All rights reserved © 2019 CSTB
The Scientific and Technical Center for Building
(CSTB) is a public body for innovation in construction. It focuses on five key activities: research and expertise, assessment, testing, certification, and dissemination of knowledge, all performed to address the challenges of the environmental, energy and digital transitions in the construction sector.
In the construction industry, as in most major industries in France, innovation is flourishing. It is powered by everyone: industrial companies that design new products and systems, as well as project owners and managers, who use innovative products, upgrade their work processes or depart from the standards and rules, as the law now allows. This makes it possible to think outside the box and offer alternative solutions, instead of adhering strictly to regulatory obligations.
The five key factors of innovation
At the CSTB, we decided to examine the major drivers of innovation in the construction industry. We believe that there are five.
The first is the environmental transition, which goes well beyond the question of energy alone: it encompasses the issues of carbon, health concerns, and more. Developers and project owners are grappling with new environmental requirements: managing and saving water, managing waste, integrating the circular economy and protecting biodiversity.
The second driver of innovation is the digital revolution. The construction industry is turning to digital tools and discovering their full potential... and their risks.
A third factor is the growing demand of end users for buildings, neighborhoods and cities whose performance lives up to expectations and promises. The entire property and construction sector will now have to deliver results that go beyond basic compliance with standards. The demand for quality has pushed the industry to change its processes.
Another related shift is the increased industrialization of structural parts assembled in factories, to create systems whose quality and performance are checked in the factory, before being delivered to the construction site. Long reserved for industrial niche markets, such systems, developed with digital tools, reduce on-site construction time and the risk of poor workmanship.
Finally, a growing focus on renovating the existing building stock, in line with environmental transition policies, constitutes another strong driver of innovation. Construction products are now being designed specifically for this market.
Identifying needs, upstream
In 2018, the CSTB continued to improve the guidance and support it provides the public authorities, city planners and stakeholders of the construction industry. Through its research activities, the CSTB explores new fields, while deepening its knowledge of existing topics. For example, its work on asbestos in buildings led the CSTB to develop specific tools for sampling and measuring, as well as dust containment systems.
Regarding the circular economy, the CSTB has undertaken research to determine how to recycle decades-old PVC in construction products, which may contain materials that are now banned, such as lead or cadmium stabilizers that were formerly used in PVC.
The CSTB has also accelerated innovation in the area of comfort, by developing the Pulse method, which is used to evaluate the sensory qualities of a product or place, in order to enhance the wellbeing of users. Pulse’s broad range of applications has attracted an equally varied array of stakeholders: local governments, for the taste of water, cosmetics manufacturers, to test the effects of skincare creams, vehicle equipment manufacturers, for the comfort of the vehicle interior, and more.
The CSTB guides the stakeholders of innovation in the area of digital models, to help professionals become familiar with using these tools and creating their own digital environment with their partners. Research partnership agreements have been signed with building stock managers, such as the Ministry of Defense, or social housing operators, such as CDC Habitat and RIVP. For the latter, the research will examine the use of BIM to monitor the design, construction, renovation and operation of residential buildings.
The CSTB also supports startups through an ongoing program called CSTB’Lab, which is supporting some 15 innovative new companies. Launched in 2017, with a general emphasis on digital technologies, CSTB’Lab is now specializing its calls for applications in renovation, indoor air quality, and similar areas. The aim is to facilitate the emergence of interrelated ecosystems at CSTB’Lab, consistent with the main challenges of the construction industry and sustainable cities.
The CSTB continues to pursue projects where it takes the lead in innovation, itself. In Health & Comfort, partnership agreements have been signed with about 20 social housing operators for Bioguess, a system developed by the CSTB that detects mold, dry rot and wood-eating insects.
In order to meet the quality requirements of end users, the CSTB is developing and expanding its certification guidelines, which have also been simplified. This is the case with a procedure for using the ACERMI insulation certification, developed by the CSTB and the LNE. Likewise, the new, revamped ECAU classification is a guide for selecting sanitary equipment, including faucets, based on type of usage. Slated for completion in mid-2019, it will help project owners and private individuals choose the right products for their needs.
OsmoZ, a quality-of-work-life certification developed by Certivéa for office buildings, has already attracted the interest of major corporations and local government agencies that want to improve their organization and services.
Finally, customized in-company training is being developed to guide and support the clients of the CSTB. For example, Société du Grand Paris chose the CSTB to jointly lead the BIM Club of the Grand Paris Express community. This far-reaching project entails the sharing of digital models on a networked collaborative platform. As Société du Grand Paris wants to use the KROQI platform, the CSTB is delivering a large-scale program to train the broad range of participants who will need to use the tool.
Progress and development at the CSTB, aiming to serve all its clients and partners, is made possible thanks to the competency and dedication of its teams, and I thank them for their remarkable work. The researchers, engineers, technicians and administrative staff - all the employees of the CSTB - dedicate their skills to guiding and supporting the construction industry.
A WORD FROM ...
« A wide range of services and expertise to guide international stakeholders in their projects. »
Delegate General Director
Deputy CEO in charge of Strategy and Finance
« Helping create buildings and neighborhoods that promote harmonious living. »
Deputy CEO in charge of Research and Development
« Developing knowledge and improving practices to ensure the stability and resistance of buildings. »
Deputy CEO in charge of Technological Activities
Delegate General Director
Deputy CEO in charge of Strategy and Finance
What role does the CSTB play on the international stage in construction research?
The environment, digital technologies and renovation are global challenges. Outside France, the CSTB uses its multidisciplinary knowledge of buildings and cities to establish research partnerships with industrial and academic stakeholders from all over Europe. The European Commission provides support to many of our collaborative projects, most notably through its Horizon 2020 (2014–2020) program.
Digital technologies are expanding as fast as ever, and professionals need more tools every day. Our European R&D partnerships include BIM-SPEED, which is developing a combination of methodologies and tools based on a central information source: the building information model (BIM), a digital representation of a building. BIM4Ren is another project funded by Horizon 2020 involving 23 partners from 10 countries to develop BIM for energy renovation in existing buildings. Regarding the environment, we are participating in the European research project Groof, which focuses on controlling global warming and the greenhouse effect.
The CSTB is also signing bilateral partnership agreements with its European and international counterparts on specific research topics, such as fire safety.
How does the CSTB export its skills and expertise in running major projects?
The CSTB offers a wide range of services and expertise to guide international stakeholders in their projects. It uses its advanced test facilities to meet the needs of stakeholders throughout Europe and beyond in areas as diverse as the automotive industry, the environment, renewable energy and construction. One example is the recently modernized Jules Verne climatic wind tunnel, which is the most advanced in the world.
Our expertise in urban strategies embraces many disciplines, including the environment, clean air and water, the circular economy and mobility. It underpins the Sino-French Eco-cities research project, which led to the launch of 5 city projects in 2018 and 3 in 2019.
In 2018, we also guided international clients by providing expertise and testing of major structures: high-rises in Birmingham and Leeds, tunnels under the Suez Canal in Egypt and fire safety engineering study for a hospital in Monaco, to name a few.
The CSTB promotes its skills at numerous international events. It actively participated in the 40th International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE) Symposium in September 2018 in Nantes, which focused on “Tomorrow’s Megastructures.” In an entirely different area, we promoted our new PULSE Laboratory in 2018. It performs innovative scientific diagnoses of the sensations perceived by users of materials, products and places. The EuroSense Conference on research and innovation concerning the relationship between sensory perception and consumers provided a perfect opportunity to present the work at PULSE.
Finally, the CSTB shares its knowledge and expertise to develop test facilities for its international partners, such as the fire resistance laboratory at the Technical Center for the Wood Processing and Furniture Industry (CTIBA) in Morocco. We also assisted the upskilling of its teams.
Where does certification stand in your international activities?
The CSTB Group exports HQE environmental certification of buildings through its subsidiary Cerway.
In 2018, several performance audits were conducted for major international projects, for example, commercial spaces in Morocco, the regional headquarters of a bank and educational buildings in Vietnam, and a housing complex in Poland. In addition, Cerway certified four projects for the first time in Algeria, Morocco and Colombia. The year 2018 also saw the signing of agreements with our Spanish partner Tecnalia, which adopted HQE certification.
Using a cross-cutting approach to harmonize environmental certifications of urban development projects, Cerway collaborates with its European counterparts, including DIBt in Germany. Although construction methods vary from country to country, assessment methods for products and structures can be shared. Our contacts with certification and testing bodies provide opportunities to compare our approaches and learn how to improve them.
Deputy CEO in charge of Research and Development
The building: a hybrid object and boundless space for innovation
CSTB research activities address the major societal issues of daily life in the built environment, from the scale of a single building to a neighborhood, and to an integrated urban and regional territory. In addition to the fundamentals of safety, health, comfort and sustainable development now widely applied, new requirements are emerging from deep structural changes in the industry. Population growth and aging, unbridled urban sprawl, appetite for high quality of life in both private and public spaces, changing lifestyles in terms of relationships, work, leisure, consumption and mobility, in a context of a mass digital revolution – all of this is making today’s buildings a focal point for change. The building is a hybrid object combining sociological, economic, and technological challenges and that is what makes it a space with infinite opportunities for research and innovation at the socio-technico-economic level but also in organizational and behavioral terms.
The CSTB helps stakeholders in sustainable construction to address these topics with a multidisciplinary approach on various levels, strengthened by pivotal scientific and technical partnerships. In 2017, there were advances in performance-oriented approaches to energy solutions in new and renovated buildings and multifactor characterization (health, comfort, energy, etc.) of diverse living spaces, with their associated indicators and frameworks. Major progress was also made in semantic approaches, building information dynamics and its combination with simulation tools through digital models, and expert rules essential for the digital transformation of construction. These are just a few examples.
In parallel, a more practical vision of research results for technology issues has been adopted. That vision now supports the system and product innovations of manufacturers by guiding their creative processes and adapting tools and methods implemented for their overall assessment.
As the CSTB began preparing its research road map for 2030, the evaluation of results conducted every four years by the Scientific Council of the CSTB stressed the relevance of the scientific and technical choices. The Council not only emphasized the need to continue research in its key areas (risk management, health, energy, environment, economy, uses, digital technologies), it strongly urged an additional focus on issues concerning data, aging, sustainability, the circular economy and investigation of new ways and means of construction, as well as expanding national and international partnerships with universities.
Regarding intellectual property, 2017 saw the implementation of a more proactive patent policy to protect research results and pave the way for robust partnerships with industrial companies. Both internally and with external stakeholders, the CSTB is promoting more targeted research that responds better to market needs, backed by scientific excellence whose markers remain scientific publications, patents and the development of research partnerships.
As concerns leveraging the results of its research, in addition to a rising number of partnerships with SMEs, large enterprises and local authorities, two examples illustrate the CSTB’s approach:first, the development of the KROQI platform, in support of the French National Digital Transition Plan for Construction (PTNB), which enables VSEs and SMEs to adjust to the digital transition, opening avenues to efficient services and successful transformation of the sector; second, as part of making research results available to the industry, the Bioguess subsidiary continues to develop its work on the detection of fungal contaminants using generic technologies that can be applied to numerous contaminants (dry rot, wood-boring insects, allergens, etc.) found in construction and other industries (food, health, etc.).
To summarize, although the advances are real and acknowledged in businesses, industrial companies and State services, including assessment of extreme events, such as the hurricane Irma, expectations are ever wider, spurred by multidisciplinary approaches and access to mass data. Charting a course for the research road map to address these crucial issues requires a solid policy for scientific and technical partnerships and a desire to provide solutions to all stakeholders. That is precisely the groundwork accomplished by the CSTB in 2017!
Deputy CEO in charge of Technological Activities
Expertise in structural reliability control: in increasing demand
Buildings are complex systems, one fundamental function of which is to guarantee the safety of the occupants. This is why one key mission of the CSTB consists of reducing buildings’ vulnerability, both to ensure the safety of the users and to protect property.
Since it was founded, the CSTB has contributed to developing knowledge and improving practices to ensure the stability and resistance of buildings against harsh external factors of all kinds, including severe weather events, earthquakes and other accident situations. To do so, it relies on internal research and research partnerships to optimize its expertise in anticipating predictable risks, both in the scope of the action itself and in the structure’s response, applying modern methods of safety engineering. Moreover, these methods are increasingly used, particularly in the response to accidental fire events.
Concerning control over the structural response, the CSTB has developed experimental methods to test and analyze the limits of construction products and systems, for example in work carried out on the lining segments of the tunnel under the Suez Canal. In order to qualify the risks caused by incorporating an innovative technology into a structure, and to ensure that the technology is compatible with the adjacent components and systems, the CSTB performs technical assessments and issues certificates.
For example, the CSTB offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to the safety of the building stock as regards risks to the solidity of structures in the event of fire. The activities of the CSTB rely on all of its specialties: research and expertise, assessment, testing, certification, the dissemination of knowledge and training.
Marseille: an example of expertise in the service of crisis management
These missions have expanded to include post-crisis management, for which the CSTB can respond at short notice, at the request of the public authorities. In particular, this may involve studying the resistance capacities of building structures, or making an assessment in the event of a damaged structure. Or for preventive purposes, the CSTB can evaluate buildings in light of structural components in a severe state of disrepair. These studies are carried out in an approach combining tests and digital simulation.
These are the skills of the CSTB that led the French government and the City of Marseille to commission it to perform a technical assessment after two old buildings collapsed on Rue d’Aubagne in Marseille on November 5, 2018, killing eight people.
A multidisciplinary group of experts* was formed by the city to secure the premises and evaluate the risks in the area. The purpose was to help the city, the French government and the Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea (DDTM) carry out search and rescue operations and secure the neighboring buildings, from which the inhabitants had been evacuated.
This mission was organized in several phases in the weeks following the disaster.
A technical assessment determining the causes of the collapses was conducted first, in order to prevent any new accidents and to facilitate the completion of the search and rescue operations.
Next, our experts evaluated the condition of the evacuated neighboring buildings and helped the city secure these buildings.
In addition to the risk of other buildings collapsing on Rue d’Aubagne, the CSTB was also consulted on the structural risks reported about numerous buildings with the same design and from the same time period in Marseille.
Finally, risk assessments were performed on the basis of the methodology and tools developed by the CSTB, so that a very large number of buildings could be evaluated in an acceptable time frame.
Guiding preparations for reconstruction: the example of Irma
After the phases of crisis management and diagnosis, the CSTB can get involved to prepare for reconstruction, as it did at the request of the public authorities after Hurricane Irma hit the French West Indies in September 2017, with exceptional intensity.
From January to May 2018, the CSTB thus coordinated the drafting of best practices guides for construction professionals and residents. The aim was to facilitate the reconstruction in a way that was geared toward greater safety during future predictable natural disasters. These guides were written to reflect specific local characteristics, especially in terms of the construction of structures.
After preparation and reconstruction, time to draw lessons from the events
Irma and Jose were extreme weather events. The French Ministry for an Ecological and Solidary Transition requested that the CSTB analyze past weather events, both on the Atlantic and on the Indian Ocean, in order to check if the sizing rules were still relevant.
The first step consisted of comparing the ways in which extreme phenomena were taken into account in the regulations of the main regions of the world affected by such events (the United States, Japan, Australia and Europe).
The second step aimed to compare the benchmark wind speeds taken into account in the Eurocodes, with the latest available weather data.
Finally, in the last phase, the CSTB will make proposals for potential changes in building design standards, in order to take these extreme events into account by analyzing their technical and economic implications.
Through its expertise in risk mitigation, the CSTB is able to guide the public authorities in their assessment of situations and preparations for reconstruction, while also providing recommendations on updates to sizing regulations.
* The multidisciplinary group of experts was composed of an architectural firm (ARCHIPOLE SUD), a structural engineering firm (AXIOLIS), a geotechnical engineering firm (GEOTEC), a demolition project manager (EDICTIS) and a control office (APAVE), in addition to two public bodies: CEREMA (Center for the Study and Expertise of Risks, the Environment, Mobility and Development) and the CSTB.
THE CSTB, SUPPORTING THE PUBLIC AUTHORITIES THROUGH DIGITIZATION OF REGULATIONS
In late 2016, the CSTB was commissioned by the public authorities to develop a method and tools, together with the industry’s trade organizations, to facilitate the digitization of regulations and to ensure that they are properly applied in buildings. The idea was to bridge the gap between regulatory documents and the technical language of digital models. The project, completed in 2018, produced several applications presented on KROQI.fr, the digital platform of the construction industry launched by the French government in May 2018, developed by the CSTB.
CHARACTERIZING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY – FONDATION BÂTIMENT-ÉNERGIE
To understand current environmental challenges in the construction industry, key factors have been identified: energy conservation, reduction of carbon and other emissions, and the circular economy. Although waste management is supported by numerous incentives and initiatives, the circular economy is based on a more global concept that considers the entire building life cycle.
PULSE FOR SENSORY ANALYSIS
Building on its R&D on the taste and smell of drinking water, the Pulse Laboratory makes use of innovative methods developed by the CSTB for the sensory analysis of products and ambient conditions, with the aim of contributing to improving the well-being of users. Pulse is a patented innovation that provides objective and multicriteria assessment based on the unconscious responses of users.
CSTB POST-DISASTER CONSULTING PROJECTS
The CSTB intervenes after a crisis occurs, first during the crisis management phase, in order to determine which emergency damage control measures should be implemented, and then during the post-crisis evaluation and analysis phase, to determine what work needs to be carried out to prevent certain disasters from reoccurring, where possible. For example, the CSTB was commissioned by the government to carry out assessments in Marseille and in the French West Indies after disasters occurred there.
THE CSTB LAUNCHED THE CSTB’LAB, ITS STARTUP ACCELERATOR
Inaugurated in late 2017 by Julien Denormandie, secretary of state to the French Minister of Territorial Cohesion, the CSTB’Lab welcomed 9 new startups in 2018, demonstrating the commitment of the CSTB to supporting innovation and speeding up digital transition in the construction industry.
The CSTB’Lab is an accelerator for innovative startups in construction, developed in partnership with Impulse Partners.
THE CSTB, ATTENTIVE TO THE NEEDS OF STAKEHOLDERS IN THE PIPING MARKET, WITH QB 08 “WATER SUPPLY OR DRAINAGE PIPING”
In order to respond to the needs of the piping sector and its clients, the CSTB has divided the QB certification into two levels of performance.
The first level deals only with the requirements of the European standards (basic sizing characteristics, 50-year durability, fitness for purpose and use).