Transition Pathway for Construction

Ilektra Papadaki, Philippe Moseley, Pieter Staelens, Roman Horvath, Oscar Nieto Sanz, Marina Lipari, Pablo Gutierrez Velayos, Heikki Vaananen

The updated EU Industrial Strategy emphasises a swift green and digital transition of EU industry and its ecosystems. It foresees cooperation with industry, public authorities, social partners and stakeholders to navigate each ecosystem’s transition. Each industrial ecosystem must transform its business models and value chains to become the foundation of a green, digital and resilient European economy. But such transitions require concrete and actionable plans (transition pathways) developed for each of the industrial ecosystems.

Construction is the second largest industrial ecosystem in the European Union in economic terms, employing around 25 million people. As a result, it offers enormous potential to contribute to the European Green Deal and the Digital Decade. However, this large ecosystem also faces numerous challenges. These include current crises such as the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the climate emergency, rapid digital transformation, and the transition from a linear to a circular economy.

Planning the future of construction is not only about setting new actions and commitments, but also about aligning efforts and identifying and closing critical gaps. It also requires attention to the coherence, enforcement, and success of previously announced policies. During recent years the Commission and national governments launched numerous initiatives that impact construction and the built environment.

Among those are the Renovation Wave, the proposed Emission Trading System for Buildings (and Road Transport), the New European Bauhaus, the Climate Adaptation Strategy, and proposals to revise key legislation such as the Construction Products Regulation and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Many targets exist on how the built environment should transform in the future, but far fewer indicators exist on how the construction ecosystem should evolve to deliver on these objectives. The
construction ecosystem is called to deliver building renovations faster than ever before and install renewable energy generation and management systems to help Europe use energy sustainably. In addition, the industry must continually provide monitoring and maintenance services, repair to critical infrastructure, and efforts to make buildings safer and more accessible. Construction works also involve administrative processes via public authorities that are moving from cumbersome paper-based to fully digitalised procedures. Construction must also play its part in the general effort to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and other environmental goals. Construction activities and buildings must prevent, reduce re-use and recycle waste, increase the use of secondary raw materials and decrease greenhouse gas emissions and even help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by storing it.

The built environment, the result of the construction ecosystem’s activities, is omnipresent in citizens’ lives. Europeans spend, on average, 85-90% of their time in buildings. Policymakers need to take into account the challenges faced by companies in the ecosystem, of which over 90% are micro-enterprises, to navigate a complex policy and regulatory framework.
This transition pathway describes the conditions and the necessary actions to achieve a resilient, competitive, greener, and more digital construction ecosystem. In addition, it proposes actions that support the transition towards safer buildings and affordable housing for all Europeans.

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