The reference document for the Construction sector

constructionThe sector

Construction activities play a major role in the socio-economic development of a country, providing building and infrastructure on which all sectors of the economy depend. Construction is thus a sector of high strategic importance.
In the EU, the construction sector as a whole represents approximately 10% of GDP and is also the largest industrial employer (30% of industrial employment), with an estimated 3.1 million enterprises in 2007 and 14.8 million employees, including 19% self-employed staff. Construction is responsible for a large share of European environmental impact: the construction process generates a huge amount of waste, consumes more than 50% of European natural resources and can affect biodiversity and soil. The main construction product, the building, is responsible for more than 30% of the European carbon footprint and more than 40% of the primary energy consumption in Europe.

Within its work on identification of best environmental management practice and development of EMAS Sectoral Reference Documents for different sectors, the JRC has developed a sectoral reference document on best environmental management practice for the construction sector. The document covers the whole value chain, from land planning at public level to the end-of-life stages of construction products (buildings or civil works). The relative influence of the design phase on the environmental impact of the whole life cycle is huge, especially in the use phase. Nevertheless, special emphasis in the work has been made on construction processes and activities, as defined by NACE codes (rev 2) F41 to F43, as they are not covered in detail in other EU guidelines. Regarding supply chain management, material production is not covered by the document as other EU policy tools exist that already address the segment, such as the Industrial Emissions Directive. Some important elements considered are the use of recycled or reused materials, the use of environmentally-friendly products and the waste flows of the sector.

Work plan

  • Development of Background Document: January 2010 – August 2010
  • Contact with stakeholders and setting up the Technical Working Group (TWG): January 2011.
  • Kick-off meeting of the TWG, Brussels, 30 March 2011.
  • Development of the first draft of the best practice report for the Construction sector, January 2011 – November 2011.
  • Final Meeting of the TWG, Brussels, 22-23 November 2011
  • Final draft of the best practice report for the Construction sector, September 2012.

Current status

Based on a preparatory study carried out by DFIU (French-German Institute for Environmental Research) from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the inputs, feedback and validation received from a Technical Working Group comprising experts from the sector, the JRC produced the best practice report for the building and construction sector.

The related EMAS sectoral reference document on best environmental management practice for the construction sector is currently following the legal process for its adoption by the European Commission.

Project Team

The following people are part of the JRC EMAS SRDteam:

  • Paolo Canfora
  • Marco Dri
  • Ioannis Antonopoulos
  • Pierre Gaudillat

The best way to contact the JRC EMAS SRD team is sending an e-mail to