Market potential for ecological building materials in Europe

Ecological sustainability has become a topic of public debate in Germany and Europe in recent months. Up to now, the issue has been discussed in the construction industry mainly in connection with energy efficiency, but questions about, raw materials, pollu-tants and energy consumption during production or transport are increasingly coming to the fore. But what is the perception of builders and renovators? Do sustainability consid-erations (already) have a relevant influence on the purchase decision?
As a recent study by B+L shows, the perception of and the demand for ecological building materials vary widely among the European countries. There are also clear differences in the individual age groups and between professionals (such as craftsmen and planners) and home builders. The Bonn-based market research institute has analysed these differ-ences in detail and summarised them in a study. For the study, B+L surveyed more than 3,400 renovators and home builders as well as more than 800 craftsmen, architects and construction companies in 14 countries. The survey focused on the importance of eco-logical building materials in the purchase decision process, the willingness to pay higher prices for ecological products and the actual purchase of such products. Furthermore, the decision-making structures were examined in detail.

Figure 1 shows the B+L Sustainability Index for the 14 countries studied. The index reflects the market opportunities and potentials of ecological building materials. For the index, selected indicators of ecological sustainability were weighted and calculated. The index reaches its highest values in Norway, Switzerland, France and Poland. In these markets, an above-average openness and demand for ecological building materials exists. On the other hand, Denmark, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Austria and Bulgaria have the lowest values.

Figure1: The B+L Sustainability Index summarises openness and potentials for ecological building materials in 14 European countries (Source: B+L Marktdaten GmbH)

The B+L Sustainability Index shows how heterogeneous the European markets are in terms of ecology. However, the index is only one facet of the topic. Additional analyses show that there are target groups who demand ecological building materials even in mar-kets with a low index value. Study author Marcel Dresse says: “Depending on the country, the relevant target groups for ecological building materials differ. In some markets, it is the baby boomers’ generation that has an above-average demand for ecological prod-ucts. In other markets, demand is driven by the target group of young families or young home builders.”
Ecological sustainability in the construction industry can be defined very differently. On the one hand, aspects such as the reduction of CO² in production and transport or the ecological responsibility of the manufacturers are considered. On the other hand, aspects such as low-pollutant and anti-allergenic products for flooring, paints or plasters are as-sociated with ecological construction as well. Both aspects were analysed in detail by B+L for the 14 markets.
Low-pollutant and anti-allergenic flooring, plasters or paints are relevant for an above-average share of home builders and renovators. On average, end consumers are willing to spend between 5 % and 8 % higher prices in order to get ecological products. However, there are also markets such as Switzerland where a third of the respondents is willing to pay more than 10 % higher prices for ecological products for interior renovation or fin-ishing. This again shows the heterogeneity of the European markets: depending on the products, markets or target groups, ecological products have a different relevance.

However, one aspect that applies equally to (almost) all the markets examined is that ecological sustainability will become increasingly important in the construction industry in the future and the demand for corresponding products will increase significantly in the upcoming years.

More information on the study “Ecological sustainability in the construction industry” can be found at

Please feel free to contact the author of the study in case of any questions related to the topic: Marcel Dresse,

Marcel Dresse
Tel: +49 228 62987-27
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