The First Tower

The First Tower


The First Tower

The record-breaking tower

The tallest office tower in France and one of the symbolic skyscrapers of La Défense, the former Axa Tower has been fully refurbished and rebuilt by Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France. Now named the First Tower, it is enjoying a second lease of life thanks to sustainable construction. 

Christian LASNE,
Site Manager
“The First Tower is the largest building to be certified for the French environmental standard, HQE, with targets deliberately pushed well beyond minimum requirements to provide users with better comfort.”


A 231-metre sleek and bevelled silhouette thrusting into the sky, the First Tower holds the French record for height. This was the heaviest refurbishment programme carried out on an office tower in France to achieve High Environmental Quality (HQE) certification. It was an enormous challenge to remodel an ageing skyscraper while fitting it out with the most ultra-modern features. But the challenge was fully met: the 87,000 m² of office space – 10% more that the building originally contained – were handed over in 2011, following five years of design and construction, a month ahead of schedule!


Incorporating numerous innovations, the First Tower project compelled Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France to review its normal operating methods. The project had to be carried out “back-to-front”, or top-down, in order to build ten additional storeys. Such an exceptional project called for exceptional resources. The First Tower contract made use of a particularly wide range of skills from all parts of the Group, with the use of novel construction methods and impressive logistics. A modular tool consisting of 28 tonnes of steel, indispensable for operating inside the building, was designed to order by in-house engineers, site workers and foremen.


The First Tower is no less pioneering in its geometry. It thrusts its bevelled arrowhead into the sky above La Défense, where all the tall flat-roofed towers congregate together, making an architectural statement like no other. The tower has retained its helix structure. The vertical extension of one wing and the layered lowering of the other two creates an extraordinary dynamic which makes it one of the principal focal points of the business district.


The First Tower project was also pioneering in terms of the low impact of the construction site, which was managed with a focus on minimising nuisances and risks for local office workers as well as for site teams. A five metre-wide footbridge was built, for instance, to allow passers-by to cross the construction zone in perfect safety. The widespread use of robotised reduced both noise and dust. The refurbishment of the tower resulted in only half the CO2 emissions that such a demotion and reconstruction programme would normally generate.


Ever since the programming and design phase, the First project has been engaged in a particularly challenging HQE certification process. The building as delivered bears witness to a very high level of ambition: five of the fourteen certifications sought were granted at “very high performance” levels. The project partners set stricter targets than those required by  the certification guidelines, concentrating their efforts particularly on waste management and reduced energy consumption. The focus on energy issues was also reflected by the choice of a gas heating system and heat pumps. Such features as these allowed it to obtain the particularly stringent THPE (Very High Environmental Performance) label.

In Short
76 M
taller than the original tower
40 000 H
of engineering studies required for the project
40 %
of site waste was recycled