“The issue of resilience has long been avoided”

While working to combat climate change is still at the heart of the global agenda, its consequences only become more severe. Amélie Roux, Chief Economist, and Emmanuel Normant, Vice President for sustainable development, share their vision of sustainable construction that is resilient to climate hazards.

« Le sujet de la résilience a longtemps été évité »

Why is resilience an increasingly important concept in sustainable construction?

Amélie Roux: Globally, we have long thought that if we channeled all our efforts into net zero carbon emissions, we would be able to mitigate the most dramatic consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods. It’s clear today that this is not the case. Thus, constructing or renovating a building to withstand these inevitable climate hazards means making it resilient.

Emmanuel Normant: The issue of resilience has long been avoided. It was almost taboo! But even in the most optimistic scenarios, even if all stakeholders manage to align themselves with the Paris Agreements and limit global warming to +1.5°C, there will still be significant changes to our planet. We can already feel them. Therefore the whole point of resilience is to understand these changes and the effects they will have on our markets, our solutions and our ways of working.

What does this mean for Saint-Gobain?

Emmanuel Normant: The challenge is to ensure a level of comfort for building users despite the increasing frequency of climate hazards. Many of our solutions have been designed to do just that, such as insulation to protect against cold. But tomorrow, will this insulate people just as effectively against heat waves?

Amélie Roux: We are also going to see new combined offers emerge or increase in scale. For example, this will be the case with green roofs or façades, which reduce the heat inside buildings while promoting biodiversity. Or cool roofs that reflect the sun’s rays to protect against heat. Solar control glazing is also set to expand.

Emmanuel Normant: Our offer needs to evolve, and at Saint-Gobain we have a tremendous strength to facilitate that: our international presence. We sell building and renovation solutions every day in places as far apart as the United Arab Emirates and Canada. So we have the know-how. It is by applying all our expertise that we will be able to provide answers to this global problem.

Is the concept of resilience limited to residential buildings?

Emmanuel Normant: Unfortunately not. It is a crucial issue for our plants and the working conditions of our employees. We have to adapt our facilities to withstand flooding, by relocating electrical installations for example. One day, we may have to rethink our working conditions to cope with heat waves. All the climate risks must be incorporated into our future investment and business continuity plans, working together to find the best solutions according to local conditions.

Amélie Roux: Here again, we have solutions to offer. Off-site construction, which reduces the time spent working on the building site, is widely used in the Nordic countries during periods of frost. In the future, it will doubtless be used to reduce working hours on outdoor building sites during heat waves. The progress made with construction chemicals, to use less water in concrete mixes, is also a way of adapting to climate change and further conserving this precious resource.

So Saint-Gobain should take a stand on this issue?

Amélie Roux: Of course! Our major customers, both developers and builders, are increasingly raising the issue with us. Regulators are getting to grips with it, as are green labeling schemes. Cities are forming coalitions to find solutions to make their buildings and neighborhoods more resilient. Insurability issues are starting to emerge, and whole swathes of our cities will be without insurance cover if we don’t succeed in constructing resilient buildings.

Emmanuel Normant: As worldwide leader in light and sustainable construction, we have a responsibility to provide solutions. And that’s what we’re doing, through our offer, but also through the actions of the Sustainable Construction Observatory – both internally and externally – to bring all stakeholders on board in the sector’s transition.

Emmanuel Normant : En tant que leader de la construction durable, nous avons la responsabilité d’apporter des solutions. Et c’est ce que nous faisons, à travers notre offre, mais aussi à travers les actions de l’Observatoire de la Construction Durable – en interne comme en externe – pour embarquer toutes les parties prenantes dans la transition du secteur.