Editorial Étienne Crépon, CSTB President

The building industry has rarely experienced such a transformation, with the environmental transition, the digital revolution and a great wave of innovations to be embraced. These transformations in the industry coincide naturally with the CSTB's key missions. Thanks to its experience and the complementary nature of its Research, Expertise and Assessment activities, the CSTB can accompany these changes.

The Scientific and Technical Center for Building (CSTB) has pioneered digital modelling, and will continue to steer developments to meet the challenges of the future, in partnership with other research centers, for example by exploring the potential of artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing or 3D printing for the construction industry.

The CSTB also seeks ways to assess innovative solutions to reassure stakeholders about their integration un the buildings. Through multi-disciplinary, multiple-criteria analyses, our applied research assesses the impact that an innovative product or system will have once it is integrated into a building.

Steering developments to meet current and future challenges

One of the challenges addressed by the CSTB in 2016 was the environmental transition, encompassing not only energy efficiency and carbon emissions, but many broader environmental aspects, as well. As part of their work to support public policies for progress in this area, the teams of the CSTB began developing the E+C- label.

Buildings are rapidly gaining in technical efficiency but the CSTB also examines ways to ensure that they are pleasant places to live. A comprehensive approach to health and sociological aspects requires taking into account the uses of a building by its occupants.

As for digital modelling, we are examining how it can be used more extensively, including at the construction site, during the building's operational phase and until deconstruction.

In fact, an optimized approach to issues concerning buildings needs to consider the challenges at the wider scale of the housing block, the neighborhood and even the city. To provide stakeholders with an integrated vision at these scales, the CSTB has created an Urban Strategy Division, supported by all of the Center's specialized divisions.

Another issue of key concern to stakeholders is the cost of quality improvements –whether to comply with regulations and standards or for other reasons – which will affect the total cost of construction. The CSTB works with the government to study the impact of new regulations and to gather and analyze data on the construction industry, which is needed to measure progress.

Guiding the stakeholders of the sector

In the past, the main approach to achieving improvements in building quality and performance was through regulations. Although this approach has clearly produced results, other complementary methods, such as experimentation and certification, can prove very effective upstream or alongside regulations. We must share our knowledge so that professionals in the industry can utilize the results of our research in their innovations.

Thanks to simplified regulations, innovators can transition from means-based obligations to a system which allows more freedom provided that the outcome meets requirements. The CSTB, a trusted third party, can assess proposed alternatives and certify that the building will reach the performance objectives.

New stakeholders in the building industry are a growing source of innovations and so the CSTB has adapted its services by strengthening the Technical Experimentation Assessments (ATEx) procedure. Faster and easier than the Technical Approval, this procedure enables a product to reach the market in about ten weeks, which better suits the expectations of VSEs and SMEs. In 2016, we saw a steady rise in the number of ATEx assessments, and the addition of new fields beyond facades, structural and finishing works.

To make the outcomes of its scientific work as widely available as possible, the CSTB has been transforming its calculation engines into genuine software, offered as standalone programs or bundled into suites offered by software developers.

To further ensure that stakeholders of the construction industry can benefit scientific and technical advances, the CSTB is refocusing its training programs on areas experiencing major changes: BIM and the energy transition.

We are also exporting our competencies in Assessment & Certification and Research & Expertise, thanks to partnership agreements with stakeholders and laboratories in China and South Korea, as well as Spain and Morocco which should create opportunities for us in Latin America and Africa.

For the past 70 years, the CSTB’s researchers, engineers, technicians and administrative staff have built up the knowledge and skills needed to support the building sector. They will continue to mobilize their know-how and professional ethics in the years and decades to come so that our housing and buildings will be safer, healthier, more comfortable and more environmentally friendly.