The major challenges for Spanish construction

MAY 2011

08-02-01After 20 years during which construction was the main motor for the Spanish economy, the sector is experiencing a period of deep recession that is forcing it to consider its major challenges for the present and the future.

At the 17th Construmat, which was held from 16 to 21 May in the Gran Via area, it provided an answer to these questions. The trade fair brought together buyers and professionals from 58 countries, such as Morocco, Brazil, China, Russia, Chile, Rumania, France o Mexico. The event showcased the latest trends in the construction sector, wich is increasingly invested in renovation, innovation and sustainability as ways to overcome the current situation.

The sector has an opportunity to grow in foreign markets, such as in Brasil which as well as being an emerging country, will be hosting two sports events requiring major investment in infrastructures (the football World Cup of 2014 and the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games of 2016). The Asian markets are also appearing on the horizon.

The opinion of the sector

08-02-02The president of the exhibition, the chief executive officer of the Comsa Emte group, Josep Miarnau, has no doubts. “Looking abroad is one of the great opportunities open to the sector. We are good at what we do and the quality-price relationship is excellent compared to the competition in other countries. We must overcome our fears and look for opportunities wherever they are.” It seems obvious that innovation will contribute to the increase in sustainability in construction.

08-02-03The scientific director of the Materials Centre for the Promotion of the Decorative Arts (Mater-FAD), Javier Peña, gives the example of “the application of photocatalytic materials that remove pollution from our cities while acting as a ventilated facade for a building or the paving in a square.” Peña encourages the sector to be bolder. “We must take decisions and make a firm commitment to new materials,” he adds.

In this area, he highlights the contribution of the chemical company BASF for example, which is developing new types of concrete, a hitherto unseen process for manufacturing cement and innovative panels and coatings used in the tunnels of the AVE high speed railway lines and in a new promotion of state-subsidised housing.

08-02-04The third major player at Construmat 2011 was restoration. The coordinator of Restoration and the Environment at the Barcelona College of Surveyors, Quantity Surveyors and Building Engineers (CAATEEB), Xavier Casanovas, believes that “now is the time for restoration to stop being the poor relation in Spanish construction.” The figures do not lie. While in France or in Italy restoration accounts for 70% of activity, in Spain it has never exceeded 20%.

According to Casanovas, restoration is a sector that reinforces the local economy and improves energy efficiency by updating obsolete housing stock, among other advantages. However, this expert says that there is a need for “a change in the current dynamic” in order to make the restoration sector achieve its true potential. Xavier Casanovas believes that “Governments must undertake legal reforms and an aid programme; professionals must make a commitment to specialisation and management; businesses must continue to innovate and users, who know the real value of their property, must invest.”