The Hopes and Failures of Earth Construction

At the beginning of April, on a Wednesday, Ludovic Boespflug closed the doors of the Sevran factory in Seine-Saint-Denis without knowing when they would reopen. The following day, the commercial court declared forced liquidation. Three weeks later, three lines were posted on LinkedIn. “Unfortunately, the Cycle Terre factory had to close its doors on April 10. Basically, for cyclical, technical and financial reasons, the factory was no longer able to fulfill its mission. »

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“A project that made sense… An investment of 4.9 million euros by Europe, 200,000 euros by the region… and this simple message as the end of the story??? », responds the pensioner. An avalanche of tearful smileys on Instagram, many asking how to help. “Are we talking about 500,000 euros? How does it compare to the price of a stand at Mipim? (reality show) ? »sighs architect Nicola Delon, co-founder of the Encore Heureux agency, looking for a collective answer “save this essential tool”.

Disappointment fulfills the hopes raised during the inauguration of the workshop in November 2021. The building, whose large windows overlook the trees of the neighboring park, is beautiful. It is primarily the flagship of a community that seeks alternatives to all concrete and sees in the raw earth a local material, endlessly reusable, universal – “Along with water, land is one of the rare common goods shared by all”reminds Mr. Delon – the solution to two major ills of the construction industry: greenhouse gas emissions and excessive waste production.

There is no shortage of resources

The idea is attractive: with excavated soil from Greater Paris, we would make bricks, paints and mortars. With it, we would build schools, media libraries, housing. There is no shortage of resources. The new metro, the Grand Paris Express, alone has to remove 47 million tons of soil. That’s 27 centimeters more to spread across Ile-de-France.

Also read | What to do with the 43 million tons of soil excavated from Greater Paris?

The 5,000 boreholes made along the 200 kilometer route offer a unique opportunity to get to know the nature of the soil. This idea took hold when architects Paul-Emmanuel Loiret and Serge Joly exhibited their ideas on the potential of waste on construction sites at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in late 2016. The samples are sent to the CRAterre laboratory in Grenoble, which is a reference in the field. The following year, China’s Wang Shu (Pritzker Prize 2012) and developer Quartus were selected to redevelop the Ivry waterworks in Val-de-Marne. The buildings will be made of wood and raw earth, they announce. That’s the trigger. You need bricks; The Terre cycle creates them. The European Union will join and pay 5 millioneuros.

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