Construction companies

"What construction companies are doing is very relevant to society."

Interview with Marc Dillen, Director General of the Vlaamse Confederatie Bouw.

In the transformation to smart and sustainable living, an important task rests on the shoulders of the construction industry. These companies will build or renovate our homes in a future-proof manner.

The construction sector is aware of this social responsibility, says Marc Dillen, Director General of the Vlaamse Confederatie Bouw. This “Flemish Construction Confederation” defends the interests of more than 10,000 member construction companies.

In his interview, Marc Dillen explains how the confederation of construction companies assists its members in tackling this crucial task. All these companies are part of the social fabric, and the confederation is very aware of that, says the Director General.

"The social context is at the heart of how we operate. After all, what construction companies do is particularly relevant to society. We contribute to living, working and mobility. Our mission is to ensure that the urban countryside is liveable and comfortable.

Construction companies also play an important role in the energy transition. Interaction with other sectors is increasing, and the environment in which we operate is becoming wider. That is why the Confederation organised its thirteenth energy congress on June 9, precisely about the energy transition. Heat pumps, fossil-free buildings and fossil-free construction sites - it was all on the agenda.”

Marc Dillen, Vlaamse Confederatie Bouw

Marc Dillen, Vlaamse Confederatie Bouw

Fossil-free in one generation

“Within the Flemish Construction Confederation there is also a task force that deals with greenspace. Think of green roofs, green facades, green spaces, private greenery and public landscaping. In this sense we are also doing our part to protect the climate. Each new construction project must be extremely energy efficient and equipped with renewable energy. Within the lifecycle of a building project, we ensure that CO2 emissions are as low as possible. In doing so, we also take into account the materials we use. We make material choices that minimise the ecological footprint. In other words, we are in the middle of an exciting transition period, in which the construction sector is participating as actively as possible."

At the thirteenth energy congress, the Vlaamse Confederatie Bouw came up with a rock-solid promise. In barely one generation's time, fossil-free living must become possible. How can this ambition be realised? Marc Dillen:

"Europe wanted all new constructions to be virtually energy-neutral by 2020. The construction sector has met that target with flying colours. We still have eight years to achieve 'Fit for 55' - the targets for 2030. We are confident that we will succeed.

More funding is needed for process innovation.


Everyone sustainable

In the evolution towards smart and sustainable living, construction companies play a key role. Can the sector bring this sustainable form of living within reach of everyone? In other words: also for people who lack the financial means?

"We can't work magic, building costs money. However, as a sector we can ensure that the building cost of the construction is as low as possible and meanwhile the energy cost for its use also remains minimal. Someone who builds a new house now will have a very low energy bill. In addition, we can also try to adjust the regulations. That should make it possible to exchange energy locally. This way, shortages and surpluses can be exchanged within one's own local community.

The biggest barriers are tenants who cannot make the transition to ownership. The problem here is the conflicting interests of the tenant and the landlord. The landlord is not particularly interested in making the house energy efficient, because the tenant pays the energy bill anyway. How can we persuade the landlord to make the house energy efficient anyway? This can be done, for example, with rent subsidies for less wealthy tenants, linked to an energy-efficient home. This way you help the tenant while the landlord is encouraged to only rent if the house is sufficiently energy efficient."

Construction worker

Marc Dillen said it before: the construction industry is a technology integrator. Construction companies apply and coordinate technologies. That's why the Director General advocates more support for process innovation rather than product innovation.

"How can we better integrate the existing technologies within our complex buildings to make them work more efficiently? That is the question we are asking ourselves as a building sector. To reduce energy bills, technologies have to be optimally integrated. In order to achieve maximum yield, solar panels need software and systems that make adjustments every fifteen minutes. This is the only way to optimize daily consumption. Integrating all these systems is the key to smart and sustainable living in the future. It is precisely for this process innovation that more funding is needed."

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