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European architects start to realise that sustainability is more than just energy efficiency


In 2012 sustainability was mainly seen as energy saving. One year later another aspect of sustainability has gained popularity: sustainability saves money. For more European architects sustainability now goes beyond energy saving. These are some of the conclusions of the Q3 2013 European Architectural Barometer report, a quarterly research among 1,600 architects in eight European countries. European architects act as a leading indicator for the construction activity.

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to sustainability, not only because it is a clear trend in the construction industry, but also because of the complexity of the word, its broad meaning and the lack of one common view of what sustainability is about. The freedom for interpretation and the different dimensions sustainability can take make it also difficult for the whole construction sector when it comes to communication within the sector, and even more important when the sector has to make sure that their messages reach the main target groups: customers/ clients/ investors.

The latest Arch-Vision survey confirms the fact that the understanding of sustainability not only differs from country to country, but it is also changing with time, becoming more fleshed out, with increasing importance of new aspects.

Arch-Vision does not provide the architects with a definition of sustainability, as one of the important things in our approach is to find out how architects see it and understand it, and how their opinion differs between the countries.

The results from the measurements Arch Vision has done in two consecutive years showed changes in the architects’ meaning of the term sustainability. While in 2012 they considered it to be related mainly to energy saving, only one year later, more architects have started to see it as standing for money saving, recyclability, low maintenance costs, usage of natural raw materials. Energy saving still remains the main characteristic feature architects associate with sustainability, but the view that it is more than that is gaining ground.

Together with the laws and regulations, the financial advantages are the leading drivers behind the projects where sustainability is taken into account. The long term profit is slowly but surely being recognized by a broader range of construction industry players, and we see it coming back in the answers of the architects, who more often talk about the financial side of sustainability.

The differences in the understanding of sustainability between the 8 countries can be successfully used by the manufacturers of construction materials, products and solutions in their communication towards the architects, as it gives a good indication which the top 5 characteristics are that architects pay attention to.


These and many other results and trends of the developments of the European construction market can be found in the European Architectural Barometer, an international market research conducted among 1,600 architects in Europe. This study is conducted in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland by Arch-Vision four times a year. Besides indicators to forecast the European building volumes, a specific topic is highlighted each quarter. The topic in Q3 2013 was “Sustainability”. Architects can be used not only as a reliable source for future building volumes information, but their role is very important as they have great influence on how projects are built and which materials are used.

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