Roundtable discussion on materiale hierarchy

Tackling short term planning and growth-addiction in Nordic construction

Publiceret 20-12-2023

In December, our programme partner SUSTAINORDIC convened a roundtable discussion with panellists from the construction sector as part of SUSTAINORDIC’s work on providing policy recommendations towards a sustainable transformation of the Nordic construction sector. The roundtable discussion focused on charting a course for Nordic Construction between 2025 and 2030 with an emphasis on sustainable practices.

The roundtable conversation centred on the need to prioritise an intensified use of existing building mass over constructing new buildings. Energy retrofitting, renovation and repurposing were highlighted by the panellists as key strategies. The panellists deemed the introduction of virgin materials necessary only when unavoidable and with priority on bio based building materials to mitigate negative impacts from embedded energy.

During the roundtable, the goal was to collaboratively formulate three recommendations that would pave the way for a sustainable practice in Nordic Construction.

To the panellists the conversation reflected the fact that the challenges at the intersection of construction and climate issues are profound and systemic. According to the panellists, individual, independent efforts are insufficient in driving a holistic transformation of the entire system within and around the construction sector. This includes everything from procurement to financing to the


The panellists gave the following recommendations

Bridging the Data Gap

There is a lack of data on emissions and biodiversity impacts of construction. Widespread knowledge about sustainable solutions is also lacking. Addressing these gaps is important for informed decision-making. This includes separating actual emissions from compensatory actions and improving control of waste from the construction industry. The key word here is priority.

According to the panellists, this data could be readily available within a couple of years if the effort is prioritised and allocated. Examining and documenting the existing building stock is an important prerequisite for transitioning to a circular economy. Better control of waste from the construction industry is also necessary.

Long Term Forecasting with Planetary Boundaries at the Centre

Balancing short-term project completion and financial return expectations with long-term sustainability goals is a challenge. The panellists agree that it is important to prioritise long-term impacts, reduce environmental pressures and consider the value of the built environment beyond monetary terms.

The transition to sustainable construction requires time and societal acceptance. Planning for the future, including rising coastlines and climate migration, is important to the panellists.

From Consumerism to Immaterial Growth

Data shows that our way of measuring personal success and wellbeing based on a person’s accumulated wealth or financial possessions is indeed not accurate. In a world that will require downsizing and degrowth, there is a need to reimagine what we define as a "good life" within planetary boundaries according to the panellists.

As part of this work, the panellists see a need to redefine the notion of "value" beyond monetary terms when it comes to adjust investment incentives in the construction sector and to expand the utilisation rate of existing buildings.

In the panellists’ view, this requires research, education on all levels and outreach work to reimagine a new cultural acceptance of a paradigm where immaterial values such as social capital, personal time and sufficiency rank higher than wealth and material accumulation.

The Panellists at the Roundtable were:

  • Tove Sjöberg, Architect, ACAN
  • Ulla Janson, Professor, LU-Circular Construction
  • Steffen Nielsen, Founder and Owner, Lolle og Nielsen
  • Kim Lenschow, Owner, Office Kim Lenschow
  • Otto Wille, Senior Strategist, Demos Helsinki, Finland
  • Matti Kuittinen, Professor, Aalto University, Finland
  • Pasi Aalto, Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Kasper Benjamin Reimer Bødskov, Head of Innovation, EFFEKT, Denmark

The recommendations from this Roundtable conversation will be presented together with the findings from the first part of the SUSTAINORDIC project to The Nordic Council of Ministers to be included in the shaping of the Nordic Vision 2025-30.