12 March 2024

Transforming the foundations of the construction sector to pave the way to a more sustainable future

Paula Molina, Managing Director of Infrastructure, Real Estate & Financial Sponsors at BBVA France

We are living in a time when construction is under constant pressure to meet the growing demands arising from the concentration of more than half of the world's population in cities. This trend, which will continue to rise in the coming years, together with the growth of the world population, which is estimated to be close to 2,000 million more people in the next 30 years, are quite a challenge for the design of buildings, in terms of housing and also of social buildings, such as hospitals, schools, universities, offices, among others.

Currently, the world has an estimated 235,000 million square meters of buildings, which is expected to increase two-fold by 2060. The growth of cities has to be accompanied by sustainability standards that encourage the use of materials, aimed at combining people's well-being while mitigating climate change.

Therefore, it is imperative to reflect on the implementation of new technologies, so that any new structures erected have a lower environmental impact. The key to achieving this lies in the sustainability of building materials. Currently, CO2 emissions from the construction and use of buildings have increased to an all-time high, accounting for 37% of total global CO2 emissions associated with the use of energy. In fact, building materials – concrete, steel, aluminum, glass and bricks – already account for 9% of the total CO2 emissions associated with the use of energy.

Building materials are a key challenge in addressing climate change and moving toward more efficient construction practices. Sustainable alternatives are already on the market: green cement, recycled concrete, sustainable wood, bamboo or cork are just a few examples of alternatives that can drastically reduce the environmental footprint. These materials are not only eco-friendly, but also offer long-term economic benefits and help preserve our natural resources.

If we think about the useful life of a building, sustainability means greater efficiency, durability and even economic benefits. However, we must face a series of challenges to adopt these more sustainable approaches, such as higher upfront cost. Resistance to change and lack of awareness are real obstacles. To see these challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation, a full-scale change in mindset is needed, which is already beginning to take place:

  • Construction companies opt for a comprehensive approach to sustainability across all stages of material lifecycles.
  • People are changing their habits and approach, shifting toward more environmentally friendly practices.
  • Public entities offer subsidies to encourage the construction of sustainable buildings and/or remodeling work.
  • Financial institutions favor the financing of more sustainable constructions by promoting environmental responsibility.

The successful implementation of these strategies can lead to a more sustainable industry, in line with the global climate goals.

BBVA accompanies its clients at every stage of the life cycle

Investing in sustainability not only preserves our environment but also helps build a more solid and ethical economic future. At BBVA, we accompany our clients at every stage of the life cycle, from providing financing facilities for more efficient technologies in the manufacturing processes of materials, to the development of low-carbon materials and carbon capture and storage, among others.

In fact, sustainability is a strategic priority of the BBVA Group The bank has set a target of mobilizing up to 300,000 million euros in sustainable business between 2018 and 2025, including infrastructure and construction activities. During 2023, BBVA mobilized around €3.2 billion in the development of inclusive infrastructure and around €6.8 billion in infrastructure that promotes energy efficiency. In total, the BBVA group mobilized 69.7 billion euros in 2023 in sustainable business.

This year, the 2023 DJSI (Dow Jones Sustainability Index) ranked BBVA as the most sustainable bank in Europe for the fourth year in a row. Moreover, BBVA received the highest score in the category for banks at the regional level (84 out of 100) and the second at the global level. The DJSI is the global benchmark sustainability index, which measures the performance of the largest companies by market capitalization in terms of economic, environmental and social performance.