"World" Economy Club: "We must dramatically accelerate" energy renovation

How do you make building energy retrofits a great national cause, commensurate with its importance in tackling climate change and improving well-being? Benoit Bazin, the general manager of Saint-Gobain, Emmanuelle Cosse, former minister of housing and president of the Social Union for Habitat, and Valérie Flicoteaux, vice-president of the order of architects, compared their solutions

"World" Economy Club: "We must dramatically accelerate" energy renovation

How do you make building energy retrofits a great national cause, commensurate with its importance in tackling climate change and improving well-being? Benoit Bazin, the general manager of Saint-Gobain, Emmanuelle Cosse, former minister of housing and president of the Social Union for Habitat, and Valérie Flicoteaux, vice-president of the order of architects, compared their solutions.

Emmanuelle Cosse: When we talk about thermal renovation, we forget to mention the fuel poverty of many households that have been left to go into debt to heat themselves in poorly insulated homes. To transform all this built stock, a lot of money is needed. Individuals, part of the privileged classes, have the means to follow. But a large majority cannot. The overall cost of a HLM renovation, which we are currently being asked to do, was until recently between 40,000 to 50,000 euros per dwelling. It's 60,000 to 80,000 euros today. Renovating Haussmann, with many more constraints, exceeds 100,000 euros per dwelling. It is sometimes more expensive than the value of the property. It must nevertheless be done, because demolition would cost even more, even if the value of the avoided carbon is not accounted for.

The Climate and Resilience law, which requires the renovation of G-classified apartments by 2025, under penalty of not being able to rent them, was drawn up without having the right knowledge of the stock and without an impact study. The technical and financial support is not up to par. On December 20, 2024, we are concerned that a lot of housing will go out of stock, and people will turn to illegal leases.

Valérie Flicoteaux: We talk a lot about MaPrimeRenov' and energy saving certificates, but the user path to obtain these aids is very unstable and very complex. Among my private clients, the only ones who manage to obtain those to which they are entitled are engineers.

Another subject concerns the stability of these aids. When you are in a condominium of 30 to 50 lots, agreeing is extremely long. You make the decision on the basis of a diagnosis and a work plan financed according to the aid offered. Once you are granted, it takes a year to a year and a half of study. However, the costing of a year ago, following the evolution of prices, is quickly obsolete. In addition, the way you finance your project has changed between the evolution of loans and the aid to which you are entitled. When you negotiate the labor market, the original financing plan is no longer good.

Benoit Bazin: You have to dramatically accelerate. It's not doing 5% more, but five times more and saying to yourself: "in ten years, we eradicate the five million energy sieves". It is scandalous that in France, people have to choose between food, heating and housing. Public buildings must be exemplary. For this, it is necessary to enter into a logic of investments and to give visibility. The construction industry has created 100,000 jobs over the past eight months. We can create 300,000. These are local, innovative and rewarding jobs. But for the moment, when you borrow from the bank, we are concerned with your age, your state of health, your profession, but not at all with the building financed. We have to find a way to interest the bankers.

V. F.: The question of monogeste [a single service] is quite divisive between architects and the French building federation. On our side, we think that we must gradually stop financing the single gesture - what is the point of financing pellet stoves, heat pumps, if it is to heat the street? – and move towards a course of work, inscribed in time, giving absolute priority to the most complicated works – roofs and walls. They are the most expensive, but they have the best ecological profitability.

B.B.: You shouldn't kill single gestures either. MaPrimeRénov has entered the collective imagination, and has allowed people who notice a problem with their energy bill to seek help. But indeed, we are preaching for a construction passport. In the same way that children have a vaccination record, we could say to ourselves: here are the six gestures to properly renovate a building: the frame, the joinery, the roof, the floor, the heating system, even the ventilation.

V. F.: And this is where it is important to be supported in order to intervene wisely on the building with qualified engineering, who is not a diagnostician but a project manager, an architect, an engineer, who knows the building and will not penalize it. Because a bad intervention is to expose oneself to manufacturing pathology where there is none. We ask for the support of studies to support professionals and individuals who are a little confused about "how to do" and "what should I do". The creation of "my Renov guide" is a first step in this direction.

E.C.: We also have to talk about the issue of summer comfort. In social housing, there is the heritage that dates from before the Second World War and that of the 1950s and 1970s. In the 1950s, it is fine. But from the 1960s or 1970s, summer comfort was non-existent. There, we really have great difficulties. Many tenants ask for air conditioning. But the solution is not to put electric ventilation, to increase the loads. What is needed is isolation and recovery from mechanical and natural ventilation. The stakes are enormous. If part of the fleet is equipped with air conditioning, all our collective efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions will have been in vain. Other countries have made this shift, we can see what their carbon emissions are today.

B. B.: We must all be convinced of the social utility of building. Today, recruitment problems in hospitals are due to the fact that an AP-HP nurse cannot find accommodation in Paris, because it costs too much. If you are in poorly heated accommodation, you will be absent from work. It's lost productivity for the country's economy, but we don't realize it. If you have a badly insulated school, the acoustics are bad, the teacher is absent and the child cannot hear. Public hospitals in France are in a dramatic state.

E. C.: It is a political choice. Housing is not a priority. It was not in the presidential debate, when it is the first constraint of the French. It's great that people talk to me about carbon emissions, but what interests me is the individual, it's getting people out of a bad habitat. When you are in the field and you meet tenants or landlords who want to renovate their homes, they just tell you that they don't want to be cold in the winter and that they would like to endure the heat in the winter. summer. It's a pretty simple question.

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