Innovation and Sustainability in the Construction and Housing Sector

Concepts for enhancing in-house innovation in construction; development of performance and benchmarking indicators in the housing sector. Economic proposals to improve legal and structural business environment and to increase sustainable and energy efficient construction and renovation activities.

Short Description




Starting Point / Motivation

In the construction sector the pressure to fulfill the new requirements of cost and area efficient construction with high ecological quality increases from the economic, ecological and social perspective. Therefore, this study analyses the innovation activity in the construction sector with respect to sustainable measures and it identifies innovation drivers and barriers. The analysis is based on a questionnaire as well as on experts´ interviews in the construction and housing sector.


The working package covers a status-quo analysis of the research and development (R&D) activities in construction, based on a literature research. It can be shown that innovation activities increased significantly, all above the number of research units which rose by 82 % in 2006 compared to 2004. Only the number of patent registrations was not influenced by this trend - they have been constant for about ten years. This is related to the innovation possibilities of the construction sector which are mainly process oriented. Nevertheless, it could be shown that the productivity in construction increased by 44.5 % - 12.5 percentage points higher than in goods production sector. An empirical evidence of an increasing competitive pressure from the goods sector on the construction sector as stated in previous "Building of Tomorrow" studies could not be given for Austria nor for Europe, Japan or the United States.

Content and Results

The innovation analysis carried out by WIFO showed that the importance of sustainable construction is very high. Especially innovative construction companies have a clear strategic target regarding the ecological sector - nearly 60 % of these companies have a responsible person for sustainability and nearly 40 % of the companies publish sustainability reports. Public funds give important impetus. It could be shown, that the group of so called successful innovative companies which received public funds was twice as big as the successful group without public grants.

Legitimate changes can also influence the innovation activities. In this case the housing sector is more affected than the construction industry or the construction supply industry. All in all, product innovation is mainly influenced by the market development, sales radius and the competiveness. Companies which are acting on national and international markets are highly innovative. If competitiveness is too strong, innovation will be impeded, because the arising costs cannot be covered. The affiliation to a multinational company does not increase innovation. Education is very important for innovation, but the rate of academics in the construction sector has nearly no impact on the innovation.

The demand for sustainable and energy-efficient innovation mainly arises from the housing sector. A special innovation benchmarking with so called key performance indicators would make the innovation efforts more visible. An according benchmarking model was carried out and proofed by key personalities in the housing sector.

Project Partners

Project management

Dr. Margarete Czerny
Austrian Institute of Economic Research

Project or cooperation partner

  • Mag. Andreas Oberhuber, Forschungsgesellschaft für Wohnen, Bauen und Planen (FGW)
    Schlossgasse 6-8, A-1050 Wien
    Tel.: +43 (1) 7126251
    Fax: +43 (1) 7126251 21
  • Mag. Dr. Gerhard Schuster, Sustain Consulting GmbH
    Seilerstätte 5/8 A-1010 Wien
    Tel.: +43 (1) 890 32 27
    Fax: + 43 (1) 513 19 45 20
    Mobil: + 43 676 952 6107

Contact Address

Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (WIFO)
Dr. Margarete Czerny
Arsenal, Obj. 20, A- 1030 Wien
Tel.: +43 (1) 798 26 01-225 oder 318
Fax: +43 (1) 798 93 86
Mobil: + 43 664 2646362