Is there a sustainable future ahead for the construction industry?

Published on 18 June 2023 - 3 reading minute(s)

In the face of climate change, the construction industry is evolving in step with legislation, a necessary awareness and a more sustainable approach. Respectively the head of a family company specialised in piping, sanitary engineering and sewage treatment, and the manager of the sustainable construction materials team at the École Spéciale des Travaux Publics (ESTP), Charles Robinet and Yassine El Mendili talk about how they see green building.


Yassine El Mendili, manager of the sustainable construction materials team at the École Spéciale des Travaux Publics (ESTP) and Charles Robinet, head of a family company specialised in piping, sanitary engineering and sewage treatment, SAS Robinet.

Sustainable or green building aims to respect the environment and users by adopting methods and processes that factor in the user experience, recyclability, the circularity of materials, etc. Do the regulations that govern this sector seem appropriate to you?

Charles Robinet: “The public works sector generates 3.5% of the CO2 emissions in France*. Not all companies are eligible for government subsidies and the new rules are sometimes complicated to apply. Take vehicle renewals, for example, which represent heavy investments and take time. There is a growing awareness, though. As for us, we are adapting, in particular on the issue of waste prevention and management.”

Yassine El Mendili: “Quite apart from the legal framework, the industry has also been undermined by the health crisis and by the war in Ukraine, which have completely disrupted the supply chains. Whether it’s materials or energy, today we have to find solutions that are as close and as simple as possible, and throughout a building’s lifetime.

Stakeholders need to brace themselves for constraints that are increasingly restrictive. To this end, the RE 2020 Environmental Regulation in force since January 2022 underscores three important points: the need to improve energy efficiency by lowering energy consumption and to reduce new buildings’ environmental impact throughout their lifetime, and the possibility of living and working in suitable conditions (water sufficiency, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, etc.).

In our establishment, this awareness of and inclination for green building has led us to run training courses over the past decade. Our research faculty are also following this trend.”

What initiatives can industry stakeholders such as large groups and SMEs take on the ground?

Y.E.M.: “Big building and civil engineering firms sometimes have difficulty stepping up the pace of the green transition, for want of expertise but also because they face the dual challenge of creating efficient products that are also affordable. They can get around this by drawing on the expertise of smaller companies for which the effect is sometimes reversed since, for them, reducing their footprint can also mean lowering their costs.

I’m thinking of short distribution channels in particular.

C.R.: “To my mind, large groups are actually better equipped to devote teams to green building, for example with in-house research. Advances in concrete, future coated materials and more resistant steels will come from their laboratories. We can take inspiration from these best practices, which we have been able to discuss through our public-works federations, where we meet all of the stakeholders.

This is the case, for example, for the worksite staff facilities, where sorting has become far more stringent. Personally, I’m a big believer in hydrogen for the future of our heavy plant.”


Did you know?

The Michelin Group firmly believes in the potential of hydrogen to usher in more sustainable mobility in the transport industry.



Adopting sustainable construction in a company also hinges on its own mindset...

Y.E.M.: “That’s just it! Sobriety or greater biodiversity must be something people want. Many things are possible, once industry has mined the raw materials to which we can add bio-sourced fibres. It’s the same for the bio-binders replacing cement, or certain waste products that can be upcycled. These initiatives and the capacity for innovation can also become effective arguments for these business’s sales and marketing strategy.”

C.R.: “The involvement of players like Michelin makes its possible to remain the market leader while at the same time encouraging the transition to more sustainable construction. On our side, the lack of strike force for imagining them doesn’t stop us from implementing them and taking action.”

What other benefits can be gained through sustainable construction?

C.R.: “There are the improved working conditions on worksites, where the platforms provided are now more spacious, in particular for efficient sorting. Will a sustainable approach bring us more contracts? There’s talk of alternatives that are tending to become standards, so I’m not too sure about that...”.

Y.E.M.: “In my opinion, yes. All of the stakeholders can reap the benefits of green building, whether it means being more productive, enhancing their image or boosting their brand awareness. I’ve said it before, but for both companies and end-customers, this solution has benefits for everyone!”.



*The figure climbs to 39% for the construction industry as a whole: World Green Council

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