Construction Roadmap 2040

Construction Roadmap 2040

In cooperation between entrepreneurs and experts, the Green Tiger Construction Roadmap was published in the spring of 2023. The roadmap sets the goal of reducing the CO2 emissions of the construction and real estate sector by 85% by 2040 and gives recommendations on how to achieve this.

The entire Construction Roadmap can be read here (currently only available in Estonian).


The Construction Roadmap 2040 solves the problem of the growing carbon footprint of planning, construction and use of buildings and infrastructure. To summarize, we talk about the built environment and are focused on the reduction of the carbon footprint. 

For the sake of competitiveness of companies and jobs in the construction sector, it is necessary to act immediately to increase productivity, reduce the CO2 footprint and ensure the affordability of housing: construction with a large carbon footprint is made more and more expensive year by year by European Union regulations. If there is a lack of skilled labor and materials, prices will also rise in the construction market. One can no longer buy goods from third countries with a large or unknown carbon footprint, no matter how cheap. The carbon footprint can be reduced most easily during planning, then during the preparation of the initial task and during the design process.

Urbanization and car ownership: “One of the root problems of Estonia’s urbanized living environment is car-centric planning”1. This has led to a contradiction between strategies and public sector investment priorities.2 We do not have a comprehensive spatial policy. Urbanization – sprawling and random spatial planning – leads to cars. Estonia has the most square meters of retail space per person in Europe. Per person, we have almost the most natural and agricultural land converted into residential areas in Europe – our land use is wasteful.3 Therefore, Estonian car ownership is among the highest in Europe. Where we plan buildings, determines how people move between them. The biggest problem in infrastructure construction is the state’s order of roadways, which induces car ownership in the country. However, the core of the problems and the solutions related to infrastructure are not construction-technical. The construction of four-lane highways is not economically justified, considering people’s living environment or carbon emissions: it would increase Estonia’s already excessively high level of car ownership. The large amount of emissions from transport, which is constantly increasing, is also definitely increased (regardless of the type of car fuel) by underground parking, which creates an induced demand and accounts for 30-50% of the carbon footprint of a single building.

Renovation wave: an underutilized way to reduce heating costs, create jobs and develop business. 53% of energy consumption in Estonia goes to heating buildings. The current dependence on cyclical European Union funding hinders business development and factory renovation with the help of house factories, which would have a large and wide market throughout Europe. The situation also discourages group renovations, so economies of scale are also lost and renovation prices are higher than they could be.

Low-carbon construction: missing skills, innovation-friendly procurement and spatial data. Developing and procuring cleaner construction materials and methods is not economically feasible. There is no comprehensive and accessible overview of built spatial data in the country. We do not measure the environmental footprint of construction materials, buildings or infrastructure.

Key recommendations for 2030-2040.3 In the 2020s, plans, initial tasks and procurements will have to be made according to development plans. An update of the regulations is inevitable. In the 2030s, we will begin to see the results of the decisions made in the coming years, and hopefully also cleaner building materials and new technologies. Thanks to carbon footprint reduction planning, regulations, low-carbon building skills and materials-technologies, the footprint caused by the built space by 2040 will be 85% smaller than in 2022. This is in line with the 2050 climate neutrality agreement between Estonia and the European Union.

What needs to be done?

Planning and the space between buildings: measuring the carbon footprint cannot be limited to one building only: the work of reducing the footprint of the quarters would be more effective, for this the state needs to order a corresponding tool and implement its use. The state must make it mandatory to measure and manage the mobility carbon footprint of new developments: by building close to existing infrastructure, such as rail transport, building permits with near-zero infrastructure fees can direct development to locations easily accessible by public transport.

Infrastructure and mobility: Building technological solutions is not enough to significantly reduce the carbon footprint caused by roads: most of the carbon emissions are generated by the use of roads. In order to reduce the carbon footprint, it is necessary to significantly reduce the need for a private car and set a target level for the car fleet, based on which the charging network for electric cars must be developed. Paid public transport that takes into account the sparse population and the development of mobility as a service are necessary to reduce the current dependence on private cars. Train traffic between the largest cities must be brought to a speed of 160 km/h, which ensures that you can get there faster by train than by private car. Municipalities must abandon the requirement to build underground parking lots in order to save 30-50% of the building’s carbon footprint and lower the price of apartments.

Cities that are more densely planned, with small distances and a high concentration of jobs, where the development of sustainable mobility is prioritized, are more efficient and are healthy for people. Space creation must be based on the basic principles of a high-quality space. Outside the cities, it is necessary to move towards the concept of one-hour-Estonia4, where the proportion of sustainable mobility is higher than car traffic. We need data and we need to hold a tax debate to motivate the adoption of materials and processes necessary for low-carbon construction, as well as to support municipalities. We need to start measuring the carbon footprint of buildings and set limits on what is allowed. The plans must be a tool for solving the climate crisis in a modernized form. The main criteria for the country’s countercyclical investments must be the reduction of carbon emissions.

We recommend creating the Land and Space Agency and bringing the Transport Agency under it: the created Land, Space and Mobility Agency would enable better cooperation between the state and local governments to comprehensively plan space. Spatial creation needs a comprehensive and coordinated long-term approach. In our small country, the state needs to play a greater role in spatial planning, because the system established for municipalities does not support the development of sustainable mobility.5 By 2025, Estonian construction products should have environmental declarations. Funding for research and development in low-carbon construction must grow by leaps and bounds. Waste and circular economy, factory renovation and modular construction must gain a foothold, and this with the support of the state. Everything starts with the initial task. Overpriced housing increases the pressure of urban sprawl, which has a measurably higher carbon footprint. The country must ensure the affordability of housing both in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis and to adapt to the climate changes that are already occurring, as well as to alleviate the spatial segregation caused by poor planning. All of the above has a measurable impact on human health, which must be taken into account in the built space. A space built with a small carbon footprint is a good public space, accessible with sustainable mobility and a healthy space. 6


1 Helen Sooväli-Sepping. Physical environment and mental well-being. – Estonian Human Development Report 2023. Mental health and well-being. Main editor. Merike Sisask. Tallinn: SA Estonian Cooperation Association (2023).

2 Green policy expert group report. Assembly. Lauri Tammiste. State Chancellery (07.04.2022).

3 Tõnu Oja. Changes in land use – the transformation of the meaning of the city and the land. – Human Development Report 2019/2020. Spatial choices of an urbanized society. Main editor. Helen Sooväli-Sepping. Tallinn: SA Estonian Cooperation Association (2020).

4 Kristi Grišakov, Merike Sisask. Future scenarios. – Spatial choices of an urbanized society. Main editor. Helen Sooväli-Sepping. Tallinn: SA Estonian Cooperation Association (2020).

5 Green policy expert group report. Assembly. Lauri Tammiste. State Chancellery (07.04.2022).

6 Hear more about data-based urban planning in the podcast.

7 Self-sufficient Estonia. – Human Development Report 2019/2020. Spatial choices of an urbanized society. Main editor. Helen Sooväli-Sepping. Tallinn: SA Estonian Cooperation Association (2020).

8 Estonia for one hour. – distortion of the meaning of city and land. – Human Development Report 2019/2020. Spatial choices of an urbanized society. Main editor. Helen Sooväli-Sepping. Tallinn: SA Estonian Cooperation Association (2020).

9 Read more about Estonia’s 2050 future scenarios here.


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