Brussels, 19 Oct 2004
A new technology platform for the construction sector has been established, and is drawing up a vision for 2030, by which time the partners foresee the availability of intelligent houses, lowering the costs of underground construction to the level of above ground construction and ending the emission of CO2 from buildings.
These aims and others are contained in a European Construction Technology Platform (ECTP) working paper, which is still to be revised before approval by the TP's high level group - CEOs and representatives from the EU Member States and the European Commission.
A pathway to each of the ultimate objectives for 2030 is included in the document, with stepping stone goals for 2010 and 2020. In addition to the final Vision 2030 document, the TP is also expected to draft a strategic research agenda and action plans for the Member States and the European Union as a whole to follow.
Construction is the largest industrial cluster in the EU, representing some ten per cent of GDP, according to the ECTP. Construction spending is also expected to grow by 4.6 per cent annually over the next four years, and at an even higher rate in India and China. The pressure of international competition is encouraging construction companies to investigate the use of advanced technologies - for construction itself, rationalising supply chains and increasing worker safety.
'Comprehension of the new ascending technologies, foresight of the challenges in the business environment and, when needed, a capability to differentiate are necessary in order to attain a continuous competitive advantage in the business,' states the ECTP working paper. The technology platform will act as a tool for pooling the technology, skills and competence necessary to make the vision for 2030 a reality. It will also enable the development of public-private partnerships involving industry, public research entities, financial institutions, users, regulatory authorities and policy makers. This will, in turn, act as an impetus for the mobilisation of research and innovation and facilitate the emergence of lead markets in Europe, it is hoped.
The work of the TP is divided into a number of focus areas: cities and buildings; underground construction; quality of life; networks (rail, road, water, infrastructure); materials and cultural heritage.
Under the 'cities and buildings' heading, the TP will work towards closing the gap between citizens' needs and what the sector can offer. This will involve a fresh look at concepts of buildings and construction processes as well as approaches to urban planning. In order to meet these aims, progress needs to be made in areas such as biomaterials, integrated sensors and preventions systems, the integration of fuel cell systems into buildings where cars are parked, and flexible modules for buildings.
In order to facilitate underground construction, the working paper lays out step by step progress towards being able to construct underground with no workers inside the tunnel. The path towards this objective involves the development of linings with auto-correction tools, equipment capable of making automatic modifications from data collected during construction, laser technology, and, ultimately a universal boring machine able to work without stopping in any geological conditions.
The vision for materials is currently divided into three sub-headings: cementitious materials, which should become a sink for CO2 and become resistant to fracture; ceramic materials, which will be developed with new applications in mind and using new production processes; and composite materials, which will ultimately include nano and smart composites.
All of the individual goals set out in the working document are part of the broader aspiration to increase the competitiveness of Europe's construction centre while at the same time ensuring sustainability. In order to raise awareness of sustainable construction within Europe, 'tolerance, responsibility and creativeness' are needed, states the ECTP paper.