Hard facts on the Dutch construction sector

An important policy goal of Bouwend Nederland, a trade association for the construction and demolition (C&D) industry, is to improve the environmental profile of the industry’s supply chain. At the level of materials and buildings there is plenty of focus on sustainability, with numerous environmental analyses being performed. Until now, though, an overall review of the environmental impact of Dutch C&D encompassing up- and downstream links in supply chains was lacking. 
Bouwend Nederland therefore commissioned CE Delft to carry out a macro-scale analysis of the impact of one year’s C&D activity. To this end, background data were obtained from numerous trade associations and knowledge institutes. The carbon emissions of Dutch C&D activity (incl. up- and downstream effects) in 2010 were estimated at 9.6 Mt CO2, which translates to 5% of the Netherlands’ total carbon footprint. 
Much of the impact derives from materials usage: production and transport of raw materials and processing of C&D waste. Re-use and recycling can lead to a significant reduction of this impact. The report examines the most relevant options for making supply chains more sustainable. Besides the use of ‘greener’ materials as such, it is also very important that due attention is paid to how these are applied during construction, with consideration being given to all the links in the chain and provisions being made for materials availability for re-use at the end of the building’s life.
The report concludes by subjecting several assertions about the C&D industry often cited in the media to a reality check. In many cases the situation proved far more nuanced. While it is true, for instance, that C&D waste accounts for 35% of all Dutch waste, most of this is re-used or recycled. The amount of waste incinerated or going to landfill is lower: 15% at most. The statement that C&D is responsible for 45% of Dutch energy consumption is greatly exaggerated: the total energy consumption associated with C&D, including up- and downstream links, is a factor ten lower.