More than thirty sectorial agents from Spain debate the barriers in the construction sector for its digital, sustainable and efficient transformation

On November 26th, a virtual meeting was held within the framework of the European Construction Blueprint project, organized by Confederación Nacional de la Construcción (CNC) and Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, which together with the National Advisory Group, are expanding the Alliance for Sectorial Competencies in our country.

Some of the main players of the construction sector of Spain held a virtual meeting on November 26th, in the framework of the European project Construction Blueprint, to discuss the barriers that hinder the implementation of energy efficiency, digitalization and circular economy in building and the strategic approach to professional skills in the construction industry.

A total of 31 representatives from different organisations, from the fields of construction, training and the environment, as well as from trade unions and employers’ associations, among others, took part in this meeting, organised by CNC and Fundación Laboral: The National Institute of Qualifications (Incual); UGT-FICA; CCOO of Construction and Services; CRN Vocational Training Centre for Building and Civil Works; the General Council of Technical Architecture of Spain (CGATE); the Federation of Construction Businesses of Burgos and Murcia; the National Association of Distributors of Ceramics and Construction Materials (Andimac); the National Association of Companies for Vertical and High Works (Anetva); the Polytechnic University of Madrid; the Spanish Climate Change Office of the Ministry for Ecological Transition; the Institute of Economic Studies; the Spanish Association of Engineering, Consulting and Technological Services Companies (Tecniberia); the Association of Builders of the Balearic Islands and Pontevedra; Pavimentos y Hormigones Carreras, SA; Ineco; the Technical Unit for Construction and Energy of the University of Zaragoza; the Higher Council of the Spanish Architects’ Associations (CSCAE); and the Association of Civil Engineers. Among them, the members of the National Advisory Group (GAN) of Spanish professionals of the Construction Blueprint initiative, officially formed on 26 October, also attended.

The General Secretary of CNC, José Pablo Martínez, was in charge of the opening and has presented the work that, together with Fundación Laboral -leader of Construction Blueprint- and 23 other European institutions, they have been carrying out since the beginning of 2019, in the development of a strategic framework for sectoral skills, which responds to the present and future qualification needs of construction professionals in the European Union (EU).

“The raison d’être of the project was to respond to the New Skills Agenda for Europe, published in 2016 by the Commission, which established a General Plan for Sectoral Cooperation in the field of skills, to create alliances within the sector -in this case, construction- with the aim of detecting market needs and developing concrete solutions”. With these words, Mª Ángeles Asenjo, director of the CNC’s International Projects Department, summarised the objectives of the ‘Blueprint’ sector initiatives and highlighted the challenges that the Construction Blueprint Alliance for Sectorial Competencies is promoting with a view to transforming the European sector.

Challenges for the building industry

One of the main challenges facing the building industry is waste management and the closing of its sustainable cycle. “To achieve this, one area where we focus is the management of Construction and Demolition Waste (C&DW). In this sense, a potentially recyclable waste is a material with a high possibility of being reintroduced into the market,” said Juan Diego Berjón, engineer and head of the Waste Management Service of Valoriza Servicios Medioambientales of the Sacyr Group.

Berjón explained the economic, social and environmental impact that the management of CDW has on the sector and highlighted the importance of worker involvement: “The industry’s awareness, in this sense, entails the creation of new professional profiles, such as the figure of environmental agents on site, with an advisory role in terms of management and use of CDW”.

In addition, Berjón pointed to digitalisation as a way of improving the traceability of waste: “This is where BIM can help us to improve product information and its devaluation”.

Continuing with this reasoning, Arturo Alarcón, head of the Sustainability and Sustainable Construction Area and coordinator of Instituto Español del Cemento y sus Aplicaciones (Ieca), defended that “through technologies we can tackle the challenges of construction”, since according to his experience: “With BIM we can integrate all the information on the building so that it remains available throughout its useful life, and include all the modifications to the project, in order to have the most up-to-date state of the building”.

On the other hand, Alarcón explored the positive contribution that the ‘Internet of Things (IoT) offers in building, and gave as an example, the permanent sensors placed in the structure of the buildings so that they inform about the state of the materials in real time.

With regard to improving the comfort and climatic conditions of the building, Silvia Soutullo, researcher from the Energy Department of the Energy Efficiency in Buildings Unit of the Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (Ciemat), stressed the importance of taking the environment into account. “Analysing the climate and the urban environment in order to be able to define the critical points and try to optimise the functioning of the building and carry out sustainable construction”, is the preliminary work that must be carried out in sustainable renovations and buildings, she said.

Status quo of the sectoral transformation

The presentations gave way to a debate on the status quo of these three pillars of construction, led by José Antonio Viejo, director of the Training and Employment Area at Fundación Laboral, in which he defended the importance that circular economy will have in defining the ecosystem of construction over the next five years, with training as the main driving force to promote it and transfer it to all levels of the value chain.

Through a consultation to the attendees, we collected interesting results. In relation to the obstacles that prevent the transition towards energy efficiency, the participants established as the main criteria: the scarce social awareness, followed by the excess of bureaucracy and the lack of plans that promote sustainable building policies, among others. On the other hand, the role of consumers as the main driving force in promoting sustainable construction was highlighted.

Other impediments that were put on the table to make the digitalisation of the sector are: lack of knowledge of the competitive value offered by the use of technology, reticence to change on the part of workers, the economic investment involved or lack of knowledge on the part of professionals about the policies and aids that exist to digitalise companies and for efficient rehabilitations.

More than half of those attending said that BIM has a key role to play in implementing the principles of the circular economy in the sector.