in Estonia, the company built a parking facility on Tartu Road. When Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, the paving volumes in those countries increased. The construction of Via Baltica in Latvia grew into a multiple-year contract for us.
In 2006, we paved an airport in Svalbard (Norway) with an asphalt mix we had developed for arctic conditions. In Lithuania, we repaired the Klaipeda bypass. In Estonia, we started the renovation of the Tallinn airport and, in Denmark, the renovation of the motorway between Hogil and Brande. In Estonia, Denmark and Norway, we signed road maintenance contracts lasting several years.
Paving-related life cycle requirements and new environmental regulations meant more work for our central laboratory as well. In 2006, we prepared asphalt in almost one hundred production facilities.
An acquisition in 2010 made Lemminkäinen the second-largest paving company in Norway.