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September 22, 2021

Construction and sustainability: challenge and opportunity

Construction and sustainability: challenge and opportunity

In view of climate change and finite natural raw material resources, sustainability is more than a mere trend: it is a necessity. This is especially true for industries like construction that rely heavily on resources. Find out here what sustainability in construction requires and what opportunities arise for employers in the sector through sustainable action.

Sustainability in construction: Corporate responsibility
On a national and international level, sustainability is the standard by which corporate action must be measured in the future. Sustainability is a task for society as a whole and means that when pursuing (corporate) goals, economic as well as ecological and social aspects must be given equal consideration so that the generations that follow us will have an intact environment and equal opportunities for development.

A popular pictogram for sustainability is a house or temple whose roof rests on the three pillars "ecological", "economic" and "social" (or "socio-cultural"). This purely coincidental reference of the pictorial representation to the building industry may be interpreted as a call to the industry. For as a resource- and energy-intensive branch of industry, the building industry in particular must face up to its special responsibility.

In concrete terms, sustainability in construction means that what is built - be it a building or an infrastructure - should be economical and at the same time climate-friendly, of high quality and usable for a long time. This requires a comprehensive concept that takes into account the entire life cycle of a building: from planning and construction, through use and modernisation, to possible deconstruction, with recycling of the building materials. In an integral planning, all decisive aspects such as site characteristics, technical building specifics and process quality are to be related to the three sustainability pillars.

Additional conceptual work
This entails additional tasks for the building industry. The certification systems of the European Construction Products Regulation must be observed, standards must be complied with and numerous aspects must be integrated into building concepts: for example, energy efficiency and life cycle analyses - both with regard to the building itself and the building materials used. Regular consultations between clients, users and planning teams from different disciplines are also necessary.

Sustainability in construction: entrepreneurial opportunity
What at first appears to be a long list of difficulties for building projects also brings advantages, which in the case of the benefits for nature and society should be indisputable. However, sustainable construction can also pay off economically if it is planned effectively and the company's own sustainable actions are communicated appropriately.

Sustainability and construction costs
A prejudice about sustainability in general and in construction in particular is that the costs for these projects are necessarily higher. However, a closer look and a look further into the future softens this position. Building materials and products that meet sustainable criteria are not always more expensive than conventional materials. And since sustainable products are also designed to keep operating costs low in the long term, sustainable buildings can also pay off financially if their entire life cycle is included in the calculation.

Digitalisation in the service of sustainability
When it comes to implementing sustainable requirements in construction, seemingly paradoxical combinations can occur as soon as the use of historical building materials such as wood coincides with the digitalisation of construction processes. Digitalisation in particular, which is becoming increasingly important for the feasibility of construction projects due to growing demands, offers opportunities for the industry as a whole, even independent of sustainability issues.

Comprehensive digitalisation makes it possible to design and optimise processes more efficiently. This also brings the economic pillar of sustainability into its own. The digital reduction of inefficiencies in all areas of planning and implementation of construction measures holds enormous potential for saving financial and time resources.

Führerschaft im Wachstumsmarkt
Der Markt für nachhaltiges Bauen ist auch in einer generell stark nachgefragten Branche nach wie vor ein Wachstumsmarkt, in dem Positionen noch zu verteilen sind. Hierbei nicht zu vergessen: Im Bezug auf die Klimabilanz, ist der Gebäudesektor ähnlich wie der Verkehr, nach wie vor ein Sorgenkind. Es gibt also noch viel zu tun, und viele Aufträge sind deutschland- und weltweit zu vergeben. Wer sich rechtzeitig einen guten Ruf im Bereich des nachhaltigen Bauens verschafft und durch konsequent nachhaltiges, unternehmerisches Handeln festigt, wird davon profitieren.

Sustainability in construction as an attractiveness factor
More protection of resources and more occupational safety, i.e. the realisation of ecological-social aspects of sustainability, lead to more acceptance by the public - and also among potential employees. Against the backdrop that the construction industry in Germany is more affected by the shortage of skilled workers and its business objectives are more at risk than those of other sectors, sustainability has a positive effect on human resources planning. It can be the decisive plus point when it comes to convincing new skilled workers about a company and a project or retaining existing top performers.

Sustainability and employer brand
In the competition for qualified personnel, a strong employer brand is becoming increasingly important. This is not only the case in construction, but it is particularly true in this sector - precisely because the shortage of skilled workers is so noticeable here. In a market that is determined by the ideas of the candidates and not by the offers of the employers, it is important for a company to stand out positively and to strengthen its own attractiveness for interested parties.

What does this have to do with sustainability? The employer brand stands and falls with its external impact and its perception by third parties. If a construction company visibly pursues social-ecological goals, its corporate image is positively reinforced. Sustainable management in the construction industry is generally assessed by the public as charitable commitment and thus flows directly into the employer brand.

A sustainably defined employer brand is elementary for personnel recruitment and so important in the future because many young (and also many older!) skilled workers in particular are very concerned about a responsible approach to natural resources and the environment - a sustainable orientation can be the deciding factor in choosing your company.

Sustainability: valuable and beneficial for construction companies
From a business perspective, sustainability has multiple benefits. Due to its ecological-social potential, it is a value in itself and at the same time also associated with benefits for your company itself, be it through increased efficiency or greater attractiveness to skilled workers. All sectors benefit from this, but especially the resource-dependent construction industry, which creates long-term and visible values with high symbolic power with the constructed buildings.