The construction and real estate cluster has significant environmental impacts for example with respect to energy consumption, use of raw materials, waste generation and health issues. A number of public policies have been implemented in the European countries to reduce the environmental impact for example with respect to energy consumption (see e.g. AID-EE EU project 2006a, 2006b & 2006c). Despite the importance of these public policies, it has also become clear that further actions from the construction and real estate cluster itself are necessary to achieve the desired goal of sustainability.
Thus, in recent years the client has been called upon by policy makers, the AEC (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) industry and the clients themselves to become change agents that can stimulate innovation. These calls are now manifesting themselves in various forms like the governmental building policy for public clients in e.g. Denmark and the Netherlands, the revaluing construction initiative of CIB and the establishment of the International Construction Clients Forum (ICCF). Despite these calls for action, little is known about how clients in practice can make a difference as sustainable change agents.
The problem If clients are to act as change agents towards a sustainable built environment, they will need to rest their policies and actions on firm ground rather than loose sand. In the major European research & development project SUREURO (Sustainable Refurbishment Europe – www.sureuro.com), the issue of developing sustainable procurement methods and strategies were addressed by a group of social housing companies.
The project clearly illustrated the problems of developing and embedding new sustainable procurement practices in an organisation (see e.g. Haugbølle & Engberg 2005 and Engberg & Haugbølle 2005). Thus, sustainable refurbishment of the existing building stock requires new procurement strategies and methods in order to succeed. More specifically, two challenges needs to be addressed:
- From traditional refurbishment to sustainable procurement strategies – making a sustainable difference.
- From business-as-usual to change management – implementing new ideas and sustaining change etc.