LA TRIBUNE – You were received on September 7 by the Minister of Cities and Housing Olivier Klein. Did you tell him about your requests for “incentives”, mentioned at the beginning of August during the presentation of the group’s half-year results, for solve the housing crisis ?
BERNARD MOUNIER- Sure ! The Minister, who received me for an hour, has on his table François Rebsamen’s report which includes a panel of proposals. I don’t believe in coercive solutions, but more in incentives. For example, let’s find a State-municipal co-management according to needs.
That’s to say ?
Local elected officials are well aware of the problems but face the same concerns as property developers. They face massive rejection from their population to any new act of building. A project does not necessarily bring them revenue, since a new population needs additional public facilities, but we can work together on master plans. We must build here, densify there, densify elsewhere…
Will this really unblock the granting of building permits ?
Yes ! Even the new mayors are trying to do things differently, like the Greens who understood that they had to build. The private sector can do nothing to encourage them but has the responsibility to take measures on its own to improve the quality of housing use. We are therefore systematizing the presence of balconies and heat pumps and developing virtuous systems. In each of the car parks, we are installing electric charging points for local consumption, just as we offer soft mobility trips. We even look at what residents consume on a neighborhood scale.
Still, your project for a new district in Charenton-Bercy seems becalmed…
It was three years late… We bought the land, but we are still having discussions with the city of Paris and the SNCF. Everyone is talking about rebuilding the city on the city and mixed projects and no longer artificializing, but the concerted development zone (ZAC) has still not been created. We plan to convert warehouses there, cover rails and build 250,000 square meters of offices, coworking and housing, with shops, a crèche, a school, coliving, but the time of the public actors means that the project is long. And this when they should be the first to send strong signals in the making of the city of tomorrow!
This 21st century city is also the one that converts obsolete offices into next-generation housing for no longer artificialize the soil ?
If we keep the same permit processes, the same taxation, the same rights to build, we will never get there. Investors have returns and prefer to keep an empty building that still has value rather than transform it.
The planned 30% buildability bonus since the Elan law of 2018 still not enough to make operations viable?
It’s not enough… In Haussmannian buildings or military barracks, a priori, there is no problem. On the other hand, for the buildings of the 1970s, they remain too dilapidated with large trays and often turn out to be thermal sieves. For those, let’s increase the buildability bonus and speed up the procedures. Why wait months or even years for building permits?
Do you defend this shortening of deadlines, if only to avoid appeals, your fight?
We have 5,000 lots under appeal and it is intensifying! Those who submit them are motivated more by dogmatic militant convictions than by questioning the project itself. These procedural professionals take advantage of the legislation in place. How do you explain that in 2022, appeals can be extinguished with a check? It’s easy to create an association: you don’t take any financial risks, unlike the promoter. Especially since upstream, the elected official is supposed to have led a consultation.
How to reverse the situation?
Let’s apply the Swiss model. Each mayor conducts a public consultation at the end of which he organizes a vote. Once the authorization is issued, there is no further recourse. In France, appeals always fall when the work has been done. On the wasteland Nexans, former General Cable Company of Lyon, we have created for two years a real place of transitional urban planning. We display programming plans with our partners, organize round tables and workshops with local actors. Around a bar and games for children, we asked local residents “Which neighborhood do you want? » The neighborhood associations have come, but we cannot do this everywhere. Sometimes we have recourse for operations of 20 apartments…
Is it because the environmental emergency is of concern to our fellow citizens, while the new “RE2020” regulation accelerates the decarbonization of real estate ?
The claimants have a lack of knowledge of the projects and criticize us for doing too much concrete, even when they are operations in… wood. Afterwards, they tell you that the operations are too high… We will nevertheless still need concrete for the infrastructures, the stairs and the ground floors, but we have signed a partnership with Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies which produces low-carbon concrete. We will use it locally in Vendée and Pays-de-la-Loire rather than in Marseille. Why do concrete mixers still run on fossil fuels? Carbon is a civic fight, it has become a company fight.
Precisely, how do you act to reduce your carbon footprint?
Our operations in 2020 and 2021 emitted 1,100 kg of CO2 per m², figures certified by two RE2020 expert design offices. Our future housing operations, in design this year, will emit just under 800 kg of CO2 per m² over 50 years of use. To pursue our decarbonization objectives, we will continue to sign partnerships to build with straw, build with earth… because there are a lot of local initiatives. We will get there through innovation.
For example, we are preparing to sign framework contracts with heat pump suppliers and are also asking them to study their production so that it is more virtuous for the environment. For example, so that their manufacture consumes less plastic and their production less energy. Result: they will invest in the ecological and energy transition for the benefit of the entire value chain and individuals wishing to change equipment. We are going to do the same thing with the manufacturers of carpets, paints and with all the components. Algae-based paint significantly reduces – by around 30% – the carbon content, compared to conventional paint.
Is it economically viable?
In residential real estate, professional margins fluctuate between 5 and 8%. We do less, but we want to quickly reach the standards of the new 2025 regulations: 710 kg of CO2/m², including 260 for the energy part and 650 for the construction part. Today, we are aiming for 750. With heat pumps, the energy part drops to 70 kg of CO2/m², but it remains more difficult for the construction part with concrete (710…). To achieve this, we are going to generalize the digital model to all of our operations – BIM – which has only been used on 5% of projects so far. This will make it possible to offer modular habitats with a housing configurator where the future owner can, for example, choose the location of the partitions. With each modification, the customer will obtain the new price immediately just as the supplier will be immediately informed of our needs and our orders. Today, these changes are made by Excel spreadsheet. Tomorrow, this will yield productivity gains and products that meet the expectations of our fellow citizens. This is already underway in our design operations as of this year.