Overwhelmingly the largest proportion of the resources used by humans goes to the formation, maintenance and operation of the built environment. While in industrialized countries some actions have been taken to arrest the implications of resource depletion and environmental degradation caused by construction activities, developing countries have made little progress in this direction. Their position is even more desperate considering that many of them do not have resources and capacities to improve their technologies and many are faced with a fragile environment and natural disasters, not to mention rapid population growth and associated social, economic and environmental problems.
Some one-tenth of the global economy is devoted to construction and operation of residential and office buildings and one-sixth to one-half of the world's major resources are consumed by construction and related industries. The building industry alone consumes some 40 percent of forest timber and 16 percent of the world's fresh water. It is a major consumer of natural non-renewable resources such as metals, fossil fuel and non-renewable energy sources. Close to 70 percent of sulphur oxides produced by fossil fuel combustion are emitted by the generation of electricity for homes and offices. Some 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions (mainly in the industrialized countries) are as a result of operations in buildings-in-use (heating and cooling). Indoor air quality is inadequate in 30 percent of buildings around the world.
In Australia, approximately 80% of the population live in large cities or towns. Approximately 12% of the workforce are employed directly in the building and construction, and related service industries. The building and construction industry in Australia accounts directly for around 8% of the nation's gross domestic product and up to 20% when the output of other industries that are directly related to building are taken into account. The annual value of new building constructed is around A$425 billion.