The construction sector is strategically important for Europe providing building and infrastructure on which all sector of the economy depend. With 11.8 million operatives directly employed in the sector, it is Europe's largest industrial employer accounting for 7% of total employment and 28% of industrial employment in the EU-15. It is estimated that 26 million workers in the EU-15 depend in one way or another on the construction sector. About 910 billion Euro was invested in construction in 2003, representing 10% of the GDP and 51.2% of the Gross Fixed Capital Formation of the EU-15.
Construction is also an important sector of the economy in new Member States. In Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary alone, the turnover was about 38 billion Euro in 2003 and the market is estimated to be growing significantly at an average rate of +4.2% per year.
Moreover, the relationship between construction activities, and the built environment on the one hand, and sustainable development on the other, is both significant and complex. Construction uses more raw materials than any other sector, and the creation and operation of the built environment accounts for an important consumption of natural resources. There is also a pressing need to address the regeneration of many urban areas of Europe, in particular in the newly acceded countries, and the realisation of major trans-European infrastructure works.