Saturday, 27 October 2012

A corporate Versailles

Last week some international visitors and I had the opportunity to visit the Head Office of Bouygues Construction, one of the largest companies in France. We were there to look at their sustainability initiatives.

Challenger was first opened in 1988 by Francis Bouygues. Twenty years later they decided to undertake a complete renovation programme but this time to improve on aspects of energy and the environment, upgrading the place for the 3,200 employees.

The renovations will be complete in 2014 and it is expected that energy consumption and carbon emissions will have been reduced by 90% and water consumption by 60%.

 The site is enormous and reeks of money, lots of it. The architecture remains similar to what it was, on the exterior, and is really ostentatious. Here was a man who wanted to make a statement about his wealth and influence. Very Louis XIV complete with statuary.

They are going for environmental certification and have created a control room or 'cockpit' as they call it where they can monitor the functioning of this complex as well as the buildings of their clients.

Key points for the site:
  • Naturally ventilated double-skin facade
  • Indoor environment with controlled lighting and acoustics
  • Lots of parking alongside the central ponds. Of 413 new parks, 250 will be equipped to provide electric car charging facilities
  • Solar roof panels- 12,800m2  of photovoltaic panels
  • Thermal solar panels to heat water
  • Solar farm of 6420m2 inclined at 5 degrees as well as some mobile units which follow the sun.
  • Filter gardens (swales) to collect and filter rainwater
  • Wetlands for encouraging wildlife biodiversity
  • Ground-source energy (geothermic power) - 75 dry bore collectors
 It's well done and somewhat interesting but it IS a showroom for a corporate. It's not as green as it could be. Coming from a past of working in Waitakere City Council's green building with its roof garden, water storage, internal eco systems etc it was difficult to impress me. I think I was more impressed by the flashy PR handbook in English that was available.

I'd rather have a large company at least trying things out and demonstrating technologies for the current and future than one who couldn't be bothered, but the site struck me as being quite an indulgence and over-the-top. Being green should include using as little of the planet as possible to keep your footprint small. NZ had cutting edge ideas, once. That was before the population voted for money-men and greenless politicians.


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