Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (2010-2013)

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Sustainable methods of building design and construction have the potential to provide solutions to many of the economic, social and environmental challenges that Europe is facing today.  Given our dependence on other parts of the world for our energy supply, they will undoubtedly help us to address the issues of energy poverty and energy security.  They are also likely to create significant numbers of new 'green' jobs and to play an important part in helping us to reach our energy efficiency goals. 

The European Economic and Social Committee is firmly convinced that energy efficiency will be a mainstay of the efforts to achieve a low carbon economy.  The Committee's Opinion on a low-carbon energy system by 2050 sets out a roadmap for achieving 80% emission cuts by the middle of the century.  In our view, over half of the emission cuts to be made by 2050 could come from energy efficiency measures, particularly in construction and transport. 

Consequently,  I am putting my efforts behind  sustainable construction, which is both a great source of growth and employment opportunities and a subject that is closely related to one of my work programme priorities, 'sustainability and growth'.  I am therefore, naturally, committed to ensuring that the EESC is involved in supporting initiatives in this area. 

However, for a number of reasons, it may take some time for sustainable construction to become a widespread approach in the European Union.  Firstly, both new, sustainable construction projects and alterations to existing buildings will require high levels of investment.  Secondly, there is a shortage of construction staff with the necessary skills, qualifications and experience in sustainable construction methods and techniques.  The EESC has called for more information and training opportunities to be provided in the area of energy- efficiency technologies, especially in construction, the public sector and transport. 

The EESC's Bike Lexicon, our first hands-on multilingual dictionary, has proven to be a very successful initiative.  Indeed, a third edition is currently being produced in order to meet the growing demand from the cycling public in the EU.  This new glossary is another pioneering EESC project, which will help to fill the gap left by the lack of a common European approach to sustainable construction.  It is an area that still suffers from considerable administrative burdens and fragmented markets.  I sincerely hope that a common language will help to create a pool of shared  knowledge and practices that can be utilised at EU level. 

I should like to thank the Architects' Council of Europe (ACE) and the European Concrete Platform for joining our efforts to promote the development of sustainable construction by encouraging the use of a common language and set of terms in this field.  This first edition represents a significant terminological effort and we should keep in mind that the language and terms will evolve over time.  It is and will continue to be a work in progress.