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