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THE VENETO DISTRICT ECO-BUILDING ASSOCIATION FORGES AHEAD
In coming years there will be an increasingly urgent need to carry out improvements to our architectural and urban heritage, employing so-called “new” principles. In fact, it is within the Mediterranean basin in particular, an area which has been urbanized since very early times, that there has been the greatest push towards “eco-building”, that is, the use of techniques in building and restoration work which are ecologically compatible and sustainable. Twenty per cent of building firms in Italy now operate in the sector employing sustainable materials and technologies, and 91% of the operators consider that this is an expanding market. However, in all of Italy, from Lombardy to Puglia, there are actually very few eco-building district associations. One of the oldest of these conglomerates is the Veneto district eco-building association, which first appeared in 2003 and in recent weeks renewed its associative agreement until the year 2012. It has now grown from the original 132 companies to 470, employing altogether 7,000 workers in the whole of the region, including building firms, wood businesses, electricians, plumbers and manufacturers of ecological products. The annual turnover is estimated to be around 2 billion Euros.
Fifty-two per cent of the businesses are in the construction sector, while 15% are plumbers and electricians, and these specialists are going to assume an increasingly important role, both due to the positive development of the eco-building market and because of the growing popularity of professional training courses aimed at this sector. An interesting statistic concerns the number of businesses (equivalent to 15% of the total) who have adopted a horizontal position with respect to traditional producers such as suppliers of paint, varnish or bricks. This division of labour represents one of the association’s greatest advantages, for it lends more flexibility to the process and offers a much greater variety of choice within the product range. Amongst the companies adhering to the association, there are a number who are nationally prominent in their sector, and as the association grows both horizontally and vertically it falls to them to display leadership.
Large and small eco-building operators in Veneto all have one characteristic in common: a high level of specialist skill, which makes them competitive in their sector at a national, and even at a European level. There is an additional element which makes future prospects even more interesting: the increasing focus on sustainable planning by operators in the sector, together with the growth of the number of firms involved in this business, has led to a progressive fall in prices for the customer. Nowadays, the costs of constructing an eco-building from scratch are very close to those using traditional techniques.
The developmental prospects for the eco-building businesses in Veneto are also enhanced by another factor: according to recent estimates, the Communes of the Region have allocated an estimated 3.5 billion Euros to urban improvements over the period 2007-2009. Thanks to these funds made available by local government, the companies belonging to the eco-building federation will be able to consolidate their standing and financial position as well as improving their expertise. So, in the future, it will be possible to replicate the successful Italian model in other contexts, even abroad. The European Union market is extremely receptive, as evidenced by the objectives set by the European Commission in 2006. Indeed, the view from Brussels is that eco-building has a double role to play, both in bringing down energy costs and in significantly reducing CO2 emissions.