Construction industry, permanent (r) evolution

New environmental requirements, new working methods, new materials… The building and public works sector is evolving at the same time as society’s expectations by revolutionizing all methods and tools. Here is an overview of the efforts by this rapidly changing sector.

Far from being a static sector, the construction industry is doubling down on its ingenuity to meet the new demands of the 21st century and to compete with increasingly complex construction sites.

To meet these new challenges, players in this sector have developed new tools and new ways of working. The doubling of expertise and trade, the expansion of joint activity practices, the reliance on corporate groups…these upheavals are not only necessary to reduce costs and delivery times, but also integrate new CSR standards throughout the value chain. necessary as a tool. The construction industry is also making great efforts to address environmental and social issues. Conserving biodiversity, using new, less polluting materials, reducing nuisance to local residents… Stakeholders in this sector are doing everything they can to reduce their impact on the climate and the living world.

Concrete at the heart of all concerns

Concrete, which is used in all modern buildings, is one of the primary means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the construction industry. Globally, concrete alone accounts for 7% of his GHG emissions!More specifically, the problem is with clinker, the ingredient used to make cement. It “decarboxylates” when heated, and large amounts of he emit GHGs. Approximately 800 kg of CO2 is emitted per tonne of cement produced.
Many companies such as LafargeHolcim, Cemex and Calcia offer ‘low carbon’ concrete formulations with a low percentage of clinker. “These particular ranges guarantee the same qualities (strength, hardness, etc.) as conventional concrete. It will be replaced by other resources that are more valuable,” explains Florent Dubois, construction manager at LafargeHolcim.
But French start-up Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies goes further by offering cement that is produced without calcining or using clinker. The formula is so innovative that it has caught the attention of several major French construction companies, including Demathieu Bard, Effages and Nivet, who have already filled the Vendée-based start-up’s order book. Eiffage wants to use this ultra-low carbon cement in the construction of the Ateliers Gaité in Montparnasse, Paris. Meanwhile, Nivet Group would like to use cement produced by Hoffmann Green for the ready-mixed concrete market.
Finally, more and more builders are advocating the concept of ‘mixing materials’, which consists in preferentially using recycled or biosourced materials. The new “RE2020” building regulations, which came into force in January 2022, specifically promote these materials, such as wood, that store carbon instead of releasing it. Effage’s Hyperion tower in Bordeaux is an iconic example of the combination of materials, built with a concrete core and solid wood floors. The builder estimates that using solid wood has reduced his CO2 emissions on site by 25%. Construction of the Hyperion Tower, due for completion in 2021, is one of many examples of how the construction industry has embraced new, greener construction methods without waiting for legislative change.

Noise pollution, biodiversity protection…: construction industry mobilizing to reduce negative externalities

But environmental protection is not limited to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This allows the construction sector to reduce as much as possible its (many) negative externalities, both those that harm the peace and tranquility of the local population and those that can have lasting impacts on ecosystems. That’s why I’ve been working on it for years. Impacts on biodiversity and noise pollution are major public concerns and most companies make them the focus of their workplace efforts.

Noise is one of the most studied issues by construction companies. This is especially true when working in dense or sensitive areas such as city centers. His engineering firm Ingérop was surrounded by acoustic consultants for his Les Halles project in Paris. The work of these sound engineers consisted of making recommendations to reduce the noise pollution caused by their work. For example, encouraging the use of loud tools at the same time and installing alarm systems on trucks whose engines were not turned off. In addition, an increasing number of companies are discontinuing the “reverse rotation sound” of construction equipment, which is particularly annoying to local residents and workers, and switching to “lynx cry”, which is almost inaudible outside the vehicle. reverse axis.

When it comes to biodiversity conservation, many companies in this sector have joined the U2B Club (Urbanism, Buildings and Biodiversity) set up by the Bird Conservation League (LPO). The club meets with all members four times a year to raise awareness of urban biodiversity, soil artificiality and the hazards of glass surfaces for birds. LPOs may also advise construction companies specifically by providing technical advice. For example, Eiffage Aménagement built the LaVallée eco-district in Châtenay-Malabry with the support of the Biodiversity Conservation Society. This personalized support consisted of providing awareness training to the team of builders, specifically on the integration of biodiversity into buildings.

While these changes in ecological practices and attitudes are welcome, their practical application by all parties on the construction site is not evident, especially in a sector with a great diversity of companies…but these new CSR Rules and standards can be well parallel evolution of working methods in the construction industry facilitates their application.

When companies join forces to tackle new challenges in the construction industry

As construction sites, projects, and technologies become increasingly complex, construction industry players have diversified their expertise and deals to provide a more complete offer.

This increase in deals and technology has led to the revival of the Temporary Group of Enterprises (GME), allowing multiple companies to jointly submit to the same tender. These groupings have become the standard for highly technical and interdisciplinary projects, such as many of the Grand Paris Express (GPE) projects. All of these projects require different expertise and are even more complex to meet deadlines.

In fact, one of the most obvious benefits of consortia is that it encourages the practice of collaborative activities as a way of shortening deadlines. Having multiple companies and subcontractors from the same group working in different departments on the same site at the same time saves construction companies valuable time. “Overall time frame of operation [of the Grand Paris Express, editor’s note] Pascal Hamet, Lot 1 project director for Line 16 at Eiffage Infrastructure, explains: “We are making areas already completed by Eiffage Génie Civil available to external contractors, including some of the other Eiffage branches. Collaborative working habits are optimized by collaborative working habits, especially in the face of danger.This approach to construction sites was developed by a French group Already trialled and tested on another major project, the Brittany-Pays de la Loire high-speed rail link, Eiffage will help civil engineering, railways, energy and meet the deadlines set by the project owners. Systematize subsidiaries.

However, as mentioned earlier, consortia also have other, less obvious benefits. In fact, grouping also facilitates coherence of environmental and social rules, norms and standards, as it brings together very diverse enterprises (large groups, ETIs, SMEs, etc.). This will allow these good CSR practices to be widely disseminated to all companies involved so they can apply them properly and quickly apply them to other projects. This is how we enrich the entire construction value chain with these new methods that meet the most stringent standards. Construction industry, permanent (r) evolution

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