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.
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.’
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.
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