Environmental regulation of the building sector

Transition of the construction and housing sector is a main national challenge both in relation to climate and a broader sustainability agenda. In Denmark 40% of the energy consumption is related to housing, and construction and retrofitting of buildings involves a substantial resource drain, high volumes of waste and use of a high amount of chemicals. In addition, climate changes raise new construction demands. Taken all together we need to redefine housing and construction technologies and practices. This redefinition is also required to maintain a competitive construction industry.

However, the Danish construction and housing sector has not adopted a transition program for more sustainable construction and dwellings, even though we have seen social movement´s and political efforts of  this kind since the 1970´s.  The Danish environmental and energy policies have in many ways tried to influence the construction sector.

 In this section, the regulatory push on the construction sector will be described.

The Danish building sector

The Danish construction sector has been characterised as extremely conservative and non-innovative. While most other sectors have been strongly influenced by environmental management and eco-products, the construction sector has been left almost untouched by ecological demands. There are only a few “eco-houses”, mainly with focus on energy aspects, e.g. photovoltaic on the rooftop etc., while other sectors have significant segments for organic food, swan-labelled washing powder etc.

The main influence from environmental considerations has come from the energy crisis, leading to strict rules in the building regulation and experimentation and development in the dominant regime (0-energy house, growth of insulation companies, thermo-windows).

A large number of environmental problems has been raised and made a theme in relation to the development within the construction sector. Consequently, there has been a push for environmental transitions in the sector. The pressure has been a result both of the development in public environmental regulation and the development of social movements focussed on ecological housing.

In their examination of ecological modernisation processes of construction in Denmark Jensen/Gram-Hansen (2007:373) concludes that despite the pushes for transition, the policy has mainly focused on voluntary measures. Central policies of development of the construction sector have been based on a voluntary approach, but without convincing results in terms of co-ordinated efforts or ability to establish goals of sustainability. The only progress in mainstream construction has, in their opinion, been driven by top-down regulation, namely construction codes in the building regulation.


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