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The five most important sustainable development challenges in the construction and property management sector

Statutory climate assessment requirements for all new construction projects subject to planning permission have already been or will be introduced in all Nordic countries, imposing an obligation to investigate the climate impacts of future buildings. These requirements have a clear aim: reducing the carbon footprint of buildings throughout their life cycle. 

Climate and the environment are often the first factors that come to mind when discussing sustainable development, but climate is only one of many challenges in the construction sector, and other aspects must also be considered in order to realise sustainability. 

 We listed the five most important sustainable development challenges in the construction and property management sector. 

1. Sustainable urban development. It is essential for a sustainable society to ensure that everyone can afford decent housing and a good quality of life. Many urban areas in the Nordic countries suffer from an ongoing housing shortage that can easily lead to significant inequality and retard economic growth. Alleviating the housing shortage means shortening the time lags between the construction concept and the completed plan, commencement of construction work and final occupation. 

2. An efficient design and construction process. An efficient process of design and construction is essential for more rapid building. One way to boost efficiency is by giving construction sector operators more responsibility in the planning process, conducted in close collaboration with local authorities. Digitised information management can also improve resource efficiency, with digital project banks enabling efficient distribution of information, which in turn facilitates planning and information sharing in the construction process. 

3. Climate neutrality. The Nordic countries are working hard to reduce the climate impacts of the construction and property management sector. The construction and property management sector in Sweden, for example, accounts for about 20 per cent of national climate emissions, some one fifth of which largely comprises manufacturing of the materials and products that are involved in using and managing buildings. The sector is seeking to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 through electrification, by more efficient manufacturing and transportation involving greater use of renewable fuels, and by planning circular flows and efficient use of resources. The target is net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2045. 

4. Sustainable use of materials. Almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in the construction and property management sector come from the use of materials. The relationship of society to the selection and use of materials is not sustainable at the moment, and greater social responsibility is needed in supply chains. Together, we must bring about non-toxic, reusable material flows that are more efficient in both design and use. 

5. Diversity in workplaces. The 2020 Construction Blueprint project found that only 8.2 per cent of all European Union construction and property management workers are women. Everyone should nevertheless feel welcome in the construction sector. Construction sites should modify the physical work environment and foster an atmosphere that respects everyone’s performance and diversity. Greater diversity boosts progress throughout the sector, which in turn promotes more efficient and safer working methods.  

Measures to promote sustainable development must be launched now! SokoPro is Finland’s leading project bank, enhancing cooperation and providing opportunities for whole life cycle management of construction project information.