Greening the construction industry in France

Right now, building a green house costs approximately 10-15 percent more than the average house. The Grenelle is expected to usher in a slew of new rules and norms for the sector which should guarantee employment for at least the next two decades as well as bring that premium down considerably. The construction sector in France guzzles more energy than any other sector – 68.2 million tonnes of petrol a year, or 42.5 percent of all energy consumed – and the working group on construction has proposed that by 2020 the construction of zero carbon or passive housing be the norm everywhere.
There is considerable consensus on the need for an ambitious blueprint in this sector, but a big hurdle today is that most of the materials required for sustainable housing are not mass-produced.
Here are the highlights of the construction proposals:
– By 2015-2020, all new construction should conform to the proposed norm stipulating maximum consumption of 50 kW/h annually.
– For existing buildings and homes – whose average annual consumption currently stands at 240 kW/h – the proposal calls for a 20 percent reduction by 2012, and 40 percent by 2020.
– The working group hopes that the banking sector will offer lower credit rates to encourage the necessary initial investments.

There are a few prototypes which already exist or are about to be launched. One is La Bonne Maison, which was inspired by green activist and photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand, in conjunction with building giant Geoxia. This house consumes 85 percent less energy than its mainstream equivalent, and is priced at an affordable 125,000 euros for 100 square meters.

Key features include solar panels, high-performance wood-burning stove, outdoor rainwater tank, beefed-up insulation panels (twice more than the standard model home), triple-glazed windows and a “puits canadien”, which is a system for drawing fresh air through a long pipe buried underground. The fresh air is cooled in the summer, and warmed in the winter. See the photo below for the “puits canadien”. It’s an increasingly popular option which, once installed, costs nothing to run and shaves off a couple of degrees in the right direction in all seasons.

For more information on the “puits canadien”, go to puitscanadien.com and construire-sain.com.

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