European builders embrace benefits of sustainable development

The association which represents the European construction businesses has published a set of environmental principles, which include a commitment to encourage the building of more energy efficient buildings, the promotion of the use of environmental management systems and a greater emphasis on sustainable construction.

The European Construction Industry Federation’s (FIEC) decision to draw up a Charter for the Environment is based on the recognition that “the work involved in improving the environment is a major generator of employment.”

The charter document points out that existing buildings are responsible for the use of about 40% of final demand for energy and as a consequence for a corresponding percentage of greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions.

Improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings could therefore lead to as much as a 12% reduction in the total amount of ghg emissions in Europe. Thanks to this, the charter says, it is possible to create, in the EU building sector, more than 300 000 permanent jobs over the next 10 years.

“The construction firms note with satisfaction that the priority given to the environment is linked to maintaining a proper level of economic development that in turn will lead to greater prosperity and improve the quality of life,” the charter says. “In this respect, the provisions concerning the integration of the environment into a broad range of EU policies included in the Treaty of Amsterdam, will play a strategic role in achieving these objectives.”

The charter notes with enthusiasm that cities should pay particular attention to infrastructure in order to ensure that it is developed in an environmentally friendly manner . “As cities grapple with pressures resulting from growth, and with traffic congestion, social exclusion and pollution, the urban environment needs to be improved and to this effect new investments are needed. In transforming these investments into concrete form, the construction industry plays a strategic role,” the charter states.

The charter adds that construction projects carried out to improve the environment involve additional costs, that in most cases can only be met by more public funding.

The document also makes it clear that it does not believe construction firms produce much polluting waste. Rather, it says, clients should be encouraged to co-operate in the management of the large quantities of waste produced during construction. “They also have the technical capacity to use, either through re-use or in the form of recycled materials, both their own secondary materials originating from construction and demolition activities as well as those coming from other industries.”

Under the charter, FIEC pledges to:

  • encourage policies aimed at up-grading, retro-fitting and where necessary, rebuilding facilities in order to reach higher environmental standards in urban development processes and in such manner that the construction industry makes a maximum possible contribution to the abatement of greenhouse gas emissions
  • promote wider use of environmental management systems in the construction industry
  • encourage contractors to propose alternative technical solutions which support European environmental policy
  • lay increase emphasis on the development of the concept of ‘sustainable construction
  • contributing to the spread of knowledge on the subject of the environment to building contractors of countries in Central and Eastern Europe
  • call for construction firms to minimise the nuisance that building sites inflict on adjoining neighbourhoods
  • improve environmental awareness among construction trainees
  • sign the International declaration for cleaner production published by the United Nations Environment Programme

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