The guiding principle behind sustainable construction is the awareness that the economy, ecology and society are interlocking systems. With its 40% share of energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the building sector throughout the EU is well ahead of traffic and industry. The use of new technology means that there is an enormous potential for savings and this is where the Austrian economy has a lot to offer. The brilliant success of the Austrian team in the "Solar Decathlon" competition in 2013 in Los Angeles (http://www.solardecathlon.at) shows impressively how important sustainable construction has become for the Austrian economy, and what a good reputation Austria has been able to gain in this area.
The combination of future-oriented technology, the consistent implementation of the latest scientific findings and the firm belief that future generations have to be considered in today's planning are fundamental parameters of action for many Austrian companies. Sustainable construction has many facets, and in addition to special planning, the choice of the right materials and expert workmanship, the used products must also be applied correctly. Austrian companies play a leading role in all these areas. A sustainable building is characterized by an exceptionally high ecological, economical and socio-cultural quality. The accumulation of these three aspects provides added value for the environment, but at the same time also for society.
Austrian companies are not only active in the conception of new sustainable buildings; rather it is more often the case that the energy efficiency in existing buildings can be increased to such an extent through renovation and refurbishment that the running costs are considerably reduced. In order to extensively minimize the impact of construction on the environment, Austrian building companies significantly contribute to the protection of the environment and climate with their wide range of offers – beyond complying with environmental laws and regulations and official requirements. As early as in the planning phase of construction projects, Austrian companies concentrate on the resource-friendly use of energy and raw materials and on the reduction of emissions and waste materials.
The European Union aims to improve the energy efficiency of buildings by 2020, while increasing the use of renewable energy for heating, hot water and air conditioning. 3 In EU member states alone, buildings use up 40% of the total energy: from 2020 onwards new buildings should therefore hardly need any energy for heating, hot water, ventilation and cooling. New governmental buildings should already meet these requirements from 2019 onwards. Austrian companies also play a leading role here. In the last twenty years, Austria has developed into one of the leading countries in the field of building technology.
The portfolio ranges from highly modern windows and doors to ventilation systems suitable for passive houses and automated biomass heating and solar systems. Domestic companies generate an annual turnover of around 32.6 billion Euros through environmentally oriented production and services.4 The growth driver in environmental technology and the environmental services industry are exports. While Austrian environmental technology accounted for around 50% of the turnover in foreign markets in the mid- 1990s, it is almost two thirds today. The "new" member states of the EU and the Southeast Asian region are becoming increasingly important here.
In particular, companies which produce technology to monitor the environment, technology for renewable energy and measurement and control technology, are leaders in the export markets. The proportion of renewable energy compared to the gross amount of energy consumption in Austria is exemplary. With a share of 32.2%, Austria is in third place behind Latvia and Sweden. The fields of hydro power (38.9%), solid biomass (31.5%), and district heating (10.3%) are the prime contributors to the total volume of renewable energy. The Austrian environmental technology and services industry is characterized by a very high degree of innovative activity.
Companies in the manufacturing sector have an average research intensity of two to three percent, compared to the field of environmental technology, where it is around 6.5%. Austria is also a leader in the field of environmental patents. Here, particular mention should be made of the developments in passive house technology, waste management, renewable energy technology and energy efficiency. Furthermore, special focus should be put on the state subsidy programs. The Green Electricity Act, the environmental support for companies and the climate and energy funding pools, as well as the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG – https://www.ffg.at/en) should be quoted as prime examples.
© ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA - Austrian Federal Economic Chamber