Construction 2050: Building tomorrow’s Europe today

Construction stakeholders call upon the European Commission to boost a construction policy in line with the current situation, and to continue the pillars of the Construction 2020 strategy

The sectoral initiative ‘Construction 2050: Building tomorrow’s Europe today’ was launched in June 2019 by 17 major European construction representatives, including the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and the European Builders Confederation (EBC) -the three Sectoral European Organisations participating to the Construction Blueprint project-, joined later by another 33 organisations to call upon the European Commission to strengthen the construction status through a new vision for the built environment.

The proposal promotes a European Alliance for a better Industry and calls on European institutions to set an adaptable policy framework to address the evolving construction ecosystem and its transformation, updating the Construction 2020 initiative. In addition, it persuades Member States to ensure a holistic approach; in order to boost coherent policies and legislation on the built environment at European level.

On 19th February, 40 representatives of the major Construction Industry Associations met in Brussels to discuss the “Construction 2050 Alliance: Building tomorrow’s Europe today” and discuss on how to raise awareness on the political importance of the sector. These main EU actors involved in the construction process propose a new framework, building among others on the results of the current “Construction 2020” initiative, following the principles below:

  • A specific targeted approach to construction because the sector is at the crossroads of different value chains and its unique nature requires a unique approach.
  • An adaptable policy framework to address the evolving construction ecosystem and the transformation of the industry.
  • A holistic approach towards policy making in order to implement coherent and balanced policies and legislation.
  • A strong partnership between the European institutions, the Member States and construction social partners and stakeholders to steer the transformation of the sector with the most adequate policies and tools.
Construction 2050 proposals

In addition, Construction stakeholders believe that the current Construction 2020 initiative should be revised in order to fully realise its goals: to support the construction sector in its adaptation to key upcoming challenges and promote the sustainable competitiveness of the sector. Therefore they put forward seven proposals:

  1. Establish a single political responsibility within the European Commission for the built environment in Europe and ensure that all relevant Directorate Generals are involved in future construction policy initiatives.
  2. Establish a partnership framework in which the main construction social partners and stakeholders, the EU institutions and Member States meet to discuss the main challenges, jointly develop priorities, strategies and targeted actions in order to address them.
  3. Thematic groups should reflect the challenges and priorities jointly defined by all actors.
  4. Create Work Programmes for the different thematic groups to reflect priorities and targeted actions with clear time schedules and corresponding responsibilities, jointly defined by all relevant stakeholders.
  5. Create a horizontal steering committee composed of all relevant actors to guarantee coherence between the initiatives of the different thematic groups.
  6. All relevant actors should be duly involved in the decision-making process concerning studies, policy priorities, and targeted actions.
  7. Jointly create roadmaps, deployment and dissemination plans for the initiatives to increase their political visibility and uptake by construction actors at all levels.
Construction look ahead

Construction is a fundamental sector of Europe’s economic growth and one of the main source of employment -according to data, it generates 9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides 18 million direct jobs-; this remark the importance to adapt the sector to labour market and sustainable demands.

If we look to the future, it is expected that around 75% of the European population will be living in urban areas or in smart cities with energy efficient and accessible building, these will improve the quality of life and demand a renovation of our buildings. A major comfort goes hand in hand with digital technologies, which contribute to ensure the life-cycle of the buildings and to integrate new more sustainable materials. This scenario underlines the need to define a new construction sector, where the professionals’ skills meet the demands implied by the new habitat.

Nowadays, the construction ecosystem imposes a collaborative working method, in which cooperation or co-dependence of all the actors involved is key. To facilitate this way of working, it is crucial to promote digitisation as a tool to foster communication between actors. This challenge, together with others specified in the Construction 2050 initiative, represents the new built environment that requires:

  • More, better and safer jobs that could attract new workers with a qualified profile: With the retirement of ageing boomers and the unattractiveness of the sector for young people, the construction sector is confronted by the challenge of a significant labour shortage. At the same time there is a need for construction workers to continuously adapt their abilities and competences to new developments such as, for example, digitalisation, circular economy and energy efficiency.
    • Potential benefit: By investing in lifelong learning, in better working conditions and social protection, in healthier and safer working environment and in better promotion of career opportunities, the construction sector can attract qualified workers and new talents. Addressing the current skills gap and anticipating future skills needs in the construction sector will mean providing more, better and safer jobs for European citizens.
  • De-carbonisation that contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change: Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU. Hence, they offer a great opportunity for energy efficiency and emissions reduction. To do that, it is necessary to boost market demand for sustainable buildings and adopt a holistic approach in renovation. Moreover, sustainable construction products, use of renewable energy solutions, smart appliances and management systems, can all contribute to the future low-carbon economy.
    • Potential benefit: In the global fight against climate change the construction sector can play an instrumental role in achieving a fair transition towards the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, higher renovation rates will lead to a reduction of greenhouse gases as a result of lower energy consumption. Moreover, improvement in production processes for building materials and the use of the best available technologies will reduce embedded carbon emissions. Finally, a holistic approach to the renovation of existing buildings is expected to improve the resilience of the existing building stock and contribute to the sustainability of society and the environment.
  • Sustainable industry in which reduces Construction and Demolition Waste and a perspective Circular Economy is boosted: Construction with its linked sectors is responsible for about half of the globally extracted materials whereas construction and demolition waste accounts for approximately 25-30% of the waste generated in the EU. From the perspective of a Circular Economy, the sector offers great opportunities for improvement in resource efficiency and material recycling and reuse. However, the current market for recycled materials and reused products is far from strong due to uncertainty about quality and consistency (i.e. performance levels) and the price difference between primary and secondary raw materials/new and reused products.
    • Potential benefit: Putting circular thinking at the heart of the construction sector will boost the market uptake of recycled materials and reused products. Moreover, it would support greater use of innovative materials and the life cycle design of buildings, making them suitable for deconstruction, to allow reuse of products and better recyclability of materials.
  • Digital transformation with a more innovative sector thanks to a commitment to research and technology: The industry is on the brink of a digital transformation that will change the status quo forever. However, this transformation needs to be steered in an optimal way to make sure that it adds value for the whole sector and does not leave any actor lagging behind.
    • Potential benefit: The digitalisation of the construction sector has great potential to increase productivity, reduce construction costs, alleviate burdensome and physical tasks, facilitate renovation and maintenance through better data collection and analysis, increase the traceability of materials for future re-use and recycling. This would also mean healthier, more satisfied and well-informed owners and occupants.
  • Research and Innovation: Innovative business models, new materials, digital collaboration, offsite manufacturing are only few examples of the many innovative solutions developed in the construction sector. However, innovation uptake and R&D investments are lower than in any other sector. The challenge consists of stimulating more research and innovation and setting the right framework for construction companies to adopt and integrate new technologies in their processes and daily operations – hence transforming their business.
    • Potential benefit: Policies and supported initiatives aimed at facilitating the integration of innovation and increasing R&D investments would boost penetration of modern construction methods and the use of digital technologies on a larger scale.
  • Infrastructure maintenance and investments: Public infrastructure in Europe is ageing and requires maintenance and upgrading. At the same, the market demands new infrastructures to interconnect the national transport, energy and digital infrastructures. Against this backdrop, a mix of public and private capitals to finance the construction of new and the maintenance of existing infrastructure, which would be overall less expensive than the cost of non-investment, is needed.
    • Potential benefit: The maintenance of existing infrastructures and the construction of new infrastructures will improve mobility across Europe and the safety of EU citizens. Moreover, the maintenance of the existing infrastructure and the construction of new ones will help to reduce the environmental impact of transport as well as travelling costs. Finally, climate-proof and resilient infrastructure will protect citizens and make the EU more competitive at the international level.
  • Ensuring a level playing field at the EU and international level: In the construction sector, the lack of and incorrect interpretation of rules has led to practices such as undeclared work, social fraud/abuse and bogus self-employment. These phenomena create unfair competition for construction enterprises and unfair treatment for workers. In addition, the European construction market has attracted third country companies and workers. It is of crucial importance that these players respect all the applicable EU rules, as well open up their markets on a reciprocal basis, to European businesses.
    • Potential benefit: Addressing these challenges, amongst other means by public procurement and State Aid legislation, will mean ensuring a level playing field at EU and international level. This would create fairer and more competitive conditions for companies in the EU construction ecosystem and more equitable conditions for construction workers.
  • Urban development and cities: By 2050, cities will be increasingly smart: the relevant sectors of the cities (efficient buildings, renewable energy supply, electric transport, sustainable public infrastructure, commerce, industries and public institutions) will be linked to one another through integrated planning and new technologies. The construction sector bears the challenge of being fully integrated in this context of smarter urban development and management.
    • Potential benefit: Better integration of the construction sector into the urban dimension would ensure smarter urban development. This would play a paramount role not only in achieving better mobility of goods and people but also in ensuring affordable housing for European citizens.
How to address Construction challenges?

For Construction stakeholders, the unique circumstances of the Construction sector justify an appropriately targeted approach. In addition, they advocate for the need of an adaptable policy framework, to move from the classic construction value chain to a collaborative ecosystem, with holistic policy making and a strong partnership between the European institutions, Member States and Construction social partners and stakeholders.

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