21 October 2021


Major work is going on in the building sector to develop the use of biobased and natural mineral products in construction. There are a number of issues at stake, notably the use of renewable sources, decreased CO2 emissions, and improved energy performance. But are the production channels ready to meet a demand that can only get bigger with the RE2020 environmental regulations? 
KARIBATI joint founder and biobased materials specialist Marion Chirat takes stock. 


What’s today’s take on the use of biobased materials in construction?

There’s no disputing their use has increased, notably in the insulation market, where materials like wood fibre, cellulose wadding, hemp wool, rice straw, etc. now account for 10% of the market. The AICB*  reckons production capacities could double by 2025—an entirely credible statement given that we currently use less than 3% of biomass availability.
As far as timber construction goes, market share has seen a four-fold increase in 10 years, despite the pandemic-led throttling of market supplies. The main segments pushing these market shares up are public buildings, apartment blocks, and service sector premises. Future developments will depend on the timber sector’s ability to carry out the necessary modernization to fulfil a growing demand and to rely less on imports. 
Whatever the case, biobased supplies are becoming more structured and manufacturers are showing their readiness to innovate, notably in the field of prefabricated solutions. As demand rises, so the cost of biobased materials nears that of classic products.

 *Association des Industriels de la Construction Biosourcée (Biobased construction material manufacturers’ association)


What levers exist for underpinning this increasing shift to biobased?

To start with, education and awareness are crucial. People need to learn about the interest and performance of these materials, especially with RE2020 on the horizon.  
After that, the Bio-sourcé (biobased product) label we have implemented helps provide users with visibility and transparency on the subject. The success of this initiative is testimony to the real impetus we have generated, with 50 products already earning the label. 
We are also developing a configuration app called aKacia that will make it easier for manufacturers to compile environmental and sanitary declaration sheets (FDES) for their biobased products. Many businesses, mostly at the smaller end of the scale, find the cost and complexity of completing an FDES a big hindrance, but these FDES forms are necessary when registering with RE2020 and for obtaining the bâtiment biosourcé (biobased building) label. Thanks to this tool, manufacturers can improve their processes and products in a greater logic of eco-design.
Changes in regulations and in public orders are additional levers for boosting the development of biobased construction. They provide an opening for regions or big cities to offer bigger grants for renovation or construction where biobased products are involved. This is a very positive incentive with regard to the image of these products and the support given to their development.


You provide assistance and guidance to manufacturers as well as builders. What steps are they taking to anticipate RE2020?

People are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainable construction. They know about carbon costs, material costs, waste costs. Look at Bordeaux: it has created a “frugal building” label for itself, covering energy and carbon criteria but also the origin of production materials, which must lie in a radius of 200km.
Many public operators and big property developers have worked to produce exemplary buildings, but they are just the first steps on the path to sustainable construction, which implies doing some deep self-questioning on customary attitudes and practices. 
We are working with, for example, fitting-out firms as early as possible in the project in order to identify possibilities, biobased material requirements, and the overall balance at neighbourhood level. These are very interesting approaches as they notably help identify local biomass sources and encourage the structuring of local biobased production streams. 


What are your work priorities over the next few years?

We are directing our thoughts to how we can include other criteria in the appraisal of biobased products, like for example the socio-economic impact and most notably new jobs. The interest of biobase channels lies in their job creation potential, not only on production sites but also further downstream, in product finishing, and upstream in the farming, recycling, or forestry businesses—the ones who supply plant- or animal-derived raw materials. The notion of “local” is also being worked on and we hope to be able to calculate a local “score” for biobased products, once again in the perspective of promoting use with limited transport distances.
We are also exploring biodiversity issues. What would be the effect of a biobase sector on biodiversity? It’s important to know.
Last but not least, we are trading thoughts with manufacturers on ways of improving product end-of-lifecycles and already imagining recycling and reuse channels that will allow biobased to remain eco-assertive throughout its lifecycle.



More about Karibati

Karibati is an innovative business and an expert in biobased building materials. It works alongside any organization, private or public alike, that wants to innovate, expand, or build better thanks to biobased construction.

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Biobased materials

Biobased materials are by definition materials derived from plant or animal biomass. They currently cover a broad range of products and have multiple applications in the field of building and construction, be it insulation (vegetable or animal wool fibre, recycled textiles, cellulose wadding, hemp shives, flax shives, hay bales, etc.), mortars and concretes (hemp, wood, or flax concrete, etc.), panels and boards (vegetable particles or fibres, compressed straw, etc.), composite plastic materials (moulds, stiffeners, loads), or chemicals for building (glues, additives, paints, etc.).

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