The energy and environmental issues we face today are pushing us towards alternative solutions to traditional building techniques and materials.
On 31/03/2017, a conference has been jointly organized by the Architectural firm Coeba, the Luxembourgish Housing Association “Fonds du Logement” and the sustainable construction innovation cluster Neobuild on construction/refurbishment with bio sourced materials along with a prefabricated approach.
In front of a public comprised of more than 100 professionals involved in sustainable construction, these new alternatives and methods of construction were presented and discussed.
Earlier in the morning and prior to the conference, the sector's main stakeholders have been invited to a workshop and introduced to the "E = 0" project, financed by European funds through the Interreg North-West Europe program. This project supported nationally by the Ministries of Economy and Housing, aims to reduce the energy consumption of homes through efficient, affordable and rapid renovation.
Refurbished in less than a week with solar panels, façades and insulating roofs as well as new energy equipment, the houses are intended not to consume more energy than they produce.
In Luxembourg, E=0 is not only part of a circular economy approach, but also of an eco-responsible one. The aim is not only to reduce the environmental impact generated by the materials used, by privileging the natural ones (bio-sourced), but also to implement new methods of renovation, such as the industrialization of prefabricated elements.
It does not mean that machines will replace men. But they can bring an added value by assisting them efficiently, especially with certain tasks and repetitive gestures. The prefabricated construction makes it possible to combine the know-how of men with the precision of the machine.
Prefabricated elements can integrate materials that are environmentally friendly, but also local raw materials. We have vast renewable natural resources next to us! Yet, we do not exploit them sufficiently.
The export of timber harvested in forests without any valorization in Luxembourg is indeed a socio-economic issue, particularly for beech wood, which is highly exported abroad. Through concrete German, French and Luxembourgish cases, the conference was able to pinpoint local materials with high added value, possessing technological qualities beneficial to sustainable construction.
Straw can be integrated perfectly into the construction of thermal insulation elements for example, while beech wood is a solid material that can be easily used for frameworks and interior layouts.
Contrary to common beliefs, these materials have proved their resistance and durability, not only against fire, but also moisture and aging. Of course, their organic nature makes them somewhat alterable, but they are flexible and their energy benefits are important.
Moreover, these materials comply with the requirements of LENOZ (the Luxembourgish sustainable certification with 143 specific criteria), in particular because they are recyclable and have an excellent carbon footprint.
Today, there are over 1000 existing buildings built in straw in Europe. From single-detached houses to multi-family dwellings, as well as relay houses and administrative buildings, examples of constructions made of straw and beech wood prove that these materials could represent realistic alternatives to traditional structures.
Refurbishing with these materials is the next logical step with benefits that are both environmental and economic. E=0 represents a perfect opportunity to push further this sustainable commitment.