Real estate: “Even the Greens understood that it was necessary to build” (Bernard Mounier, Bouygues)

Bernard Mounier est président de Bouygues Immobilier depuis février 2021.

LA TRIBUNE – You were received on September 7 by the Minister for Cities and Housing, Olivier Klein. Has he informed you of his requests for “incentives”, mentioned at the beginning of August during the presentation of the half-yearly results of the group, to unblock the real estate crisis?

BERNARD MOUNIER- Of course ! The minister, who received me for an hour, has François Rebsamen’s report on his desk, which includes a panel of proposals. I don’t believe in coercive solutions, but more in incentives. For example, let’s find a State-municipal co-management according to the needs.

Namely ?

Local elected officials are well aware of the issues, but face the same concerns as developers. They face the massive rejection of their population to any new act of construction. A project does not necessarily generate income for them, as a new population needs additional public facilities, but we can work together on master plans. We must build here, densify there, densify in other places…

Will this really unlock the granting of building permits? ?

Yes ! Even the new mayors are trying to do things differently, like the Greens who understood that they had to build. The private sector cannot do anything to encourage them, but it has a responsibility to take action on its own to improve the quality of housing use. Therefore, we are systematizing the presence of balconies and heat pumps and developing virtuous systems. In each of the car parks we are installing electric charging points for local consumption, as well as offering soft mobility trips. We even look at what residents are consuming at a neighborhood scale.

Still, his project for a new district in Charenton-Bercy seems stalled…

It was delayed for three years… We bought the land, but we are still in talks with the city of Paris and the SNCF. Everyone talks about rebuilding the city on top of the city and mixed projects and no longer artificializing, but the concerted development zone (ZAC) has not yet been created. There we plan to reconvert warehouses, cover railings and build 250,000 square meters of offices, collaborative work and housing, with shops, nursery, school, living together, but the time of the public actors makes the project long. And this when they should be the first to send strong signals in the construction of the city of tomorrow!

Is this city of the 21st century also the one that converts obsolete offices into new generation housing so as not to artificialize the land any more?

If we keep the same permitting processes, the same taxes, the same building rights, we’ll never get there. Investors are profitable and prefer to keep an empty building that still has value before transforming it.

Is the 30% building bonus provided for by the 2018 Elan law still not enough to make operations viable?

It is not enough… In Haussmannian buildings or military barracks, a priori, there is no problem. On the other hand, for the buildings of the 70s, they are too deteriorated with large trays and often turn out to be thermal screens. For those, let’s increase the buildability bonus and speed up the paperwork. Why wait months or even years for building permits?

Do you defend this reduction of deadlines, if only to avoid resources, your fight?

We have 5,000 lots on appeal and it’s escalating! Those who present them are motivated more by dogmatic militant convictions than by questioning the project itself. These procedural professionals benefit from current legislation. How is it explained that in 2022 resources can be extinguished by check? Creating an association is easy: there is no financial risk involved, unlike the promoter. Especially since upriver, the elected official is supposed to have led a consultation.

How to reverse the situation?

Let’s apply the Swiss model. Each mayor holds a public consultation at the end of which he organizes a vote. Once the authorization is issued, there is no further recourse. In France, appeals always fall when the job is done. In the moor of Nexans, former Compagnie Générale des Cables de Lyon, two years ago we created a real place for transitional urban planning. We show programming plans with our partners, organize round tables and workshops with local actors. Around a bar and games for children, we asked the locals “Which neighborhood do you want? » The neighborhood associations have come, but we cannot do this everywhere. Sometimes we have resource for operations of 20 apartments…

Is it because the environmental emergency worries our fellow citizens, while the new “RE2020” regulation accelerates the decarbonization of real estate?

The plaintiffs are unaware of the projects and criticize us for doing too much concrete, even when they are operations in… wood. Then they tell you that the operations are too high… However, we will still need concrete for the infrastructures, the stairs and the ground floors, but we have signed a partnership with Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies that produces low-carbon concrete. We will use it locally in Vendée and Pays-de-la-Loire instead of Marseille. Why do concrete mixers still run on fossil fuels? Carbon is a civic struggle, it has become a business struggle.

Precisely how do you act to reduce your carbon footprint?

Our operations in 2020 and 2021 emitted 1,100 kg of CO2 per m², figures certified by two RE2020 design expert offices. Our future housing operations, in design this year, will emit just under 800kg of CO2 per m² over 50 years of use. To pursue our decarbonization goals, we will continue to sign alliances to build with straw, build with earth… because there are many local initiatives. We will get there through innovation.

With what precision?

For example, we are preparing to sign framework contracts with heat pump suppliers and we are also asking them to study their production to make it more environmentally friendly. For example, so that its manufacture consumes less plastic and its production less energy. Result: they will invest in the ecological and energy transition for the benefit of the entire value chain and of people who wish to change equipment. We are going to do the same with the manufacturers of carpets, paints and all the components. Algae-based paint significantly reduces carbon content by around 30% compared to conventional paint.

Is it economically viable?

In the residential real estate sector, professional margins fluctuate between 5 and 8%. We do less, but we want to quickly reach the standards of the new 2025 regulations: 710 kg of CO2/m², including 260 for the energy part and 650 for the construction part. Today we aim for 750. With heat pumps, the energy part drops to 70 kg of CO2/m², but it is still more difficult for the concrete construction part (710…). To achieve this, we are going to generalize the digital model to all our operations, BIM, which has only been used in 5% of the projects so far. This will make it possible to offer modular habitats with a housing configurator where the future owner will be able, for example, to choose the location of the screens. With each modification, the customer will immediately obtain the new price just as the supplier will be immediately informed of our needs and our orders. Today, these changes are made using an Excel spreadsheet. Tomorrow, this will lead to productivity gains and products that meet the expectations of our fellow citizens. This is already underway in our design operations as of this year.