Interview with Eric du Passage | Sustainable Business Manager at Saint-Gobain
LECA is part of the Saint-Gobain Group which is committed to bring more sustainable products and solutions to the construction sector.
To understand why these commitments are so important for us, we invited Eric du Passage, Sustainable Business Manager at Saint-Gobain, to share with us Saint-Gobain’s sustainability view.
First of all, Eric, what does sustainable construction mean for Saint-Gobain?
By publishing its new GROW & IMPACT strategy for the period 2021-2025 in October 2021, the Group shared its new vision: to be the world leader in sustainable construction. But what are we talking about? A new building or renovation project can be described as sustainable if, over its entire life cycle, it has a reduced impact on the environment while contributing to improving people's health and well-being. And this without any prejudice neither for the quality or for the economic value of the property. For Saint-Gobain, the sustainable dimension of a building is prioritised around 4 pillars: Energy & Carbon, Resources & Circularity, Health & Safety on the jobsite, and Health & Wellbeing for the occupants. We can see LECA’s contribution in each one of these pillars.
The construction sector represents 38% of the world’s carbon missions, how can this be reduced?
This is the result of two sources of emissions, 27% is related with the energy consumption during the use of heating, lighting, etc. and 11% is related to the production, transport and the end of life for building materials. It is necessary to change the construction practices to guarantee energy efficiency of the building and have construction materials with a low carbon footprint. SAINT-GOBAIN is decarbonizing its transport, manufacturing processes and raw materials, for example by using more and more recycled material. Ambitious targets have been defined on scopes 1, 2 and 3 for 2030. LECA is changing the energy source of its production process to more sustainable ones, which will have positive impact on carbon footprint of Leca® lightweight aggregate (LWA) and Leca® blocks.
Can you discuss the ‘Resources & Circularity’ pillar?
As is well known, construction accounts for around 40% of the world's natural resource consumption and solid waste generation; there is a need to significantly reduce the use of water and non-renewable resources - to recover waste and to make better use of existing buildings.
For example, SAINT-GOBAIN reduces the water footprint for its products, and develops dry solutions that minimize water consumption on site. On the other hand, one way of avoiding the resources exploration is through the circularity of the existing materials, thanks to reuse or recycling. At LECA, for example, it is possible to incorporate waste materials from other SAINT-GOBAIN industries, such as ISOVER, GLAVA, ECOPHON, into the manufacturing process.
When we talk about extending the life of a building we can see a significant environmental benefit. Being able to change the purpose of a building, for example from commercial to residential use, avoids early deconstruction. Deconstruction must be favoured over demolition: this is a way to reduce the quantities of non-recovered waste and to increase recycling or reuse. Today, at Leca Sweden, there is a concept called Leca® Tur & Retur that makes it possible for LECA to buy back material from the market that can be reused in a future project.
The health and safety of construction workers are at the heart of Saint-Gobain’s approach. Can you tell us more about this?
Safety on construction sites consists of reducing occupational risks for workers throughout the construction, renovation, or deconstruction of buildings. Construction workers can be exposed to emissions of hazardous substances from construction products and we cannot forget the physical efforts needed for their functions.
SAINT-GOBAIN takes care to minimize as much as possible the risks linked to the substances contained in or emitted by the products. We also provide lighter products or products that are easier to handle and install to reduce the risks of musculoskeletal disorders: See for example Leca® block, compared to traditional blocks.
We spend 90% of our entire life inside buildings- How is the health and wellbeing of the occupants seen in Saint-Gobain?
The health and wellbeing for the occupants are influenced by a lot of different aspects. The ventilation of spaces; the release of organic compounds to the air from the construction materials and thermal and acoustic solutions are some of the examples that significantly influences the experience of occupants. SAINT-GOBAIN offers a range of solutions to meet these challenges.
A balanced thermal environment is essential to feel good. Buildings must maintain the ideal indoor temperature throughout the year whilst consuming very little energy. As we can see, thermal and acoustic comfort can have a huge impact in our daily-life. In recent years, LECA has developed solutions to meet these needs – this includes improving the characteristics of thermal and acoustic insulation of Leca® blocks.
Thank you Eric for this overview on the importance of a sustainable construction. What do you like to say to conclude our conversation?
SAINT-GOBAIN is at the side of its customers and partners to innovate and help them design, build and renovate more sustainable buildings by offering them innovative and efficient solutions. Being a leader in sustainable construction does not only mean being the best in the market. It also means being a pioneer in our sector, transforming the market and mobilizing the entire value chain. It also means inspiring our teams, attracting talent and having an impact on society in all its diversity.
Full interview available on BUILD Issue number 2 – 2022.