Building Market Briefs
A universal remedy for innovation in construction
The world of construction faces a major challenge in meeting the targets agreed for 2050 in the Paris climate accord. This gives opportunities for players in the market, but innovative entrepreneurs often lack the information they need to also effectively take advantage of international opportunities. As part of the European Climate-KIC initiative, researchers are charting the European construction sector in order to plug this knowledge gap.
A series of reports, the Building Market Briefs provide standardised information about building stocks and relevant regulations and policy in Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, with more countries set to follow soon. Henk Visscher, professor of Housing Quality at TU Delft, is one of the project’s initiators. “Although CO2 and energy targets are fixed at European level, the further practical details vary from country to country”, he explains. “For some countries, it is already clear what the policy is but in others there is still a lot of work to be done. Sometimes measures are taken to accelerate the process of increasing sustainability, as in the case of the Energy Accord in the Netherlands. We have collected data from various sources to provide an insight into what all of this means for the construction sector.”
The reports include details of the housing stocks for each country, how the construction sector operates, what relevant regulations there are and what developments are taking place. “For example, based on the current situation, what do we expect to be the most important energy sources in the built environment in 2050?” says Visscher. “We also explore any important factors that may be holding back or accelerating developments. In the Netherlands, we know that the phasing out of the gas industry is being accelerated, but the construction of new-build housing is slowing. The country faces a major challenge in modifying the many homes that date from the 1950s and 1960s. However, many of these are terraced houses or apartment blocks, which means standard solutions can be developed.”
The information for the report was collected from a range of different sources. In the Netherlands, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) keeps data on housing stocks and the government conducts a survey every three years exploring such issues as the composition of households, the home itself, housing costs, housing preferences and the living environment. In order to ensure comparability, the information must be in the same form. “In the Netherlands, we have a lot of information at the level of the housing unit, but it is often an apartment or maisonette. In other countries, the information is usually kept at building level, which means we had to adapt the Dutch report accordingly.” The research also includes a survey of stakeholders, such as building owners and partners in the construction process.
Focus on Companies
The Building Market Briefs are specifically aimed at companies, rather than policymakers. “This gives market players a good insight into their opportunities in other countries”, says Zeno Winkels, business developer at the TU Delft Valorisation Centre. “Imagine you are a Belgian producer of insulation materials that wishes to expand. Would it be best to do that in the Netherlands or in Germany and what factors do you need to take into account?” he says, by way of example. The reports are available to download viacuesanalytics.eu. Anyone who has questions that are not directly answered in the Building Market Briefs can also turn to the website. “All of the collaborating specialists can be contacted via the website. The CUES Foundation was set up to ensure that the knowledge we collected in this project remains up-to-date and can be expanded.”This not only means that reports on other countries will also be published, but that the data will also be available to explore other research questions. “In this initial phase, the focus has been on housing stocks with an emphasis on energy performance and CO2 emissions. But for that, we have only used a portion of the information we collected”, says Winkels. “If you want to see an analysis of a different type of building, school buildings, for example? Or perhaps you need information on the options for cooling 1970s homes in France? Then please contact us, as we are interested in hearing what information people need.” Over time, CUES may also carry out these new analyses itself.
EIT Climate KIC
The Building Market Briefs research is part of the Building Technology Accelerator (BTA), the largest project within the European Institute of Innovation & Technology’s Climate Knowledge Innovation Community, the EIT Climate KIC. Since 2010, universities, knowledge institutions, companies and government bodies have been working as part of the EIT Climate KIC on European competitiveness and innovation capacity based around the theme of climate. “I develop projects within the KIC together with partners. They can range from a minor study for a start-up on whether something has been done before through to major demonstration projects” , says Winkels. Visscher: “Unlike other EU-subsidised research programmes, the KIC focuses primarily on the higher technology-readiness levels. But companies can find it difficult to export their innovations, because they are lacking the information they need about other countries. The Building Market Briefs plug exactly that gap. It is a kind of universal remedy that is needed to help spread innovation.”
Henk Visscher (l) and Zeno Winkels at the presentation of the Building Market Briefs.
Chair in Housing Quality
What kind of definitions can be developed for housing quality? What performance should housing deliver and how can the government help ensure it happens? These are the types of questions that Henk Visscher explores in his position as professor of Housing Quality.
“In the case of new-build, there are building decrees and planning permission to set the basic quality. But the targets are becoming increasingly ambitious, especially when it comes to energy efficiency and CO2 emissions. This is why we need to try to provide greater insight into the current quality of existing housing stocks and to develop new policy instruments that can help ensure improvements.” Energy labels are one way of providing that insight. Visscher: “We conducted detailed research into the relationship between energy labels and actual energy consumption in the home. This is because labels only provide an indication of the quality of the building, of the building envelope so to speak. But the number of people living in it and how often they are at home – in other words the actual use – can make quite a difference.” The Building Market Briefs were a perfect match for this chair. “It was a great opportunity to collect more data and present it systematically. In the future, all of this information will provide support for other projects.”
Coming soon: BTIC
On behalf of 4TU.Bouw, Henk Visscher is one of the developers of the Construction and Technology Innovation Centre (BTIC). The BTIC is an offshoot of the Construction Agenda (Bouwagenda), the ambitious agenda for renewal set up under the leadership of Bernard Wientjes. “The Construction Agenda is an initiative of the construction sector that takes social developments and objectives as its basis in thinking about the future of construction in the next decades”, explains Visscher. “At the innovation centre, we intend to work on multi-year knowledge programmes in such areas as energy transition, circularity and digitisation. The recent coalition agreement set aside a lot of funding for research to be conducted in support of the climate and energy accords. We are embarking on some major research aimed at renovating existing housing stocks. In that context, it may prove extremely useful to look at how renovation concepts work in other countries.”