Interview of the month: Simon Brouck

4 minutes of reading

Simon Brouck, property development project manager at Linkcity Île-de-France, tells us about the Eole Evangile triangle project “IF”, a fertile island in Paris.

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Can you tell us a bit about the context and ideas behind the fertile island project?

The IF (“Îlot Fertile” – fertile island) project, adjacent to Rosa Parks station in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, was selected in the framework of the Réinventer Paris programme at the start of 2016, in the Eole-Evangile triangle, one of the largest sites included in the call for innovative urban projects. Linkcity’s success with this project is particularly due to two major factors – the architectural ambition of the plans, including the use of façade stone, but above all the goal of carbon-free operation for the first time in a Paris district.

One of the aspects of this project that makes it stand out from the others is the combined approach to the development, with many different interlinking uses: a sports centre (operated by UCPA), shops (six on the ground floor), a youth hostel, offices (including a startup incubator), a last-mile logistics hub run by Geodis, a hotel, student residence and accommodation for young workers and private and subsidised housing, from studios to three-bedroom homes.

In addition to the comprehensive and innovative approach to the project, particular attention has been paid to the architectural quality. The specific topography includes a large garden in its centre and buildings in clearly identifiable shapes linked to their use around the edge. The buildings offer far-reaching views over the Parisian landscape while their orientation has been designed to let in maximum sunlight.

What are your specific ambitions for this project in terms of sustainable development?

Firstly, biodiversity and the return of nature into the city were major challenges for this project. One of our main ambitions is to ensure the comfort and quality of life of the site’s occupants and local residents. The project has had to address significant issues in relation to the site, the former La Villette gasworks, which had polluted soil and was cut off by railway lines. Linkcity’s idea was to create a small corner of lush vegetation and fresh air. The hanging garden, for instance, comprises an edible landscape of orchards and vegetable plots. As well as its varied flora, it also supports local biodiversity, with insect hotels, nesting boxes and composters. The site will also be Biodivercity© certified, with support from Elan.

Mobility is also a key issue for the project. The site is naturally very well connected and accessible thanks to Rosa Parks station, which opened in December 2016, providing a real multi-modal hub, including RER trains, trams, the metro, Vélib’ and Autolib’. Its location will allow the future district to act as a new urban centre, particularly since a 1,000 m2 last-mile urban logistics platform is included in the project. This will help address one of the major future challenges facing the city.

Finally, efforts were made to consult and inform citizens at a very early stage in the project, from the first design phases with our partner Dedale. Local residents’ commitment to the project and its innovative characteristics (carbon-free operation, incorporation of biodiversity, etc.) are a primary factor in the project’s success. Following delivery of the development, the Living Lab will take over management of these socially-responsibly initiatives. It will be a place of innovation and collaboration providing the coordination needed to maintain social interaction at a local level, while raising public awareness of environmental challenges.

More specifically in relation to the “carbon-free” goal, what conditions have been put in place to ensure the commitment is met?

As well as the announcement of the “carbon-free” goal, this is the first time that Linkcity has committed to this type of 10-year performance contract. A carbon-performance inspection body will be appointed to monitor the neighbourhood’s performance.

In real terms, the commitment covers:
–    the operating phase, for a period of 50 years;
–    consumption in line with thermal regulations;
–    all the housing units, residences, youth hostel, hotel and offices. No commitment has been made regarding spaces outside the operator’s control, such as the shops for example.

This ambition is underpinned by three important measures. The first is based on the logical principle that the best energy is energy which is never consumed. The buildings’ envelope is therefore very efficient in terms of insulation and the technical equipment is high-yield. The impressive equipment is set to include heat pumps (PAC F7) which produce sanitary hot water and discharge cold water to allow their operation. The idea is for this cold water to supply the air-conditioning systems of the development’s offices. This innovative collaboration is possible thanks to the diversity of uses and will help optimise the energy consumed. These initial measures alone will reduce energy consumption by 75% compared with the benchmark solution.

To address the remaining 25%, the second measure adopted by Linkcity is to impose green energy contracts on tenants. From the outset of the project, a decision was taken to restrict energy consumption to electricity, a measure which reduces the carbon impact by 90%. For private occupants, awareness-raising and promotional workshops will also be organised by the WWF.

Finally, the remainder will be offset by electricity production on-site via photovoltaic panels installed and operated by Bouygues Energies & Services. In fact, this project calls for a wide range of the group’s expertise.