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Why contractors’ clients are less interested in sustainability than architects’ clients

The increasing attention for sustainability in the construction industry has led to the development of a variety of sustainable options and solutions for building construction products and materials. These sustainable options often come at a higher price that people are not always willing to pay, however. When asking architects, for instance, it was clear that only about 3 out of 10 of their clients was willing to invest in sustainability. 

But what about other stakeholders in the building construction value chain? For a more solid picture of willingness to invest in sustainability in the building construction sector, we also asked general contractors from eight European countries to what extent their clients are asking for and willing to invest in sustainable solutions.   

Contractors’ clients show similar willingness to invest as clients of architects 

According to the contractors we interviewed for the H1 2023 Contractor Monitor, in 30% of the cases their clients ask for sustainability and are actually willing to invest in it as well. This share varies per country though. The highest share of contractors’ clients willing to invest in sustainability is found in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. In Poland, that share is only 15%, however.      

When taking the answers of contractors from all countries together, the share of 30% of clients willing to pay for sustainability is almost exactly the same as the share of architects’ clients that were willing to invest in sustainable solutions. So, the contractors perspective confirms what we measured among architects, at least where it comes to willingness to invest.  

Clients of contractors do not ask for sustainable options as often, though.   

Although there is a similar willingness to invest in sustainable solutions among the clientele of contractors and architects, there is a significant difference where it comes to asking for sustainable options in the first place. As the graph shows, in 36% of the cases, clients of contractors do not ask for sustainable options at all. Among architects’ clients, that share was only 19% in 2023. 

So it appears that on average, clients of contractors are less interested in more sustainable options than clients of architects. A possible explanation for this, is that sustainable options are more often taken into account in new-build projects. Architects are generally more involved in new build but contractors more often also do renovation projects, in which sustainable options are generally less prevalent or applicable than in new build.  

State of the new-build segment influences the adoption rate of sustainable construction   

This line of thought provides an outlook for the adoption of sustainability. Pressure on the new build segment, for instance due to higher costs for material and labour or due to higher interest rates, could severely hamper the adoption rate of sustainable construction in projects of contractors and architects alike. Higher costs make investors more hesitant, and in many cases more sustainability requires higher investments.  

For a full overview of the influence and adoption of sustainable construction in projects of contractors from eight European countries, we refer you to USP Marketing Consultancy’s Contractor monitor.  


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