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BUILDING DIFFERENTLYBouygues gives it all!

Report
5 min
24/04/2019

MATERIAL

Ecological and attractive, wood is growing in popularity. With timber becoming more common in construction, even for tall buildings, the Group is developing its capabilities to capitalize on this trend in France.
By Laura Franchet and Amandine Sand

STRONG FOUNDATIONS

With sales totaling €1.6 billion and almost 2,000 companies active in the French market in 2016, timber construction is expanding in all building sectors, from housing and offices to public facilities. Its dynamic growth could well make it a €2-billion business by 2020. Softwood coming from spruce or pine trees is preferred to the family of hardwoods like oak. “Softwood is easier to work with and produced in larger quantities in our forests in Europe,” explains Julien Brisebourg, a timber specialist in the central technical department at Bouygues Immobilier. The first advantage of timber is its small carbon footprint. “It is a natural carbon sink. It stores carbon dioxide from industrial activities rather than emitting it, and producing and transforming wood consume little energy,” points out Christophe Lemaitre, head of Timber Construction at Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France. Using precut and prefabricated 3D and 2D timber structures results in less noise annoyance for people living nearby because the elements are assembled by screwing or nailing them together. This also means cleaner and safer worksites for the workers. Timber is generally 10% to 20% more expensive than concrete, but since the elements are cut to the required dimensions, there is less waste and building times are shorter. Timber is excellent thermal insulation, thus keeping building interiors warm in winter and cool in summer. So that sums up the advantages. As for its uses, timber is mainly employed in the construction of the structural frame, floors, stairwells, and elevator shafts, often in combination with other materials such as concrete or metal.

CAPITALIZING ON THE GROUP’S KNOW-HOW

A responsible and engaged company, Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France is investing in new construction methods using timber as a building material. To support this initiative, it has created a new division, Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France Construction bois, staffed with engineering, production, and purchasing teams. This division has unique expertise in all aspects of timber construction – addition of floors, combined timber-concrete construction, façades, installations, and modular construction, among others – and in all types of products

It has a policy of seeing that its timber purchases do not create risks for forests, for the people who depend on them, or for the biodiversity they support. These concerns have led to a partnership with the WWF France, renewed in 2017, whose aim is to help Bouygues Construction be a responsible timber purchaser. At Bouygues Immobilier, a unit specializing in timber construction has been created in the central technical department. “My role is to stay in contact with everyone working in this area and to support the operational teams, from the initial architectural sketches to the handover of our projects,” says Brisebourg. Projects are being developed with the idea that they will serve as demonstrators to illustrate the Group’s capacity to build with timber, to construct tall buildings with it, and to do this in cities. This forward-looking approach will enable the Group to deliver buildings that qualify for environmental certifications like the Bâtiment bas carbone (BBCA) rating awarded to low carbon buildings.

MULTIPLE TECHNICAL CHALLENGES

Constructing tall buildings with timber gives the Group the opportunity to propose new technical solutions. For the office building project Green Office Enjoy in the ClichyBatignolles development zone (ZAC), slated for delivery in December 2018, acoustic tests were done with the Scientific and Technical Center for Building (CSTB). “Dry screed was put on the floors, and a heavy raised floor was placed between each of the building’s six stories to obtain acoustical performance equivalent to concrete construction,” explains José Maria Sales, project director at Bouygues Immobilier. At Strasbourg, the structural frame and façades of the 38-meter-high Sensations building, which contains 146 apartments, are made of timber. Full-scale tests were conducted to see how fire could spread across the façades. “These tests will allow us to make the adjustments needed to meet the recommendations issued by timber construction professionals in association with the CSTB and the Institut Technologique Forêt Cellulose Bois (FCBA) in 2017. And they will also serve as case studies for future projects carried out across France,” explains Philippe Michel, technical director, East Region, at Bouygues Immobilier. Last December, this project was awarded the BBCA rating, making it the first low carbon certification Bouygues Immobilier has received for a residential building.

Meanwhile, Bouygues Construction delivered Catalpa, its first sustainable modular timber-frame building, to the French Army in 2016, just seven months after the order was placed. In this project, Bouygues Construction combined quick execution with high-quality results. The next challenge? The Tour Commune in Paris, on which work began in 2018. A total of 1,500 m3 of timber will be combined with steel to construct the structural frame of this 50-meter-high building – a true technical feat. “The next step is to use more French timber in the projects,” says Brisebourg. “In the Vendée region, the Piveteau group is investing in the largest plant in France for the production of wood paneling for floors and walls.” Technical improvements are indeed driving growth in the timber construction market in France. More and more projects are being undertaken in anticipation of low-carbon regulations, while shareholders and investors in green funds are ready to raise their bets on ecological building construction. As a result, supply and demand will continue to grow at an equal pace.

THREE questions to...


Marcel Chouraqui,
Managing director of Adivbois
What does your association do?
Created in 2015, it supports the Timber Industry Plan sponsored by four ministries that is designed to help achieve the carbon neutrality targets for 2050. With our 150 experts, we assist companies that are constructing buildings with a minimum of ten floors. That is the case with the Bouygues group in partner projects like the Tour Commune in Paris and Sensations in Strasbourg.
How is the timber construction industry changing?
In some projects today, 50% of the timber comes from France. Wood has been produced in other countries, in Austria and Canada, for example, for a longer time. France is catching up, and the industry is taking shape. Over the past three years, we have identified 24 regions for the construction of demonstrators, which makes France a leader in construction with this material.
How is wood used for interior installations?
Building with wood offers an opportunity to approach our surroundings in new ways. We are interested in looking at the impact of wood on well-being, health, productivity in the office, and other things. Studies show that consumers have a very favorable opinion of wood in their home or workplace.

Sources: Ministry of Agriculture and Food (2016) / Syndicat Français de la construction bois (2016)

1,6
billion of euros in revenues
24
million hectares of forests (overseas dependencies included)
12 820
specialized jobs
31%
of the land is covered with forests
1 981
companies
©Laurent Zylberman - Graphix-Images
In Paris, Green Office Enjoy has a mixed timber-concrete structural frame. It is constructed on a slab above railway tracks.
The seven-story Green Office Enjoyin northwestern Paris has a coworking space and 64 parking places.
Bouygues Immobilier received its first low carbon certification (BBCA) for a residential building with its Sensations project in Strasbourg