Crisis has accelerated industry change
Several factors ensured a fast recovery compared to 2008. Significantly, residential and financial sectors were not the key causes of the crisis, unlike 12 years ago.
Secondly, in 2020, banks and governments reacted quickly with support for households, rent regulation, job protection measures and fiscal transfers to companies to avoid defaults.
And finally, in an environment of low interest rates, housing markets were more mature with developers capitalised and more experienced. “The industry has grown up and like any adult we do things differently now compared to the past,” says Davide.
Construction is an industry that is slow to innovate, but the 2020 crisis has also significantly accelerated change. Many elements have been fast-forwarded, says Davide, such as off-site construction, prefab and modular building and the increasing use of technology and digitalisation.
Money for renovation set to double new build spend
Sustainability has also taken centre stage with Europe unlocking finance for initiatives that will pave the way towards its ambition to be the first zero carbon continent by 2050. Most significantly, Europe’s Renovation Wave’, is a historic commitment to renovate 35 million European buildings by 2030.
“In order to achieve zero carbon in 2050 in Europe there would be needed estimated investments for at least 28 trillion Euro and 30% of the capital expenditure has to be spent on buildings. We are seeing an increased focus on energy efficiency, circular economy and renovation in our industry and by 2030 the amount of money spend on renovation could be double what will be spent on new buildings,” says Davide.
“When I started at Knauf Insulation in 2008, 40% was being spent on renovation and 60% on new building. When we look at 2030 the spend will be close to 66% on renovation and 33% on new buildings. We are opening an exciting and completely new chapter in the history of European buildings.”
Rise and rise of residential buildings
This new chapter is also been defined by the role of residential property. In 2020 this market dipped by -4.7%. This year it is expected to grow by +5.2% and +2.4% in 2022.
Over the past year there have been favourable financing conditions and housing support measures from governments and the highest levels of household savings in years.
“We have been constantly proved wrong by the residential market. We thought we had reached the ceiling in 2019, but we have not. And during the crisis we thought it would take four years for the residential market to recover, but it has only taken two. Property has always been seen as a safe haven in a crisis,” says Davide. “Consumer confidence and GDP were impacted by corona but not residential real estate.”
The result has been three distinct residential geographic groupings in Europe, those that rebounded in 2021 such as Central and Western Europe, those that are still losing ground, for example, Germany and some of Eastern Europe, and countries that were barely impacted by the crisis such as those in Scandinavia and Portugal.
Mixed impact of crisis on non-residential
It is a very different picture in the world of non-residential. Overall the sector dropped -7.7% with a drop of -8.4% for new non-residential, but the impact was mixed. Offices, retail stores and hospitality buildings have been shaken to the core while others thrived such as health, education, storage and distribution buildings. The rebound will be here less strong with 2021 rising +1.5% and continuing to grow +3.3% in 2022.