Europe Greens Up Its Construction Industry

A recent European Union initiative encouraging green construction practices reflects a growing global interest in energy-efficient and sustainable building. Greener construction practices occur on multiple levels, from site location and material selection to choosing construction equipment.

Practical and Environmental Considerations

The EU plan fulfills both environmental and political objectives. The environmental benefits are obvious: stimulating the use of energy efficient technology for both building and design will produce better built buildings with smaller carbon footprints. Politically, the new program will standardize design and construction practices across the European Union, allowing construction companies in the different member nations the opportunity to compete on an even playing field.

Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, called the new initiative a positive step in trying economic times, as sustainable buildings were a sound investment for the future. He also noted the new standards would provide the European construction industry with the “opportunity to innovate and attract new talent.”

The European Commission hopes the new standards will lead to more sustainable new buildings and renovations that bring older buildings in line with the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency objectives. To assist in attaining the new standards, construction companies and building owners will have access to €153 billion in loans from the European Investment Bank.

Across the Pond

An economic decision to standardize green construction within the European Union member nations may not seem to have much effect on U.S. construction companies, but American consumers increasingly opt for greener buildings. And with reason: Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO, and Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council notes that green buildings have a very real impact on people’s health, happiness, and performance.

According to Fedrizzi, children in green schools perform 21 percent better on tests, and patients in green hospitals are discharged earlier. He also notes that a green building can save building owners up to 70 percent in water and energy savings.

While the U.S. construction companies grow ever greener, it’s doubtful that the American construction industry will see the kind of government involvement present in Europe. Instead, the industry is more likely to adopt green building and design techniques because they are more efficient, often less costly, and, quite frankly, because consumers demand them.

Focusing on the Green

To be truly effective, sustainable construction techniques must permeate a construction project, from initial concepts and design to heavy equipment jobs. Sustainable sites must be located, water and energy sources carefully considered, and green and renewable materials used.

Indoor environment quality is also of great importance. While such construction projects require more planning – and often more expense – than traditional buildings, the result are sustainable buildings designed for long-term use with lower carbon footprints and healthier inhabitants.

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