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Major differences per country in economic recovery of the construction sector

Exactly a year ago lockdowns started to take shape in various European countries and started to affect the construction sector. The extent to which construction could continue differed vastly from country to country. In countries like the Netherlands and Germany, the situation remained stable. Other countries, like the U.K. and Southern European countries like Spain and Italy, were hit a lot harder. Recovery seems to have started, but major differences in the extent to which that recovery continues in 2021 can be seen between countries. This formed one of the main questions answered in the European Architectural Barometer Q4 report, of which the theme section focuses on sustainability and circularity. The research was conducted by USP Marketing Consultancy among architectural firms in 8 European countries.

After March 2020, the outlook deteriorated and construction volumes declined

The weekend of March 13 was a turning point in most European countries. Before that weekend, a large share of architects were relatively optimistic about their order books and turnover development. The execution of many projects continued and only few projects were postponed or cancelled. After that weekend everything changed fast. In many countries, March and April 2020 were extreme months in which construction volumes declined significantly compared to the same months in 2019, especially in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. In other countries, like the Netherlands and Germany, the situation remained stable, which can also more or less be said for the rest of 2020. Even in the hard-hit countries, construction volumes seem to recover, although Spain, France and the U.K. are still falling short compared to 2019.    

Major differences per country in economic recovery of the construction sector
European Architectural Barometer Q4 2020 - USP Marketing Consultancy

The coming year will be very interesting, for several reasons 2021 will be an exciting year for the European construction sector. After the hit in 2020, it remains to be seen how the sector will recover. The first signs are positive, considering the increasing construction volumes in many countries in the second half of 2020. Another positive development is that, in most countries, most architects see their orderbooks and turnover development grow again. The number of building permits issued, which nearly came to a standstill when the pandemic hit last year, remains worrisome though.

Major differences per country in economic recovery of the construction sector
European Architectural Barometer Q4 2020 - USP Marketing Consultancy

The construction sector stabilises, but not everywhere

Despite some positive indicators, 2020 has had a severe impact. Especially the effect of the stalling of issuing building permits in a few countries will continue to be felt in 2021. This results in low expectations of a speedy recovery, but the situation is stabilising. Postponed projects are being continued again. However, the sector hardly seems able to catch up and quickly execute delayed and postponed projects. This is likely caused by shortages of the manpower necessary to catch up. (See: labour shortage).

Major differences per country in economic recovery of the construction sector
European Architectural Barometer Q4 2020 - USP Marketing Consultancy