The Scientific and Technical Center for Building, CSTB, is a public industrial and commercial company (EPIC), aiming to serve its clients and the public interest.
Its objective is to imagine the buildings and cities of the future by guiding and securing sustainable construction and renovation projects, to improve the quality of life of the people who use them by anticipating the effects of climate change. To reach these goals, it brings together multidisciplinary skills and focuses on five key activities: research and expertise, assessment, certification, testing and the dissemination of knowledge. Its field of expertise covers construction products, buildings, and their integration into neighborhoods and cities.
Research and expertise: Creating knowledge and leveraging it
The CSTB takes a systemic approach to the socio-economic challenges of safety, health and comfort and the environment and energy, as they apply to buildings, neighborhoods and cities. It also guides stakeholders in their digital transformation, to optimize their activities and projects by implementing BIM and new technologies.
It mobilizes its expertise to support public policy decision-makers, the builders and users of buildings and the urban environment.
In 2018, the CSTB began a new research cycle. The R&D program for 2025, anticipating the disruptions to come, aims to guide the construction sector through the major transformations it must undergo. In 2020, it reformed its research steering policy, leading to four strategic areas of focus:
- Buildings and neighborhoods that promote harmonious living Buildings and cities faced with climate change
- Innovation and reliability in construction and renovation
- The circular economy and resources for construction
The research of the CSTB is integrated into the programs of the French Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation. It is also carried out through partnerships funded by the EU and through French programs.
Research partnerships of the CSTB are a major focus for developing and supporting innovation and improving usability. The research partnerships of the CSTB are built on knowledge gained through research and on a solid understanding of the market’s public and private stakeholders, enabling full-scale experimentation and deployment of innovative projects. The contract research and expertise of the CSTB focuses on projects in the areas of Digital Technologies, Energy & Environment, Indoor Air Quality and Risk Mitigation.
Finally, the CSTB guides industrial companies in the design phase of new solutions, in order to help them optimize the performance and launch of their products on the national and international markets.
Assessment: guiding innovation
Innovation assessments performed by the CSTB provide construction professionals with reliable information about the performance and durability of components (systems, materials, elements, equipment, etc.) for well-defined usages and installation conditions. The CSTB guides the stakeholders of the construction industry by favoring the emergence of innovations and their access to the market, while securing them.
On behalf of the public authorities, the CSTB examines applications for Technical Appraisals (ATec). This procedure is defined by the State and governed by the CCFAT (Commission Responsible for Issuing Technical Appraisals). In 2017 and 2020, the CCFAT updated the ATec procedure to focus on the most innovative techniques.
In addition, the CSTB offers technical assessment services to companies seeking to develop marketable innovations. With the Technical Experimentation Assessment (ATEx), the CSTB enables companies to confidently experiment with their innovation in its first full-scale usage, and to gain deeper knowledge of the system at work.
To support the manufacturers of products or systems whose techniques are deemed sufficiently mature but for which no reference documents yet exist, the CSTB offers the Transitional Technical Appraisal (ATT).
At the European scale, the CSTB is a technical assessment body (European Technical Assessment - ETA) and authorized CE marking assessor.
The CSTB is also an Accredited Verification Body under the ETV (Environmental Technology Verification) program. This third-party assessment is international in scope and provides objective, reliable evidence on the environmental performance of green technologies released to the market. The CSTB issues ETV assessments in the areas of air, water and energy monitoring and treatment. It has the required COFRAC accreditation for the verification/inspection of water and energy solutions (no. 3-1565, available at www.cofrac.fr).
Certification: promoting the quality of products and services
For industrial companies, certification is also a visible means of differentiating their products on the market, and is a driver of economic development. For specifiers and users, this sign of quality builds trust in a product’s advantages, in response to targeted requirements.
Certification attests to the performance of a product, a system and/or possibly of a service, according to a standard established with representatives from the industry and society. This voluntary process ensures consistent quality of certified products and/or services, particularly through the monitoring of manufacturing processes or of service provisions.
As an accredited certification organization, the CSTB is a key player in the certification of construction products and services, under various marks. It is accredited by AFNOR to issue the NF mark in 28 application areas. With the National Metrology and Test Laboratory (LNE), it also manages the ACERMI certification mark for insulation products. Finally, it has its own certification mark: QB, which has 26 application areas.
In addition to these certifications, the CSTB also offers classifications to help products highlight their performance and facilitate the choice and specification of the certified product, according to its use in a building (type of building, conditions of use, etc.). In 2017, the CSTB developed 10 classifications; it is pursuing this development so that most product families will have a dedicated classification. This decision-making tool boosts quality on the market, at a time when certification has become a crucial criterion to establish confidence.
The NF and QB Product Certification and CE Marking Certification activities are accredited by the French Accreditation Committee (COFRAC Accreditation No. 5-0010, list of locations and scope available under accredited by the French Accreditation Committee www.cofrac.fr).
Finally, together with its partners and subsidiaries, the CSTB is a major certifier of buildings, neighborhoods and skills in France and internationally.
Tests: optimizing a product, system or project
The CSTB conducts its activities of research and expertise, assessment and certification, thanks to its test engineering and facilities. Based on a multiphysical approach to buildings and on its ability to develop specific test protocols, test engineering characterizes the performance of an innovation, by directly measuring characteristics whose experimental framework has yet to be standardized. In addition, when appropriate, the CSTB can also use a combined approach with digital simulation to push the analysis further.
Furthermore, the CSTB has the ability to implement full-scale tests to explore the integration potential of products as closely as possible to actual conditions. It checks the effectiveness of innovations, factoring in how they will be used, their industrial characteristics and the degree of complexity of the physical phenomena involved.
The CSTB has more than 1,200 test benches as well as major test facilities for use by the different scientific and technical disciplines. These test facilities have a broad range of capabilities for testing materials, products and structural components, for traditional and innovative systems used in building.
The testing activities are accredited by the French national accreditation body (COFRAC). The accreditation numbers are: 1-0300, 1-0301, 1-0302, 1-0304, 1-0305, 1-0306, 1-2122 and 1-1542 for tests (websites list and scopes of accreditation are available at www.cofrac.fr).
Dissemination: sharing knowledge with stakeholders
The CSTB shares knowledge with professionals, in connection with the environmental and societal challenges that guide all of the stakeholders of the construction industry.
Thus, the CSTB makes scientific and technical-regulatory information accessible and immediately usable in the form of print-edition and digital products and services, business software and a catalog of inter- and intra-company professional training courses that are delivered in person or online, in hybrid or in fully digital modes.
The CSTB is also a training organization certified by Qualiopi in the “Training Initiatives” category. This certification attests to the quality of the processes and services offered by training providers and contributes to eligibility for public and cooperative funding.