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Unleashing the potential of low energy buildings to push construction sector back to growth

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The European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "In the current severe economic and social crisis, low energy buildings are safe and viable investments for society and private investors. The construction sector should see this as an opportunity to innovate and attract new talent. New technologies offer a big potential, not only for new houses, but also for renovating millions of existing buildings to make them highly energy efficient in line with the EU 2020 objectives. Let's not miss this opportunity. The construction sector can become a driver of sustainable growth.”

Low energy buildings with high CO2 and energy cost saving potential still have a limited market uptake, despite their economic and environmental advantages. Construction comprises of more than 10% of total employment in the EU.

Therefore, to promote the construction sector as a driving force in the creation of jobs and for sustained growth for the economy in general, the European Commission tabled today a strategy to boost the sector. Its main lines include stimulating favourable investment conditions, in particular in the renovation and maintenance of buildings. For example, this comprises encouraging the take up of the package of up to €120 billion in loans available from the European Investment Bank (EIB) as part of June's Pact for Growth and Employment. Secondly, boost innovation and improve worker's qualifications by promoting mobility. Thirdly, improve resource efficiency, by promoting mutual recognition of sustainable construction systems in the EU. Fourthly, provide standard design codes of practice to construction companies making it easier for them to work in other Member States. Finally, foster the global position of European construction enterprises to stimulate good performances and sustainable standards in third countries.

Why does the EU need a construction strategy?

  • the financial and economic crisis has meant building and infrastructure work fell by 17% between January 2008 and April 2012 across the EU-27

  • the burst of the housing bubble has continued to significantly reduce activity in the sector, generating unemployment

  • the contraction of credit markets and late payment practices put further pressure on construction enterprises' solvency

  • the sector is in constant need of skilled labour

  • the introduction of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), as announced in the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, will be a major challenge for the construction sector

  • efforts to improve energy efficiency and to integrate renewable energy sources are progressing slowly, in particular in the renovation of existing buildings

  • the situation in international markets is critical for EU operators. Difficulties arise from the competition conditions in other countries such as less stringent social and environmental requirements. Non-EU operators also benefit from state aid , e.g. in China, which limit the opportunities for EU operators to access these markets.

Next steps

A High Level Forum will be arranged with Member States and sectoral representatives to oversee the implementation of the strategy and make recommendations on any necessary adjustments or new initiatives to be launched. In parallel, thematic and other groups will discuss various approaches for the implementation of specific initiatives, appraise the likely effects of existing actions at national and sectorial level on the specific initiatives and identify opportunities for synergies.

Background

Construction is a crucial sector for the European economy, generating almost 10% of EU GDP and providing 20 million jobs, mainly in micro and small enterprises. Competitiveness in the construction sector can significantly influence the development of the overall economy. Buildings' energy performance and resource efficiency in manufacturing, transport and the use of products to construct buildings and infrastructures have an important impact on Europeans' quality of life. The competitiveness of construction companies is therefore an important issue, not only for growth and employment in general but also to ensure the sector's sustainability.

For more information see MEMO/12/610.

More information

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The European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "In the current severe economic and social crisis, low energy buildings are safe and viable investments for society and private investors. The construction sector should see this as an opportunity to innovate and attract new talent. New technologies offer a big potential, not only for new houses, but also for renovating millions of existing buildings to make them highly energy efficient in line with the EU 2020 objectives. Let's not miss this opportunity. The construction sector can become a driver of sustainable growth.”

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