Sustainable Construction Has Cooperation at its Core

From protecting the environment to reducing energy consumption and improving human health and wellbeing, the benefits of sustainable construction are widely understood and accepted. So why aren’t they a foregone conclusion in practice? Do the positive initiatives undertaken around the world only have a hope of success if industry stakeholders work together more closely? And if that is the case, how can we get everyone around the table? We explore some answers from the Sustainable Construction Observatory, a unifying initiative set up by Saint-Gobain.

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There is no miraculous solution. Individual initiatives cannot overcome challenges that are planetary in scale. On climate, the answer that has come out of the various COPs and other environment summits for years is clear: for maximum impact, we need to act together.

This applies to sustainable construction too. From architects to craftspeople, builders, academics, politicians, public stakeholders and students, people know we need to act. But how can we ensure everyone is aligned when everyone has their own perception of the challenges and of what has to be done?

“For Saint-Gobain, the answer is unambiguous: we need to work as a team. That is why the Group has launched a unifying initiative, the Sustainable Construction Observatory, based on three complementary pillars, in order to better listen to, unite and inform stakeholders,” explains Fabienne Robert, Director of the Sustainable Construction Observatory.

 

Did you say sustainable construction?

 

The first challenge is of course to ensure everyone understands exactly what sustainable construction is. To include the full range of perspectives, the Observatory’s first pillar comes into play. With the Sustainable Construction Barometer, an international study carried out each year, the Group aims to better understand the perceptions of stakeholders in a market that is still fragmented.

The second edition of the Barometer shows that understanding of sustainable construction varies somewhat from one country to the next and depends on one’s standpoint, whether that of an association, construction professional or elected official. However, definitions of this concept always feature some sort of environmental prism. While 42% of respondents define sustainable buildings in terms of their energy characteristics, only 13% highlight their resilience in the face of climate hazards. And what about the health, wellbeing and comfort of the people who use them? These notions are too often an afterthought, yet they are essential to sustainable construction.

 

agora tower
Located near Budapest’s historic center, Agora Tower is one of the emblematic buildings of the city’s new sustainable quarter.

Box: The Barometer methodology

The second edition of the Sustainable Construction Barometer is based on a survey conducted by the CSA Research Institute between December 11, 2023, and January 31, 2024, with 1,760 respondents aged 18 and over from 22 different countries.

The sample of respondents was split equally between:

  • construction professionals,
  • students studying subjects related to construction/public sector construction and engineering/civil engineering and architecture/spatial design,
  • members of associations,
  • elected local officials.

 

Discover the results of the 2024 Sustainable Construction

Coming together for more effective action

To increase awareness, Saint-Gobain is continuing its efforts, in particular encouraging all stakeholders to work together. But for that to happen, they need to get together in person. How? Through the Sustainable Construction Talks, which are meetings organized alongside major international events like the COPs. “These opportunities for discussion bring together construction professionals, associations, political decision makers, academics and students to shed light on the issues, debate how we should adapt to regulatory changes, and raise awareness about these topics amidst a growing number of stakeholders, particularly by getting key figures with diverse expertise together in one room,” continues Fabienne Robert.

In ParisNew YorkDubai and soon at a more local scale in Helsinki, Philadelphia and Warsaw, the Talks help establish dialogue on a local level, fuel debate, and unite sector stakeholders. And these stakeholders have proven particularly receptive. This is the case for Rishin Mitra, founder of the architecture, design and management consultancy MACHT and speaker at the Talk which took place in December 2023 in Dubai at COP28, who highlighted the importance of this kind of event in these terms: “The initiative taken by Saint-Gobain to establish the Sustainable Construction Observatory resonates deeply with my commitment to sustainable urban development and the importance of collaborative efforts in this area.”

 

Sustainable construction; what does it actually mean ?

 

Listening to perceptions from around the world thanks to a Barometer and uniting stakeholders through the Talks constitute the first two pillars of the Sustainable Construction Observatory set up by Saint-Gobain. That leaves the third key pillar: inform. That’s the role of Constructing a Sustainable Future, the first digital magazine dedicated to sustainable construction

Through articles, interviews, infographics and podcasts, the aim of this magazine is to raise awareness among stakeholders in the construction sector. It is also a platform for discussion and sharing, a directory, and a sounding board for best practices, positive initiatives, and innovations from across the globe.

With this Observatory, the Group is offering multidisciplinary expertise and hopes to unite an ever-expanding network of stakeholders to meet the great challenge of today. In the words of Michal Mlynár, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Executive Director of UN-Habitat, “designing local solutions is crucial. There is no one-size-fits-all; we need to work with mayors and local actors.”

Sustainable education, shaping tomorrow's workforce