Andreas Ibel is the New President of the European Housing Association Build Europe

The BCC and Glavbolgarstroy Holding AD hosted the organization's Annual Congress

Emil Hristov

Reneta Nikolova


Andreas Ibel from the German Association of Independent Real Estate and Housing Companies (Bundesverband Fryer Immobilien - und Wohnungsunternehmen EV) is the new president of the European Housing Association - Build Europe. He was elected during the Build Europe Annual Congress, which took place in Sofia on June 8-9. The event organizers and hosts were the Bulgarian Construction Chamber (BCC) and Glavbolgarstroy Holding AD.

Ibel will take office on July 31, 2023, succeeding this post from the current President Marc Pidgeon of the Federation of Construction Entrepreneurs in France (Federation des Promoteurs Immobiliers de France). During the two days of the forum, essential topics related to residential construction were discussed, including the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the EU Taxonomy, and the Nature Restoration Union Regulation. Build Europe members exchanged information, shared valuable ideas regarding the development of housing markets in their countries, and discussed the content of the upcoming "Building Europe" manifesto in view of the 2024 European elections.

Within the framework of the event, the congress participants also visited residential buildings under construction in the capital.

On the first day, the meeting was opened by Arch. Ivan Nestorov, executive director of the BCC, and engineer Svetoslav Lyubomirov, executive director of Glavbolgarstroy Holding AD.

"It is my pleasure to welcome you to the beautiful Bulgarian capital Sofia and open the highest forum of the organization, which unites European entrepreneurs and builders of residential buildings. I am convinced that with joint efforts, even the most complex issues will find the best business solution during the congress," said Arch. Nestorov. He pointed out that it is a privilege for the BCC to welcome the representatives of the leading organization, which unites the industry's interests throughout Europe.

"One of the BCC's key priorities is to build an even more fruitful partnership with Build Europe

and all its members. We believe in the power of cooperation and the exchange of best practices that can help us achieve greater success and encourage the development of the European construction industry," said Arch. Ivan Nestorov. He also explained that the BCC represents over 6,500 local and foreign companies in our country.

The Chamber's executive director pointed out that all European countries had faced the same challenges in recent years – from dealing with the covid pandemic to increased inflation and the war in Ukraine. "In Bulgaria, the branch also has problems, and the BCC is working hard to resolve them. Fortunately, even in these difficult times, housing construction has maintained its upward trends and has been one of the pillars of the branch," he emphasized.

Arch. Nestorov informed the representatives of Build Europe that for 2022, a growth of 35 percent of newly built residential buildings put into operation in Bulgaria is reported, which nominally means 5,263 new objects. The executive director pointed out that

construction companies in the country continue to facilitate the opportunities for implementing modern technologies

to respond to the "green" transformation that is a priority of the EU. Arch. Ivan Nestorov added that forums like Build Europe are beneficial because participants can exchange best practices, new ideas, and successful business models. "Our members have the opportunity to meet new partners, share their projects, and build important professional contacts. We believe that only through close cooperation and interaction we can achieve innovation, quality, and sustainability in our industry," he stated.

In conclusion, Arch. Ivan Nestorov said that the BCC is ready to contribute with expertise to create a dynamic and constructive platform to discuss the industry's challenges and opportunities and seek standard solutions.

Eng. Svetoslav Lyubomirov stated in his speech that the Build Europe congress was organized in a rather busy time for Bulgaria, related to the formation, voting, and entry into office of the new government after nearly two years of consecutive elections and Caretaker Cabinets. "It is a happy coincidence and a good sign that the forum was held precisely in the week in which Bulgaria took steps towards the long-awaited stability necessary for business, the sector we represent, and the citizens," said Eng. Lyubomirov.

He emphasizes that it is imperative at the meeting to highlight the current topics at the European and national levels. "They are associated with many challenges but also open new opportunities and horizons. Achieving a balance between European regulations and the interests of representatives and end users in the sector is important for guaranteeing a good business environment and an upward sustainable pace of economic development. All this will undoubtedly positively affect the member states citizens. In a country like Bulgaria, this is a priority", he added and continued that as a member of the organization Glavbolgarstroy Holding AD encourages the Build Europe involvement in topics such as the Energy performance of buildings directive.

"I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to President Marc Pigeon for his outstanding dedication and remarkable achievements at the helm of Build Europe. Under his leadership our association has grown and made significant progress encouraging construction entrepreneurs across Europe in tough times, during which our sector was affected by the covid crisis, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine," stated Andreas Ibel. He added that it would be an honor for him

to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and build on the foundation he had laid.

"Marc Pidgeon's vision for the future of Build Europe will inspire us as we continue to face new challenges and opportunities at the EU level," said the new organization president.

Pigeon, for his part, expressed confidence in Andreas Ibel's ability to push the association forward and expand its membership. "Since my term as president of Build Europe entails, I have full faith in Andreas Ibel's ability to lead our association to even greater heights. As a member of Build Europe, he has demonstrated a strong passion for advocating for our sector at the EU level. I am confident that under his leadership, the organization will continue to grow and attract more members, consolidating its position as a leading voice for European entrepreneurs and homebuilders," emphasized Pidgeon.

The second day of the Build Europe Annual Congress was opened by the chief architect of the Metropolitan Municipality, Zdravko Zdravkov.

"Conducting a forum of such a rank is extremely important for the city, which in the last year has achieved a lot for its European development and permanently attracts foreign investments," he said. According to him, Sofia produces about 40% of the country's GDP. "There is even some sort of a construction boom. The sector generates over 1 million square meters of open space yearly," emphasized Arch. Zdravko Zdravkov. He recalled that after the peak in construction in 2019, there was a decline due to the pandemic, but from 2022 the levels have begun to recover to pre-COVID-19 ones. "This helps the city develop at an extraordinary pace and attract new investments," said the chief architect.

"Over the past year, Sofia Municipality has been working on many projects, one of the most successful being the subway development," pointed out Arch. Zdravkov. He added

that the extension of the third line of the underground railway is currently being implemented.

He is adamant that the expansion of the route will generate a huge number of investments. "They are significant for the municipality because, through them, we will be able to develop the urban environment permanently," said Arch. Zdravkov. He added that many construction permits are issued in the areas where the new metro lines are being built.

He pointed out that renovating the space around the Patriarchal Cathedral "St. Alexander Nevsky" is another important project for the city's development.

Arch. Zdravko Zdravkov ended his speech with the statement

that the Metropolitan Municipality is a partner of Build Europe.

At the congress, members of the organization commented that access to housing at affordable prices that meet the needs and expectations of the EU citizens is one of the main challenges European institutions have to deal with. For this reason, Build Europe believes that the EU and member countries must ensure that the Union's environmental targets will not further exacerbate the housing affordability crisis.

The Annual Congress of Build Europe participants got acquainted with the development of housing construction in the capital. They visited three complexes under construction - "Kosher", Smart Tower, and DHome.

Build Europe was founded in 1958 as an international scientific research association. Even then, it began to support entrepreneurs and home builders and protect their interests in Europe, positioning itself as their primary representative at the European level over the year. The priority activities of Build Europe are related to consultations, monitoring, and preparation of opinions regarding the European legislation concerning housing construction.

Andreas Ibel, the newly elected president of the European housing association Build Europe: My main tasks will be aimed at providing more social housing in Europe

Miroslav Elenkov

Reneta Nikolova

Mr. Ibel, first, accept congratulations from the Stroitel Newspaper team on your election as president of the European housing association Build Europe. What priorities do you set being at the head of the organization?

My main tasks will be aimed at providing more social housing in Europe. My team and I will seek ways to help the Ukrainians who have lost their homes. Their houses must be rebuilt and should not be inferior to the European ones. For this purpose, a lot of funds will be needed, as well as expertise, so that we can solve this issue with joint efforts.

It is in everyone's interest to restore the one-time appearance of Ukraine. Many ex-pats now need somewhere to live, which creates problems in their current residence. We must help them return to their native places as soon as possible.

One of Europe's biggest problems is connected to the high prices of new housing. How can this be overcome and homes become more affordable?

There are many possible solutions. The main problem with the unaffordable prices of new homes for the Europeans is connected to the unreasonably high taxes and the impossibly rising standards. The higher our requirements, the higher the amount to be paid. I think it is good to establish regulations in the real estate market so that the price can be controlled somehow.

It's really not normal for a family to have to pay such high taxes when buying a new apartment. For example, in Germany, 50% of all costs of acquiring a new home are related to taxes. We must consider how to make this process more bearable for people.

What are your expectations for the development of the Construction sector in 2023, and in what way do you think European companies can help the recovery of Ukraine?

It is still too early to say in what way they might be helpful. In the long run, it will undoubtedly be possible for the construction industry to help. At this stage, it is good to take the first steps in this direction to be ready when the time comes. First, it is necessary to see how much money will be needed to restore the affected by the war homes in Ukraine and then to assess how the funds will reach those in need.

As for the Construction sector's improvement this year, currently, things could be described as a "perfect storm." Unfortunately, in much of Europe, we are witnessing a decline in construction. Fewer apartments are built; the number of large infrastructure projects is also decreasing. Prices are very high, people cannot pay, and interest is falling. At this point, banks no longer allow the withdrawal of large loans, as before. Therefore, we expect that in the next 2-3 years, fewer new apartments and road sites will be put into operation.

The big problem for Bulgarian companies in the industry now is the need to index construction contracts. According to you, what are the possibilities to solve this case?

It is not easy to calculate the final value of a building site. It almost always comes out more than the initial calculation. Unfortunately, this problem exists everywhere due to rising inflation. It is still challenging to predict things. This is a problem that all countries in Europe are facing, and together we must look for solutions.

A significant difficulty is also the ongoing delay in the supply chain. All this increases the final price. It is crucial to think and find a way in the future to ensure the building materials we need from destinations close to us. The shorter a supply chain is, the easier for something to happen.

How do you see the partnership between the Bulgarian Construction Chamber and Build Europe?

I am in Sofia for the first time. I think people are wonderful. I like Bulgaria very much. I am sure I will come many more times. I believe that the two organizations can be helpful to each other by exchanging information regarding the condition of the construction industry in different countries in Europe because, in each one of them, the challenges are different. We must all learn together from our mistakes and try to develop even more.

Marc Pidgeon, President of Build Europe until July 31, 2023: It is the trade associations of branch industry that must show the administration the right path

Miroslav Elenkov

Reneta Nikolova

Mr. Pidgeon, what would you define as the most significant success in your work as president of Build Europe?

During my mandate, it was imperative to make politicians at the European level understand that the issue of high house prices is fundamental to Europeans. Currently, people need to have a relatively large budget to buy their own homes. Housing prices continue to rise while people's incomes do not grow at the same rate. Many European citizens cannot afford their homes, and this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

How can this be overcome, and properties become more affordable?

I say again that the first thing is for the politicians to become aware of the problem because only when its essence is understood can a solution be found. Our role is to provide various proposals to overcome this challenge. It is impossible to speak about a solution to each member state's problem; a pan-European one must be found. The trade associations must show the administration the right path.

I am convinced that this applies not only to Europe but also to the whole world. In the future, we may witness a substantial world social problem. For this reason, we are organizing a press conference with the participation of G-7 representatives. The event will be held in Japan shortly before the ministers' meeting for the regional development of the G-7 countries.

How do you assess the organization of the congress in Sofia?

Everything was perfect. The hosts very warmly welcomed us. At the event, we shared our views and exchanged good practices and ideas that would be useful for everyone searching for solutions on various topics. This is the purpose of such meetings.

How do you see the future cooperation between BCC and Build Europe?

When one collaboration is in its infancy, it's always great. We work well with the Bulgarian Construction Chamber, and I hope we grow together.

Terry Roydon, former president of Build Europe: The BCC is a valuable part of our organization

Mr. Roydon, what are the biggest challenges facing housing construction in Europe?

During the Build Europe congress, it was commented that almost everywhere around Europe, a decrease in demand for new homes was noted because people could not afford them. The value of an apartment depends on various factors - the prices of construction, the land on which it is built, and the mortgage. All these components are going in the wrong direction in almost all of Europe.

In Poland, the situation is slightly different. The market in the country is developing well because people have more funds and fewer mortgages are being paid.

One of the big problems for the construction industry in Europe is the continuous rise in construction materials prices. Projects become more expensive, and builders need help to predict the final cost. What are the possible solutions?

Indeed, one option to overcome this is to improve the supply chain. We are witnessing a new phenomenon - each country is trying to produce more than the necessary materials to rely on something other than delivery from abroad. It certainly helps because we are less dependent on imports from China.

Much of the supply was halted or delayed at the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, leading to shortages and property prices skyrocketing. At that time, the number of newly built residential buildings also decreased.

At the moment, the situation is stabilizing. The easing will lower real estate prices, and more people will be able to buy new homes.

What impression did you get from the Annual Congress of Build Europe, which took place in Sofia?

It is always a pleasure for me to come to Bulgaria. I have worked in the country before. I find the event very useful.

How do you see the partnership between the BCC and Build Europe?

I was the president of Build Europe a few years ago, and I can confirm that the BCC is a valuable part of our organization. With the accession of the Bulgarian Construction Chamber in 2021, the European Association for Housing Construction has become more assertive.

Build Europe has member organizations from 20 countries, thanks to which we are informed about the sector's results in them. We also exchange experiences. I hope the Bulgarian Construction Chamber also benefits from its membership in the organization. Through us, the BCC has the opportunity to get acquainted with the best practices of other countries.