High-Level Construction Forum: EBC co-chairs session on digital tools in the EU green transition

Last week, the European Commission organised a session titled “Expanding & reinforcing accessible digital tools to serve the green transition” in the context of the High-Level Construction Forum. This session will be followed by 5 other thematic sessions that will be organised in May and June, each of them mirroring the priority topics defined in the exchanges between the European Commission, construction stakeholders and other actors of the construction ecosystem.

EBC was invited by the Commission to co-chair this online session, together with international software company Autodesk.

Ms Ilektra Papadaki, Policy Officer at DG GROW opened the event on behalf of the European Commission, followed by a keynote speech of EBC President Philip van Nieuwenhuizen.

President van Nieuwenhuizen shared the perspective and approach of our SMEs on the digitalisation of construction in the context of the EU’s green transition. “The digitalisation of our sector must be considered as a tool, not an end it itself. A real uptake of digital tools in the sector requires a strong collaboration in the value chain, notably through the consultation of the Construction 2050 Alliance” he stated. He also highlighted the main challenges and opportunities faced by construction crafts and SMEs, saying that “digitalisation cannot be dissociated from the future of the construction sector, but requires the development of tools adapted to the realities of small companies, a clear and stable regulatory framework, as well as investments in training and in bridging the gap between innovation and SMEs.”

EBC Secretary General Fernando Sigchos Jiménez moderated the second panel of the High-Level Construction Forum session “How to support the deployment of digital tools & make them accessible to all?”. This panel counted with the participation of Mr. Souheil Soubra, IT Director of CSTB and Chair of the EU BIM Task Group, Ms. Claudia Hunziker Keller, Project Manager at NOBATEK/INEF4 & leader of the METABUILDING project, and Ms. Ana González Martin, Responsible for Training design at Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, who discussed different ways and fields to support the further deployment of digital tools & make them accessible to all actors of the construction value chain, especially SMEs.

In this sense, Mr Soubra mentioned the importance of standards, notably for open BIM, to improve the interoperability, transparency, and data management across the value chain; he also mentioned the importance of cost-benefit analysis and explained that DigiPlace was a first attempt towards more coordination. Ms. Hunziker Keller explained the ambition of Metabuilding to contribute to a construction ecosystem enabling a greater integration of SMEs in the innovation process, also allowing for deeper interaction with innovation in other sectors of relevancy. Finally, Ms. González Martin shared on the importance of digital skills for blue collar workers on construction sites and to make use of digitalisation to improve the image of the construction sector.

EBC welcomes the invitation from the Commission to lead the conversation on such an important topic for the future of the construction value chain, especially for our SMEs. However, as also pointed out by several attendants during the event, EBC encourages the EC to rethink the length of the format, the timing, and the method behind the organisation for a real high-level dialogue with the main players in European construction.

The Commission is expected to produce a Roadmap for a more resilient, greener, and more digital construction ecosystem by the autumn of 2022. EBC contributed by responding to public consultation on the transition pathway for the construction ecosystem in February and participating to the second High-Level Construction Forum meeting organised in April by DG GROW.