Overall construction activity

Overall, construction grew by 6.6% in 2021, more than offsetting the 4.5% decline recorded in 2020. Excluding stimulus-related work and repairs to the extensive flood damage in the summer of 2021 and the effects of the war in Ukraine, construction is expected to continue to grow and gain 1.9% in 2022.


The impact of the work related to the recovery plan and the repair of damage will depend on the timing of this work, which is slow to start. Given the importance of this work, it could support growth by 1.5 to 3 percentage points.


The impact of the Ukrainian crisis also remains highly uncertain. Early estimates indicate that it would reduce overall economic growth by less than one percent. But the impact on construction could be greater, given the extent to which the outbreak of the crisis has affected the confidence of households, which are important customers for construction. And also given its impact on the cost of materials and therefore construction. According to a survey by the NBB, companies in the sector expect their activities to fall by around 5% within a year. This would correspond more or less to a decline of 2.5% for the whole of 2022.


The scenario excluding the stimulus package, flooding and the impact of the war thus appears to be a central scenario against which the main positive and negative risks are fairly well balanced.


New housing construction activity has done better than rebound in 2021. Thanks to very strong growth (+10.1%), it has more than made up for the significant 6.7% decline recorded in 2020.  It is expected to rise by a few more percent in 2022, particularly given the sharp increase in the number of homes authorized in 2021 and whose construction is due to be completed or even started in 2022. The question is, however, to what extent the consequences of the war in Ukraine will affect the re-supply of demand or even the start of new housing already authorized.


Activity in the housing renovation sector, which against all expectations grew by 2% in 2020, continues to grow despite the health crisis. It has thus gained 4.5% in 2021 and is expected to grow by at least another 1.5% in 2022. The  timid start of the stimulus plans should allow it to progress more (a major component of those plans is indeed) dedicated to energy renovation of housing. And the same is true for reconstruction work. Conversely, the consequences of the Ukrainian war could slow down demand for renovation work not aimed at improving energy performance. The consequences of this war on energy prices should, in principle, be of a completely different nature for energy renovation, for which demand could be (strongly) reinforced.


GDP 2021




Total investment in construction in 2021


Non-residential construction

Non-residential renovation, which suffered more in 2020 (-8.6%), experienced a significant rebound in 2021 (by more than 10%) and is expected to gain approximately 1% to 2% in 2022. In addition to the improving economy and its own dynamic, it can at least count on the additional impetus from the renovation of Walloon hospitals.


New non-residential construction, on the other hand, appears to be the segment with the weakest prospects. Particularly affected by the health crisis (with a decline of 15% in 2020), it has seen only a partial rebound in 2021 (+5%) and its prospects remain limited for 2022 (+1%).


The start of the stimulus plans and reconstruction work after the floods should generate greater growth in non-residential construction activity (in accordance with the strength of this start), mainly in renovation. Inversely, the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis could reduce business investment and in particular their demand for construction work.


Civil engineering

The civil engineering sector, which, like housing renovation, continued to grow in 2020 at the height of the health crisis, is continuing to build momentum. Activity is estimated to have increased by [around] 3% in 2021 and civil engineering is expected to gain a further 3% to 4% in 2022, excluding the effects of the stimulus plans and the reconstruction of areas affected by the floods in the summer of 2021.


This sector is benefiting from a certain revival of interest in public investment on the part of the authorities, as well as from the support of certain major projects, the most important of which is the Oosterweel project. As the latter is still in an intensification phase, it supports not only the activity but also the growth of civil engineering.


This segment can thus count on growth of more than 4% in 2022 if the following two conditions are met. That is to say, if the work linked to the recovery plans and reconstruction starts up significantly and if the tensions on the materials market, which have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine (price increases in particular), do not lead to a certain wait-and-see attitude on the part of public contractors.

Per cent variation of investment in real terms on previous year
investment Mln. € fixed prices
  Sectors 2021a 2018 2019 2020 2021a 2022b
1. Building 33,499 2.7 0.6 -6.2 7.5 1.5
    1.1. Housebuilding 20,464 1.9 3.6 -1.6 6.7 1.5
       1.1.1. New 8,365 3.0 5.2 -6.7 10.1 1.8
        1.1.2. Renovation 12,099 1.1 2.5 2.0 4.5 1.3
    1.2. Non residential (c) 13,035 3.9 -3.4 -12.7 8.8 1.4
       1.2.1. Private 8,098 3.9 -3.4 -12.7 8.8 1.4
       1.2.2. Public 4,937 3.9 -3.4 -12.7 8.8 1.4
2. Civil Engineering 7,792 5.1 3.5 3.0 3.0 3.7
(1 + 2) Total Construction 41,291 3.2 1.1 -4.5 6.6 1.9
a: estimate - b: forecast - c: incl. R&M
Number of building permits in residential construction
  2018 2019 2020 2021a 2022b
single dwelling 20.429 19.876 20.570 21.905 22.963
collective dwelling 32.891 26.659 25.548 27.207 28.521
other types of dwelling 336 277 397 432 459
Total 53.656 46.812 46.515 49.544 51.943
(Collective dwellings and other types of buildings: in number of flats)