In 2011, the Grand Lyon communauté urbaine (“Greater Lyon”) adopted a particularly ambitious territorial Climate / Energy Plan paving the way for 2020. It also made a number of firm commitments to energy transition based on technological innovation and testing with the local people.
Summing up a workshop and discussion held on 6 May, Gérard Collomb, Mayor of Lyon and President of the Greater Lyon Council, emphasised the decision to implement an urban layout which would encourage energy saving by using existing land to redevelop the city, and reintroducing businesses and housing on former wasteland in Lyon (La Confluence and La Part Dieu) and Vaulx-en-Velin (Le Carré de Soie) etc. He also underlined the potential developments in “Chemistry Valley”, notably through the ambitious IDEEL project, an R&D programme aimed at inventing the low-carbon factory of the future. The programme was launched in October 2012 within the Axelera business cluster. Another promising prospect is the recovery of the “inherent energy” unavoidably produced by the industries in “Chemical Valley”, a source estimated at 3 TWh.
In addition to these as yet uncertain prospects, Gérard Collomb insisted on the need to keep users informed. It was, he said, an essential factor in controlling energy consumption. The smart grids currently deployed within Greater Lyon were, he thought, an ideal means of expanding such information but this alone would not be sufficient, as is evident from the problem of apartment blocks. In its Energy / Climate Plan, Greater Lyon set itself an objective of 120,000 low-energy renovations in private housing by 2020, an average of 12,000 a year over ten years. An experimental approach is currently underway with the National Agency for Housing (ANAH, Agence nationale de l’habitat) in 1,200 homes but the authority does not have the engineering and funding required to extrapolate the scheme to 12,000 homes. An assistance package is being considered, possibly along the lines of the SEM Énergies Posit’If created in Ile-de-France. However, a number of speakers claimed that this type of approach was costly and required stable long-term funding. Moreover, joint owners of property have to be convinced of the usefulness of launching such a project – and that’s not easy!
The tendency to exaggerate when publishing the energy results for new buildings helps to conceal the transversal nature of the issues raised by energy transition. The cost of “high environmental quality” (HQE) and “positive energy” (BEPOS) constructions and eco-districts, the urgent need to carry out work on existing buildings and the sheer scale of such a project are obstacles to the more generalised spread of certain developments in architectural and urban designs. Some urban developers feel that they are at a crossroads in their profession and they are trying to reflect this when putting together their programmes. They claim to be stimulated by a period in history which requires them to be innovative in the way they build on existing situations. The aim is a more economically-run city thanks to the emphasis on the sharing of resources in urban planning, notably energy resources.
The vast Bordeaux Euratlantique project or the second phase of the Island of Nantes project are two significant examples of prime contractors changing their working methods. In her investigation, Sylvie Groueff provided a platform for the managers of the development agencies Établissement public d’aménagement Bordeaux Euratlantique and Société d’aménagement de la métropole ouest-atlantique (Samoa, which is in charge of the Island of Nantes project).
At Euratlantique or on the Island of Nantes, the inventiveness required to create a sustainable city presupposes a flexibility that regulations do not always allow. However, strong political support at every level of decision-making can overcome the problem of legislation that is reticent about urban experimentation.
As a consultant to local authorities, public institutions, real estate groups and developers, notably in Nantes, Bordeaux and Rennes, Franck Boutté has a contrary opinion of many widely-held principles. He believes that, at the same time as ecodistricts are being developed, new images of the ideal town are also being created, often reflecting progress but also moving away from the concept of the existing town. The zero-energy building became an architectural icon but it was quickly replaced by positive-energy buildings. For Franck Boutté, the design of such buildings is often led by specifications that are too easy to foresee. Drafted on the basis of limiting principles, wrongly-formulated questions and the failure to take any account of existing habits, the specifications produce a sort of standard which is then applied almost automatically. For the client, a positive-energy building is reassuring; it highlights a commitment to the energy issue. Are these buildings really an illustration of energy transition, though? Franck Boutté advises against a determination to copy (and pay for) the German low-energy model in which windows must remain closed, when people enjoy living with their windows open for part of the year in Paris because of its temperate climate. In Bordeaux, the future positive-energy city hall will include a co-generation system that will provide some of the air-conditioning for the neighbouring art gallery.
Anouk Legendre is an architect who, with Nicolas Desmazières, founded X-TU Architects. However, her interests are not limited to architecture and town planning. She is also fascinated by biology, ecology, the living world, ecosystems and nature in her relations with the urban environment. She uses these disciplines as tools to help her consider and design her projects.
So, why not design a building by transposing phenomena observed in nature? The SymBio “biofaçades” project aims to develop a new type of 3rd generation building producing biomass or even renewable energy. The SymBio “biofaçades” project is headed by the Séché Group. It has been accredited by the Valorial business cluster, which specialises in agri-food, and co-accredited by Advancity, a cluster focussing on sustainable towns and urban eco-technologies. It has been financed under the Fonds unique interministériel (FUI 15, single inter-ministry fund). In addition to X-TU Architects and the Séché Group, its partners include design offices and a public research laboratory.
At the beginning of 2013, the Ile-de-France Region set up a “ société d’économie mixte” (SEM, local public enterprise) called Énergies Posit’if to fund the renovation of insulation in collective housing, in particular apartment blocks, while at the same time investing in renewable energies. The purpose of the SEM is to provide a wide range of services but, more importantly, it can use an innovative economic model to finance its work – third party funding. This consists of advancing all or some of the investment required for energy renovation work and the beneficiary (the joint ownership committee or social housing agency) then repays the cost of the work by means of regular payments that take account of the energy savings generated by the work (in the form of a third party funding levy).
In Rhône-Alpes, change began with the observation that the programme to renovate the region’s buildings, in particular its 270 senior high schools, did not meet the Climate Plan which schedules a 40% reduction in GGEs by 2020. To fund the additional work required, the Region decided, at the end of 2012, to set up a dedicated structure in the form of a “Société publique locale” (SPL, local public company) for energy efficiency, called OSER, to act as a third part investor.
The aim of the SPL is to initiate “an ambitious insulation renovation scheme for public buildings”. The SPL acts as a third party, funding the designs, the work and the subsequent use of the buildings. In return, the authority will pay a rent to SPL while the renovated building is being used (a period of 10 to 20 years).
Thierry Laget, Director General of the Société d’équipement de la région montpelliéraine (SERM), explains how the energy brief for this development SEM has been extended to assist in the urban development of the city, with heating networks and a diversification of energy sources. Since this was followed by diversification of the clientele and an increase in demand for renewable energies, SERM set up a specialist subsidiary in the form of a joint-stock company, Énergies du Sud, in February 2008, a joint project with the Caisse des Dépôts. The other shareholders are GdF-Suez, the Caisse d’épargne Languedoc-Roussillon (savings bank) and Dexia. Énergies du Sud is responsible for the design, planning, installation, funding and operation of energy production projects based on renewable sources of energy or highly effective energy-saving procedures and it guarantees their effectiveness and profitability. The agency provides assistance for local authorities, businesses and developers specialising in sustainable development and looking to add value to renewable energies or improve their energy efficiency, particularly in the real estate sector.
In Grenoble, the first few years of the Bonne eco-district highlighted the essential role played by the people who live there. An unprecedented set of measures was implemented in a number of blocks of flats. The measures revealed significant excesses in the use of heating, up to 70% above the original objective. The measures also revealed the causes of the objective’s failure, which resulted as much from the design of the buildings as from the building work itself with numerous defects. It was also linked to the management of utilities once the building had been handed over to the client. The first parameter for excess energy consumption, however, involved the users themselves. Rather than taking advantage of the building’s qualities to reduce their energy use, they turned up the heating so that they could live in t-shirts in the middle of winter, less expensively than before, even opening the windows when it was too hot in their flat. According to an enquiry undertaken by journalist Gilles Peissel, however, the feedback from the Bonne district made little difference to the major projects currently underway in Grenoble, which are still focussing on changes to the actual building and the use of technology.
However some of those involved have begun to change their methods. One such is Arnaud Segon, Technical Director of the Agence locale de l’énergie et du climat (Alec, Local energy and climate agency) for Greater Grenoble, who says he became aware of the need to develop other types of action in order to encourage change. Over the past few years, Alec has taken steps to change its approach, with the publication of a particularly comprehensive dossier on the issue of energy use, the involvement of positive-energy families or the organisation of a training course as part of the district’s Climate plan. Yet these measures are only effective, up to a point, among people who are already supporters of the cause, said Geneviève Goubel, Alec’s Partnership Project Manager.
A leaflet describing energy transition measures in Loos-en-Gohelle includes the following statement, “It takes imagination and determination on the part of all the local people to create a new development model”. This shows that it is no easier to be reasonable in a town with a population of 7,000 than it is elsewhere. Loos-en-Gohelle may have taken a giant step forward after 136 years of coal mining. It may have already achieved a great deal – eco-buildings, energy saving, renewable energy production etc. It may be combining economic and cultural development in a creative, responsible manner in the shadow of the tallest slag heaps in Europe. Yet the changes in behaviour resulting from the decisions taken are not self-evident; they require “determined” effort. The inspiration came from the (Green) mayor, Jean-François Caron, who was first elected in 2001 and was then re-elected in 2008 with 82% of votes. He is the leader of a dynamic programme of redevelopment, removing the town’s mining identity and projecting it into a sustainable future. Work in “project mode” became the golden rule. It became the guideline for energy renovation in local housing. The issue was managed by Christelle Viel with colleagues from the Technical, Planning, Citizenship and Communication departments. Together, they combined a test-scheme for public housing with better circulation of information of ANAH grants for individuals and renovations coordinated with the occupiers of 70 cooperative “Castor”-type homes.
The town has its own solar power station to support research and development projects. The plant, known as “Lumiwatt”, is managed by the CD2E Association (Création Développement d’Eco-Entreprises) and produces 60 kWh. Between May 2011 and May 2012, during its first year of use, it produced approximately 83,000 kWh.