Industry and Entrepreneurship
Unleashing the potential of low energy buildings to restore growth
Europe’s green revolution should start from bricks and mortar. It seems a paradox, but without a serious effort to renovate existing buildings and make way for new more energy-efficient construction, European efforts to counter climate change may eventually prove unsuccessful.
Commercial, public and residential buildings account for some 40% of EU energy consumption. Making buildings more efficient is estimated to generate energy savings up to 12% by 2020, and much more in the longer term.
The construction sector is also key to renew European cities and transform them into smart cities. Unfortunately low energy buildings with high CO2 and energy cost saving potential still have a limited market uptake, despite their economic and environmental advantages.
"The performance of the construction sector has a significant bearing on the development of the verall economy. The competitiveness of construction companies is therefore an important issue not only for growth and employment in general but also to ensure the sustainability of the sector."
The European Commission is actively engaged in supporting the construction sector to achieve ambitious energy-efficiency goals. A comprehensive Commission action plan, extending until 2020, is currently underway.
Reviving the sector will bring clear advantages to the environment and also to the European economy. Construction firms generate almost 10% of the EU's GDP and provide 20 million jobs, mainly in micro and small enterprises.
But the sector has been one of the hardest hit by the financial and economic crisis, with a 16% drop between 2008 and the end of 2012 in building and infrastructure works carried out in the EU.
To counter this dangerous trend, which is affecting the entire European economy, the Commission has proposed to double the annual target for the renovation of central government buildings, to reach 3%. Moreover, it advises 2% of the whole building stock should also be renovated.
This requires a significant effort by national authorities, and significant public and private investment plans. New flexibility in budget targets has been temporarily granted to countries which remain below the EU deficit ceiling. Freshly available funds should now be channeled to growth-enhancing actions, including those in the construction sector.
The Commission is also active in making easier for European construction firms to operate outside the EU borders, facilitating their access to public tenders in a spirit of reciprocity with our main trade and investment partners.