Due to its coastal geography, Croatia is exposed to the effects of climate change such as rises in sea level and serious wave and storm threats. In the near future, the country will need to take action which will involve increased civil engineering construction on the coast.
Written by Michael Glazer (SEE Regional Advisors) and Tatjana Halapija (Nada Projekt), EECFA’s Croatian members
Croatia’s building boom is continuing, but some of the engines currently driving it will likely run out of steam in a few years: Coastal hospitality-related construction will decline in importance as current renovation and greenfield projects complete and opportunities for new projects become more limited. Educational, health and other construction spending fueled by EU post-accession funds will decline as those funds dry up.
All of this is several years off, and inland hospitality construction and renewed office and residential building will take up some of the slack, so there’s no need to panic. But, it’s still worth asking: what will be the next big thing in the Croatian construction market?
One likely candidate is climate change defense and mitigation. Climate change is real, and it is dangerous for low-lying countries and communities. There is, of course, the dire example of Pacific island nations, such as the Solomon Islands but also many others, that are already losing land to the sea. The problem is also striking closer to home, though. Knokke-Heist, the so-called Belgian St. Tropez, is already fighting for its life. A proposal to build a sea wall just offshore of the resort to protect against climate-change-caused increases in wave heights is attracting considerable local opposition because of the threat that it poses to tourism. And an expected 30-cm rise in sea level there by 2050 threatens its beaches and low-lying structures.
Croatia is not immune to climate change by any means. With average sea level rises estimated at +6 to +30 cm by 2030, +24 to +52 cm by 2050, and +30 to +100 by 2100, the country would seem potentially more vulnerable on average than Knokke-Heist. And because of Croatia’s coastal geography even increases in sea level or intensification of wave action that are small for the country as a whole could result in much greater average and peak water levels and much more serious wave and storm threats at individual locations. The Croatian government is not unaware of this and possesses reports and data on the danger. But it has neither emphasized the threat in its public pronouncements nor taken significant action to counter it.
This means that in the relatively near future, certainly within 10 years and probably given climate current trends much sooner, there will be a scramble to mitigate the effects of global warming on Croatia, and particularly on the Croatian coast. This will lead to significantly increased civil engineering construction (on sea walls and the like) but also to considerable spending on harbors, facility relocation (including of sea-side hotels and coastal infrastructure) and other, similar projects.
Latest construction market forecast for Croatia is available in the EECFA Forecast Report Croatia released on 18 June 2018 together with the other 7 EECFA Forecast Reports.
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 Barić et al (2008) cited at https://www.climatechangepost.com/croatia/coastal-floods/
 Croatia’s coastline is very long: 6,278 km of which 1,880 km belong to the mainland and 4,398 km to the island coastline. (https://www.climatechangepost.com/croatia/coastal-floods/). Both the mainland and the island coastlines contain many inlets and coves that can exaggerate the effect of tides, winds and storms.