We asked a few questions to Céline Laurens, General Delegate of Francilbois (which will change its name in September 2020 to FiBois). It is a major player in the wood industry and has been federating the wood sector in Ile-de-France for 16 years.
Can you introduce yourself? What is your background? What brought you to work at Francilbois?
After studying at Sciences-po Paris (master’s degree in territorial and urban strategy), I started as a project manager in Issy les Moulineaux in 2005, on development projects such as the Fort d’Issy. Two years later, I began my adventure in the Greater Paris area within the SDRIF mission of the Ile-de-France Region. I then accompanied projects such as the Grand pari(s) de l’agglomération parisienne which gave birth to the Aigp (Atelier International du Grand Paris). From 2012 to 2014, I became a Metropolis advisor in Bertrand Delanoë’s cabinet where I participated in the conception of the Maptam law and then the NOTRe law. Then from 2015 to 2019, my professional life will be punctuated by the Olympic and Paralympic Games and their impact on the changes in Greater Paris: from the drafting of the “Paris 2024” bid file within the JOP mission of the City of Paris to the transformation of the territories through the various strategies (environment, employment, accessibility and public participation) for Solidéo, where I was director of ambition and legacy.
After having elaborated the environmental strategy of the Solideo and in particular of the future village of the athletes, I switched since September 2019 in the implementation of this strategy with the wood sector. As General Delegate of Francîlbois, the interprofessional organization for wood in Ile-de-France, I wish to promote the use of wood among the project owners and developers of Greater Paris to accompany the ecological transition towards the low-carbon city, and to structure the wood industry actors to respond to it. I like to take up new challenges and the one of the forestry and wood industry is a big one and responds to the environmental urgency that is imposed on us. I am happy to put my “board” to the building.
What role does Francilbois play in the wood industry and in the field of eco-construction?
Francilbois, which will change its name to FIBois Ile-de-France in September 2020, has been federating all forest and wood professionals in Ile-de-France since 2004. The association is a member of the France Bois Régions network. This network brings together the 12 regional interprofessions in France, and is part of the National Forest and Wood Program. The network is also part of the National Low Carbon Strategy. The association is supported by the State, the Ile-de-France Region and France Bois Forêt.
It represents the entire sector, from the forest owner to the developer and the final wood product (construction, furniture, furnishing), including wood energy. It also accompanies, through training, prescription, and promotion, the development of professionals and the awareness of the general public (visits to forests, press articles, workshops …). Through its actions, Francîlbois also accompanies the local authorities in the implementation of their climate plan and low carbon strategy, and thus contributes to the evolution of the ways of thinking of the decision makers towards the eco-construction.
What difficulties do you encounter on a daily basis in the exercise of your mission?
Some difficulties result from the paradox of the forestry and wood industry: on the one hand, the general public is increasingly attracted to the wood solution for construction, being an ecological, renewable product, replacing concrete, and reducing the carbon footprint and with which it is good to live. On the other hand, logging, an integral part of timber production, is often associated with deforestation and leads to much local opposition.
The challenge is to better communicate on forest management to the general public, but also to elected officials and professionals in the downstream sector, who still have prejudices about wood, for example concerning its resistance to fire, its sensitivity to various parasitic attacks or its structural stability, whose mistrust has no regulatory basis. Nevertheless, we sense that the construction industry is ready to change its model in depth. The wood industry must be structured to have more influence on public policies and regulations and to communicate more widely on common messages.
What successes can you look forward to?
Since September 2019, the Francîlbois team has been completely renewed, as has its action plan. Among the flagship actions implemented, Francîlbois can look forward to the success of its first General Assembly of Forest and Wood, in January 2020, in the Cité Fertile de Pantin. Intended as the annual meeting of the Ile-de-France industry, this event was an opportunity to bring together the players and professionals of the wood industry around the central question “Will forests and wood save the planet?”, but also to open these issues to civil society: environmental associations, students, schools of architecture, philosophers, scientists … In total, more than 200 people attended.
The team is also in the process of concretizing the Biosourced Wood Pact. The pact is a tool for prescribing wood and is based on a voluntary commitment by project owners, project managers, design offices and architects to build differently, by integrating wood and biosourced materials into their real estate projects. By encouraging the use of wood, this pact contributes to the development of the French wood industry, the renewal of the forest and aims to provide an effective and satisfactory response to the challenges of the National Low Carbon Strategy actively developing the use of renewable wood and bio-sourced materials in construction. It also allows to train and raise the awareness of the downstream actors of the sector to the issues associated with the sector. On November 5, twenty or so developers, project owners (landlords and promoters) will sign this pact, which commits them to building between 10 and 40% of their surface in wood.
Finally, the awareness of the general public to the challenges of the forest in Ile-de-France is part of the missions of Francîlbois. Thus, we have decided to launch the first edition of the “Festival of Forests in Île-de-France” on October 2 and 3, 2020, with many partners. This festival will take place in two stages: A launch event on October 2 in the evening in the form of a theatrical debate – the “Tribunal for Future Generations” & multi-site activities on October 3 during the day (guided tours in forests led by forest managers, visits to sawmills or carpenters, theatrical tours …) in about fifteen locations in public and private forests, where each partner will present a variety of scientific or artistic activities related to the multifunctionality of the forests of Ile-de-France. We hope that it will be a success and that it can be repeated every year.
What are the specific difficulties in the Ile-de-France region?
The difficulties specific to the Ile-de-France region stem from its highly urban nature. Indeed, the strong societal pressure towards forest management can lead, in some territories, to difficulties to maintain and exploit the wood as well as additional costs. This problem can be found in wood processing: local opposition, but also the high cost of land, has led to the virtual disappearance of processing activities (less than 1% of wood from Ile-de-France forests is processed in the region). This leads to a break in the value chain between the upstream and downstream parts of the industry.
Finally, being the capital region, the Île-de-France is a very important consumer basin. The regional production, in terms of energy and materials, are indeed not able to meet the needs of Ile-de-France. These issues are particularly important in the construction sector, which requires large volumes of wood, particularly softwood, whereas the Ile-de-France forests are 94% hardwood. The viability and development of the sector is thus based on the coordination of actors at the supra-regional level.
These different elements may represent obstacles to the development of the forestry sector in Île-de-France, but do not constitute insurmountable barriers. They simply require targeted actions, including increased investments for wood processing industries in Ile-de-France and coordination at the interregional level, to remedy them.
Today, wood constitutes in Ile-de-France about 5% of the total share of housing construction, which is less than the national average and half as much as in Alsace where there is a wood culture. Francilbois tries to involve all the actors in a systemic change of culture because building with wood is not like building with concrete. This requires transforming the “software” of the entire chain of actors.
What are the steps to become a member?
To join, simply contact us via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then send you the membership package, adapted to the structure concerned. You can also visit the Francilbois website which will be revamped in September by becoming www.fiboisidf.fr.
Do you think that wood is a material of the future?
It’s a no-brainer for me. Wood offers many advantages in the construction sector.
Wood, and more broadly bio-based materials, are part of the solutions to meet the challenges of sustainable development. Natural, renewable, and carbon sinks, these solutions make it possible to build low-carbon buildings, neighborhoods, and cities that are more respectful of the environment and of people. This material represents an unavoidable opportunity to meet the objectives of carbon neutrality (carbon storage in the forest and in the material, substitution for more carbon-emitting materials) but also of energy renovation of buildings (high thermal efficiency). The RE 2020 environmental regulation, which will succeed the RT 2012 thermal regulation, should encourage the use of this material, taking into account the carbon footprint of the construction.
The appeal of wood is even more pronounced in the Paris region, where 70,000 housing units are to be built each year over a period of 15 years, as well as a number of new facilities in an already dense urban environment. Prefabricated wood solutions (dry process) become a decisive asset. Two thirds of the process takes place at the plant, which also limits water consumption and inconvenience to the neighborhood and reduces construction time.
A source of innovation and an industry anchored in the short circuit, the use of French wood allows both to optimize an available and abundant resource on the territory, in a logic of interdependence between the different links in the chain, but also to contribute to the renewal of French forests. This optimization leads to the revitalization and relocation of high value-added activities (processing) and goes hand in hand with the growth of non relocatable jobs… and a virtuous local economy spiral.
A big thank you to Céline Laurens who took the time to answer our questions!
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