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Improving energy and resource efficiency in the European Construction Sector

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The European Union has set out ambitions targets for energy efficiency and climate change over the coming decades. These targets have major implications for the construction sector, in terms of its overall resource efficiency and specifically the energy performance of buildings in accordance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2018/844/EU).


The building stock is relatively old, with a large proportion of buildings built before the 1980s. The current replacement and renovation rates are not high enough to ensure that the full potential energy savings is achieved. For example, 64.9% of residential buildings in the EU were built before 1980. In parallel, the construction sector also requires high levels of resource inputs and accounts for 38% of the waste generated in the EU.


The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, published in September 2011, sets out the practical steps to reach the objectives of increasing energy and resource efficiency, in particular within the context of the building sector and construction more broadly. The roadmap stressed that efforts on promoting high energy performance and renewable energy use in buildings need to be complemented with policies that promote resource efficiency, and to cover a broader range of impacts, taking into account the full lifecycle of buildings, from initial planning and manufacturing of construction products to final demolition and waste treatment and disposal.


The more recent initiative of Resource Efficiency Opportunities in the Building Sector, published in 2014, further urges a more efficient use of resources consumed by new and renovated commercial, residential and public buildings and reduction of their overall environmental impacts throughout the full life cycle. As the studies demonstrate, construction and demolition waste (CDW) makes up a third of total waste generated in the EU, however the average recovery for EU-27 is still below 50%. It is within the context of these long-term goals that the European Commission introduced Construction 2020 – its strategy for the sustainable competitiveness of the construction sector and its enterprises. This strategic policy agenda for the construction sector in Europe focuses on energy and resource efficiency under Thematic Objective 3 “Improving resource efficiency, environmental performance and business opportunities”. The related policy measures, foreseen in the Construction 2020 Action Plan, include the development of measures providing incentives for energy and resource efficiency within the framework of Cohesion Policy Funds and Horizon 2020, support through green public procurement guidelines, guidelines for the recycling and valorisation of construction and demolition waste, the provision of trainings, data collection and monitoring. The issues of energy and resource efficiency are high on the agenda at Member State (MS) level as well. A variety of policy responses have been introduced, taking the form of initiatives and government programmes aimed at supporting investment in energy and resource efficiency improvements, innovation and skills development.


Within this context, the purpose of the present Analytical Report is to draw a snapshot of the current energy and resource efficiency situation in the construction sector in the EU-28. Namely, Chapter 2 provides a high level analysis of the state of energy efficiency and resource in the sector, focusing on the quantitative analysis of the characteristics of the building stock and the waste and emissions generated through construction activity. Chapter 3 provides an analysis of the main drivers of energy and resource efficiency, namely regulatory measures and economic factors. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the obstacles for increased energy and resource efficiency of the construction sector, zooming in on the issues of insufficient investment incentives, lack of access to finance, low awareness and knowledge and finally skills shortage, which is a supply side obstacle. Finally, Chapter 5 focuses on the main policy responses, highlighting best practices and lessons learned from various national and regional programmes.

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