29-03-2024 Building & construction

Subject file #2 Decarbonising buildings - Section 1 : A developer's point of view

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"We are entering a new cycle"

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Bouygues Immobilier is aware of its impact on the environment and has charted an ambitious carbon trajectory approved by SBTi, aimed at achieving a significant reduction in GHG emissions by 2050.
 

Guillaume Carlier, the group's Director of Climate and Resources Strategy, explains the stages of this trajectory, the conditions for its success and the hurdles still to be crossed. 

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How are you positioning your real estate operations to implement RE2020? 

We would like to strike a realistic balance between anticipation and compliance with the progressive thresholds set by the regulations. The spirit of RE2020 is to accommodate a radical change in building methods in stages, by allowing stakeholders to experiment. In fact, more than 60% of our housing programmes that received building permits in 2023 are already on target for the RE2020 threshold for 2025, and we are working on the design of about a dozen operations signposted for the 2028 threshold. We also wanted to get well ahead of the game in terms of energy, to move away from conventional gas, with a massive expansion in the installation of heat pumps which will enable us to achieve the performance targets set for 2031.

 


The 'Empreinte'  project in Angers
Credit: LD3D / Architect: Xavier GAYRAUD Architecture firm
 


You recently announced that the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has officially validated Bouygues Immobilier's GHG emission reduction targets for the 2021-2030 period. What does it involve?

In October 2021, SBTi launched the first "Net-Zero" Standard for companies. This initiative was launched to provide companies with credible, science-based certification to help them meet the Paris Agreement target and limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.

At the end of 2023, we obtained SBTi approval, which validated our medium- and long-term carbon trajectory, one of the most ambitious in its sector. Therefore, we are committed to achieving a 42% reduction in scopes 1 and 2 GHG emissions and a 28% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030, compared to our 2021* benchmark. Of course, it is a commitment that is consistent with RE2020, but it also goes beyond. 
To achieve this, we are mobilising several levers: the use of renewable energies, concrete with a lower carbon footprint, recycled steel, and bio-sourced materials (wood, straw, mud brick, etc.), the selection of suppliers with the lowest emission factors in their category, and eco-design approaches to reduce emissions during the construction and operating phases. It should also be mentioned that we are reusing materials or using them more sparingly, with constructive solutions such as slab-on-post, for example.  

 


The 'Opaline Green Fabrik' project in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
Architect: BVF Architects / Credit: David Bourreau

 

 

What are the impacts of these changes on the property developer's job?  

There are many. First of all, low-carbon developers set the framework and moves up the building value chain. His role becomes strategic right from the design stage of the project to make it part of an overall vision where services, mobility, common spaces, and access to nature should increasingly be integrated. 
Therefore, we have established framework contracts with various partners that we involve at a very early stage in the planning and design of the buildings. This allows us to lay the foundations for standardising eco-design, which is essential for lowering prices by focusing on volume. Our core business now consists of setting targets for carbon and energy performance, and uniting the stakeholders involved to help achieve them within a financial framework that is acceptable for everyone. Our next project, which is not the least important one, is to incorporate into this strategy of carbon emission reduction, Bouygues Immobilier’s resilience actions for activities and the strategy of adapting its products, particularly regarding water.

 

 

How can smaller-scale developers get involved in the context of the current crisis?

It is certainly complicated, which explains why many of them are requesting a pause in the roll-out of RE2020.  
The building industry is in deep crisis and is likely to remain so for some time to come. But the only choice is to move forward and get ready for the upturn having worked and prepared for the changes. Two things are certain: there is a pressing need to build housing in France (over 350,000 per year), but it won't be met with the methods of the past, i.e. 100% new construction. The movement to decarbonise the building industry has begun, and this opens a new cycle that also involves the transformation and/or renovation of existing assets. As a major construction company, we have a pioneering role to play, although we are also affected by the slowdown in the market. 


 

In your view, what are the major obstacles to be overcome? 

In terms of materials, sectors, and construction methods, there has been real progress, and there are solutions and engineering. On the other hand, there is an entire generation to train, and this stage is far from being completed. The second obstacle is financial: we need to create financing solutions that facilitate the transition of the construction sector and access to low-carbon buildings, which are currently more expensive to build. Finally, we need to continue to convince the public of the benefits of moving towards green real estate and support elected representatives to demonstrate that decarbonisation is not an option, but it opens the way to new, more integrated, and sustainable solutions. We need to work together to generate value for the sector, for elected representatives, investors, and users, to meet the essential need for housing.
 

*The SBTi criteria assess the relevance and reliability of companies' decarbonisation strategies by analysing the quantified targets for the three "scopes": 1 for direct emissions, 2 for indirect emissions linked to energy consumption and 3 which analyses other indirect emissions upstream and downstream of the value chain (construction materials, operating delivered buildings, etc.).