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14 April 2020

When construction signs in to the circular economy

Circular economy is becoming an important feature in solutions for addressing the growing scarcity of resources and the requirements of the “ecological transition”. New stakeholders are emerging and large corporations are gearing up to put forward new, viable, sustainable models, able to tackle bigger and bigger projects. Eco-Bâtiment Cluster executive officer Marie-Soriya Ao elaborates on this trend and tells us about concrete solutions from Cluster members.


In construction as in all other sectors engaged in this approach, circular economy solutions privilege ecodesign, recycling, reuse, delivery short circuits, local production—and quite naturally this often relies on biosourcing. These solutions are indeed getting more and more professional. “Whereas products were previously being made by what you could call craft methods, production is now being industrialized to give a better guarantee of product performance. Buildings at a lower cost, with a smaller carbon footprint, as well as economic vitalization of the regions: the advantages of the circular economy plain to see,” says Ao.


Activ Home, robots that optimize the production of wood-straw modules for construction   


These modules are made using the patented ECOSTRAUV® process, a combined framework + insulation medium for walls, partitions, and floors at different heights. Their peculiarity lies in an industrial production method incorporating short circuits and innovative robotics. “Activ Home has brought the cost of its products down while guaranteeing production capacity and regular quality. This approach clears one of the roadblocks to biosourcing, caused by small production quantities: cost! Biosourcing is becoming attractive for large scale projects that require big volumes.”

Today, Activ Home, who won the “Bioeconomy” award on 4th February at this year’s EUROBOIS trade show, isn’t leaving things there. Its ambition is to set up new production centres all over France. It aims to get close to the raw material supply source as well as to the outlet, thereby eliminating avoidable transport while supporting local businesses.

With Neo-Eco, dismantling becomes a value source

Created in the North of France to oversee the dismantling of a mail order depot, this environmental engineering office carries out quantitative and qualitative diagnoses to assess materials during dismantling—carpet tiles, radiators, shower cubicles, etc. This true circular economy enabler identifies recycle channels and develops eco products and materials. “We set out to identify the best outlets for reusing or repurposing materials, possibly after some work on them. The products are monetized for resale. In organizing the process, the project owner must incorporate parameters obtained from the Neo-Eco diagnosis before proceeding. Further down the line, the company relies on an ecosystem of partners to find value outlets for the materials. “With Neo-Eco, we’re at the hub of a circular economy that creates business and jobs right inside the regions.”

Biofib’Isolation, from ploughed field to building site!

Biofib’Isolation is the French leader in biosourced insulation made from hemp, having developed durable, high performance insulating materials that help reduce energy consumption. But the company doesn’t stop there; it also keeps its carbon footprint down thanks to a production process featuring “short circuits”. Biofib’Isolation comes from an agricultural cooperative, CAVAC, whose members are 5000 farmers from France’s Vendée and Deux-Sèvres departments. This cooperative has implemented an industrial tool unique in Europe.

Founded upon an innovative, integrated industrial vision, BioFib Isolation controls all the manufacturing stages from cultivation to industrial production of the insulation. “Biofib products are specified for many uses in the AuRA region, notably by several of our members, influencers, architects, project owners. In the Eco-Bâtiment Cluster, we are experiencing a short circuit!”

Growing presence of large corporations

Large industrial companies, as part of their product development strategies, have also bought into the circular economy and biosourcing. “Among our members, large corporations are gearing up and investing in this emerging market. One example is Vicat with its Biosys® product made from hemp concrete blocks that are installed dry and act as formwork for a structure. Then there’s Zolpan with RESP’YR, a biosourced external thermal insulation solution with very high energy and environmental performance.

Also worth noting is the commitment shown by Saint Gobain in deploying a “circular economy” strategy and boosting its biosourced materials offering by investing in R&D and acquiring smaller businesses, as in the case of ISONAT, a manufacturer of flexible wood fibre insulation who joined ISOVER as a subsidiary a few years ago”, concludes Marie-Soriya Ao.

To know more on the Eco-Building cluster

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