Restoration: vital for regenerating construction in Spain


04-03-01After three years of crisis in the real estate sector, and with house prices returning to their levels of 2005, many people are beginning to wonder whether the construction sector has overcome the problems it has experienced, and begun to recover.

The surprising figures from the last Barcelona Meeting Point, held between 20 and 24 October in Fira de Barcelona’s Montjuïc area seemed to suggest that that is the case, as operations amounting to 2,250 million euros were concluded in only four exhibition days, according to the organisers.

Cheaper flats, lower interest rates and the imminent end to tax relief when purchasing a home are the reasons behind this situation. The event’s president, Enrique Lacalle, has described the show as “a green shoot at a time of crisis.”

According to figures from the Spanish Federation of Construction Product Manufacturers (CEPCO), over 600,000 new homes are on sale and yet to find a buyer, which means that the sector is looking for other ways of doing business.

The most recent Construmat, a show which was held at a very difficult time, and which has highlighted the trends to be followed in Spanish construction since the very first time it was held, stressed three areas in which the sector could recover: innovation, sustainability and restoration.

These considerations led to the first congress on Rehabilitation and Sustainability, organised by the Barcelona College of Surveyors, Technical Architects and Building Engineers as part of Construmat 2009 in early October.

At the opening ceremony, the president of Construmat, Josep Miarnau, talked about “figures that suggest a recovery” in the sector. He also stressed the importance of restoration. “We must continue making a firm commitment to restoration,” he said, “as many of the 26 million homes in Spain are over 30 years old, which means that some of them need improvement or restoration”.

The president of the Barcelona College of Surveyors, Technical Architects and Building Engineers said that “only urban regeneration and restoration can provide the right answers to today’s demands for social, economic and environmental sustainability”.

Beatriz Corredor, at that time the Minister for Housing, agreed in what was one of her last public speeches. “Restoration will continue to be one of the strategic alliances in the Government’s housing policy,” she said.

José Blanco, the Minister of Public Works and the minister responsible for housing policies after the abolition of the Ministry of Housing, assumed his predecessor’s commitment. “The growth that took place in the past is impossible, and we must make a clear commitment to restoration as a means of neighbourhood regeneration, and also as a way of creating a labour force.”

The figures are very clear about which alternative is the right one. Between January and July of this year, 20,835 licenses for the reform or refurbishment of homes were issued, 12% more than the same period last year.

It is possible that the sector has yet to overcome the recession, but what it needs to do is clear. Now is a time for taking things slowly but surely.

E. P. M.