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From the GlobalABC Secretariat: COVID-19 – Building Back Better

By Martina Otto, Head, Cities Unit, GlobalABC Secretariat | UNEP

At a time when half the world’s population is living under some form of restriction of movement to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we are reminded of how important our homes are to our well-being. Inequalities in access to adequate housing have increased vulnerability. At the same time, building crafts activities are amongst the most impacted as teleworking is simply not an option and certain supplies have become hard to obtain. New construction and retrofits are at a record low. As we turn to the post-COVID recovery, governments will stimulate uptake in the construction sector as it accounts for a solid share of the economy and employment: In 2015, the sector accounted for 11-13 per cent of global GDP and 7 per cent of total global employment or 220 million jobs.

Encouraging building retrofits not only safeguards jobs but provides an opportunity to invest in a more sustainable future, with high energy performance of buildings, on-site generation of renewable energy, nature-based solutions for cooling. A study on the effects of the European Energy Efficiency Directive found 19 direct jobs for every €1 million. This is more labour intensive than many other sectors of the economy and therefore provides a valuable policy option for stimulating economic activity. The vast majority of the jobs are local, non-transferable and in SMEs.

If we look at new construction, the full spectrum of sustainability functions should be harnessed, including designing for longer building lifespans and designing for reuse and recycling of building materials after dismantling, and thereby developing new – often local – supply chains for new or repurposed building materials, and designing for energy efficiency, which comes with lower operating cost throughout the lifetime of a building.

If there is one key take away that the current crisis had brought home, it is that if we are not prepared, a crisis hits us harder. The climate crisis is at our doorsteps and if we do not take urgent action, health impacts from buildings that are ill equipped to shelter us from increasing heatwaves and floods and that do not provide healthy indoor air quality while increasing the need for more energy supply will take a huge toll – again affecting most those who are most vulnerable.

Let’s build a sustainable and more inclusive future together, with a zero emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector. #StringsAttached #GreenConditionalityForStimulusPackages #ZeroCarbonBuildings


Find below links to more COVID-19 | buildings related articles by GlobalABC members:

Green Growth Knowledge Platform:

Green Growth Knowledge Platform

City of Medellin, Colombia:

French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition

International Initiative on a Sustainable Built Environment

Confederation of International Contractors’ Associations

Buildings Performance Institute EU - BPIE:

World Business Council for Sustainable Development: 

International Energy Agency 

Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings:


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