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Construction legacy: Unleashing low carbon growth potential

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Despite their economic and environmental advantages, low-energy buildings with high CO2 and energy cost saving potential still have a limited market uptake. By promoting access to finance for European construction and slashing trade obstacles in the internal market, the European Commission is helping to create a solid foundation for the construction industry while simultaneously moving Europe towards its resource efficiency goals.

The European construction sector generates nearly 10 % of the EU’s GDP and provides 20 million direct jobs – more than the tourism and auto industries combined. Throw in construction’s impact on other sectors, such as cement, wood, chemicals, metals and plastics, and construction is no doubt a building block for Europe’s economy.

The sector, however, was hit hard by the economic downturn: About two million direct jobs were lost from 2009-13, and loans and investments dried up considerably. The European Commission is therefore taking steps to ensure that the construction sector has the tools it needs to thrive in the coming years.

Innovation through renovation

Buildings are single largest contributor to energy use and CO2 emissions, and this is not surprising since some estimates suggest more than 80 % of existing buildings have low energy efficiency. Countering this is a great challenge, but also a great opportunity to nurture green growth in construction.

To help unleash this potential, Member States can take advantage of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and financial instruments, including the renovation loans, intended to combine public and private capital to foster investment in making buildings more energy efficient.

‘The construction sector should see this as a chance to innovate and attract new talent,’ said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. ‘New technologies offer big potential, not only for new houses, but also for renovating millions of existing buildings to make them highly energy efficient. Let's not miss this opportunity.’

The Energy Efficiency Directive, currently under review, should further mobilise investments in the construction sector, especially the renovation of buildings, which has enormous potential to be an engine of green growth. Estimates suggest that the directive will create up to 500 000 new jobs and reduce energy bills by €5 billion.

‘Renovating energy-inefficient buildings is a way to reduce emissions, improve energy security and create jobs in the construction sector,’ Vice-President Tajani added. ‘Given its broad reach, construction is uniquely positioned to be an engine for economic recovery while simultaneously bolstering Europe’s standing as a world leader in resource efficient growth.’

Online information about construction products to save time and money

More than 40 batches of products are classified as ‘construction products’, including bricks, insulation, doors and many more. This creates a mountain of paperwork because every product must carry a declaration of performance that is distributed to every purchaser. The declaration is required if the consumers are construction companies, distributors or just someone performing amateur home improvements.

Construction – Achievements under Vice President Antonio Tajani
  1. The ‘Construction 2020’ action plan, presented in July 2012, is boosting the construction section by promoting energy efficiency, access to finance, internationalisation and the benefits of trade negotiations.
  2. Since the new Construction Products Regulation entered into force in July 2013, Europe’s construction sector has been able to fully exploit the Single Market via a new ‘common technical language’. Thanks to this Regulation, manufacturers can express/compare the characteristics of the products they place on the European market.
  3. Starting in October 2013, the Commission has also enabled manufacturers of construction products to upload ‘declarations of performance’ on their websites. These documents provide essential information about fire resistance, mechanical strength, energy efficiency and more.
  4. CrIP, a construction-specific search engine, informs companies on new work methods and innovation. CrIP provides a one-stop infopoint containing all the documents issued by European institutions and bodies about the construction sector.

Contact

More information on Access to finance, please visit:
http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/funding-grants/access-to-finance/

More information on CrIP, Eurocodes and common technical language:
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/magazine/articles/industrial-competitiveness/article_11074_en.htm

More information on construction (in general)
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/construction/index_en.htm

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