Sustainable development - a driver of innovation
The divisions' innovation and R&D departments have the shared goal of designing and improving green and economically viable solutions aligned with the need to reduce the businesses' footprint.
Technological innovations in the fields of communication, energy exchanges or materials and new mobility practices are beginning to take shape. As both motorway network concession holder and construction company, Eiffage implements ongoing research to integrate these innovations and build demonstrators.
APRR and AREA thus take part in progress initiatives. On the theme of user safety, since January 2014, tests have been carried out to detect vehicles driving in the wrong direction on a section of the A48 motorway on the AREA network upstream from the Voreppe toll (in the Grenoble-Lyon direction). Two Doppler radars have particularly been installed and five other technologies have been tested: doppler radars and thermal cameras deliver the expected performances in terms of detection rates and false alarms and are currently tested on the A39 (APRR network). The tests have allowed three types of equipment to be selected and the deployment programme has now been approved. A pilot site on the A432 will be operationally monitored in 2016 to validate the detection of all wrong-way vehicles. An initiative has been launched to process detection alerts from the equipment deployed: alerts are transferred to a traffic management-safety control centre which activates variable message boards and a radio announcement.
Development of the ITRAC software programme is another example of internal innovation with the aim of optimising service quality monitoring. By increasingly automating internal analysis of toll barrier malfunctions, the programme reduces the response time to problems.
Furthermore, APRR and AREA have special relations with stakeholders from the world of research. For example, in Europe the two companies take part in programmes for the development of smart transport systems, as part of the European MedTIS programme, involving the deployment of HGV traffic management aids in winter in particular. They also make their motorway network available to research organisations or engineering offices like CEREMA, the Pôle Véhicule du futur (vehicle of the future cluster) or ASFA, to test their innovations on real sites.
HORIZON 2020, imagining tomorrow's motorway
December 2014 marked the end of the second phase of Horizon 2020, a programme launched in 2012 to explore five themes (Mobility, Traffic and tolls, Motorway appeal, Pricing models and Smart Infrastructures) within the framework of the Start.lab workshops. The exploratory work identified some fifty development leads providing input for a project portfolio. The APRR-AREA executive committee has selected the first ten projects: customer digital apps, green modulation and car-pooling, customer compensation for promises not kept, reassuring communication system for seniors, toll pre-payment offer, traffic data collection and certification, integration of autonomous and communicating vehicles, opportunity of becoming an electric mobility operator, motorway-city transmission and attracting customers in wide-ranging territories. A Start.lab university has also been launched to manage the portfolio of other initiatives through to feasibility and to conduct an overall innovation watch of the different activities.
Through its subsidiary Clemessy, the Energy division also takes part in road network optimisation and operation, with the "TRAF’X" project. Based on collected road data and a set of operating rules, the software recommends potential action following alarms and events via a user-friendly graphic interface (requiring no IT skills).
In the Infrastructures division, R&D processes are mostly coordinated by engineering and/or scientific departments, in close collaboration with the regional engineering departments and construction work entities. The Roadway Engineering Department has a Research and Innovation unit that partly coordinates in-house R&D at labs in Corbas and Ciry-Salsogne as well as action taken with the Grandes Ecoles network or partner start-ups. R&D actions in Civil Engineering are coordinated by the Civil Engineering scientific and engineering departments and are led by project managers from the technical engineering departments. The engineering departments of Eiffage Métal have been under the control of a single Engineering Department since 2015.
In addition to cost optimisation, research topics are in line with the Group's commitments to preserve non-renewable resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce overall energy consumption, reduce noise and prevent risks. Multi-criteria optimisation of materials, structures and methods is also a key focus, together with developing sustainable, energy-saving and cost-effective solutions.
Work also aims to integrate information and communication technologies, new roadway functions, optimised infrastructure service life and monitoring, the link with production, storage and energy use. Initiatives for pooling with the energy and motorway concession business lines are taking shape within the Group. For example, as part of the inter-division Future Roads project (or 5th generation road-R5G), in cooperation with EPAMARNE (Seine-et-Marne) and IFSTTAR, a first engineering proposal won the ECOCITE 2 call for projects and will receive financial support under the PIA "City of Tomorrow" programme.
Many partnerships with universities, technical centres, research centres and companies operating in the sector in France or abroad also help to promote solutions, apply them in various fields of study and participate in building the infrastructure of tomorrow.
Examples in the news in 2015 included :
- Eiffage Route wins the European Infravation call for projects initiated by ERA-NET Plus Infravation on innovation in transport infrastructure, with the Biorepavation road recycling project using renewable, biomass-derived binders or additives.
- Another innovation, successfully tested in a coating plant, illustrates new production methods based on local procurement: recycling waste asphalt sealing materials in high-performance aggregate to replace polymeric bitumen plant manufactured from raw materials. This initiative also won the "environmental initiative" category at the 2015 Eiffage Innovation Awards.
- On the theme of energy use in roads, a geothermy system was integrated into the road structure as part of a demonstrator (collaborative project with PAVIREX involving a Spanish technical centre and Eiffage Infrastructueras). Several projects are being studied to deploy this system which received the "R&D" prize at the 2015 Eiffage Innovation Awards.
- In the field of preserving non-renewable resources and in response to health and environmental issues caused by recycling polluted materials, Eiffage Route developed the Recyclean® process for in-situ, cold recycling of PAH-contaminated roads. Recyclean® won the 2015 award from the Roadway Innovation Committee of the French Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy's Transport Infrastructure Directorate and was a winner at the 2015 Travaux Publics industry awards in the Materials and Processes category.
Lastly, Eiffage Route inaugurated two industrial research chairs with ENTPE and the Mines de Douai school. Research will be done through to 2020 to further studies on material mechanics, asphalt and polymers, and sludge and sediment recycling.
Studies continue on :
- multi-recycling in warm coated aggregate - MURE and IMPROVMURE projects - initiated in 2014. This national research work involves a representative panel of road construction players ;
- use of emulsion gravel for low-traffic road maintenance and reinforcement, with three-year monitoring on the RD26 experimental work site in Haute Loire. The analysis phase is in progress, and a thesis and think tank have been launched on these themes ;
- use of high-frequency electromagnetic methods to determine asphalt coated aggregate density, thus avoiding problems of managing radioactive sources ;
- pavement layer interface adhesion, a topic covered by an article in the RGRA in 2015.
Several Civil Engineering projects are in progress :
- The BADIFOPS project (partnership between IFSTTAR, CSTB, SETRA, Eiffage) involving a study into the use of fibre-reinforced concrete in seismic zones to improve knowledge of HPFRC behaviour with passive reinforcement gave rise to R6Pont®. This new bridge pier reinforcement technique uses a lining made of BSI® high-performance fibre-reinforced concrete (HPFRC developed by Eiffage) focussing on critical zones (plastic hinges). With the recent upward revaluation of France's seismic hazard, and thanks to the trial initiated by the Roadways Innovation Committee on: "Preserving and modernising existing engineering structures – Innovative reinforcement techniques", the R6Pont® process will demonstrate its technical and economic value and offer roadway managers an earthquake resistant reinforcement method complementary to the traditional composite-based approach.
- The project to investigate concrete tunnel lining fire behaviour ended in November 2015, with production of a thesis in partnership with the University of Cergy Pontoise (Val d’Oise) and FNTP.
- In the framework of tunnel projects, a study was conducted on the mechanical performance and design assumption conformity of fibre-reinforced segments (2012- 2015 project). The division has since taken part in European standardisation on the topic.
Urban transport : take the cable car !
The cable car is no longer target for the mountain sport enthusiasts only. To face traffic jams and to relieve metropolis, the cable car would conquer our cities in a few years. Reliability, reduced floor space, weak construction costs, easy maintenance, zero carbone transportation, etc… its assets are numerous and varied. As a proof, some of asian, south american and north african cities had already adopted the cable technology. In France, Brest has been inaugurated its cable car.
As a result, after the Phosphore© program on sustainable cities, Eiffage has collaborated with I2TC for research & development project. Its aim is to create a french perfect sector in the public cable transportation. It consists of adapting this new means of transport with constraints, needs and issues of a modern and sustainable city. Eiffage Construction Métallique is the lead partner of a consortium involved the french specialists of cable transportation Poma, RATP, CDVIA, The Vibrant Project, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University, ENSTA ParisTech and Ecole centrale Lyon. BPIFrance, Ile-de-France & Rhône-Alpes territories, and Paris City Hall financed this partnership. Its budget rises up to 4.3 M€.
Thinking building differently
Phosphore, the Group's sustainable urban development programme, is now operational and many concepts are being used such as energy solidarity, open-ended housing and the universal hall. Several projects incorporating these innovations are described in the "building sustainably" and "sustainable cities" sections.
Pursuing an energy-saving, carbon-free vision of cities, the R&D teams have developed the Eiffage Construction Concept Lignum® offer involving engineering hardwood, a new material complementary to concrete and metal. Hailed by the industry in 2013 with the Fimbacte Innovation Award and by the Group with the Grand Prix at the Eiffage Innovation Awards, Concept Lignum® is the core feature of the division's dry process technology.
Ability to erect increasingly high timber buildings is a key challenge. Multi-storey projects are under study and the use of solid timber proves to have advantages - less weight impacting the structure's foundations, speed of implementation – and meets increasingly high customer demands, in the case of eco-districts for example.
World First: a turn-key building in 24 hours
At the Group convention in Rennes on 1 and 2 July 2015, Eiffage built a three-floor building in just 24 hours, fully equipped and "ready to use", hence the name "Plug & Play". The building included a 60 sq. m apartment on the ground floor and another 80 sq. m split-level unit with terraces, on the other two floors. This performance was made possible by twenty-four weeks of intense preparation and integrated offer design work. The project involved all the Group's divisions: Eiffage Construction for general leadership, the structure and architectural building trades; Eiffage Energie for all the fluids; the Infrastructures division for the external layout; and Clemessy, which developed a logistics application to manage prefabricated elements between the logistics platform and the assembly site.
In the context of changing city uses, Eiffage Construction worked in partnership with Séquences architects' office and Grontmij engineering office to develop a convertible car park. The conversion of a multi-storey parking facility into homes or offices is made possible by optimising the height between floors, by a post-tensioned slab design adaptable to different loads, independent removable ramps and integration of the most stringent safety standards. While keeping the structure, the addition of partitions, false ceilings, doors and windows and external insulation provides the acoustic and thermal comfort of a commercial and/or residential building.
Lastly, as part of its sustainable development policy, the division is active in future-oriented topics such as biomimetics. By joining CEEBIOS, a pioneering organisation of companies and universities in Europe, the division discovered Polypop, a start-up developing a mycoremediation decontamination method trialled in 2015 on a plot in the smartseille eco-district.
An active website
The Eiffage Construction innovation network was rolled out in 2011 with the mission of stimulating field innovation. Network leaders are on the look-out for new, reproducible work site techniques and best practices. The division's innovation website contributes to developing this momentum and every two years, the Eiffage Innovation Awards detect and spotlight the latest examples of inspiration.
R&D close to the field and major projects
The Group also implements a decentralised innovation policy focussing on customer expectations and the need to anticipate future technological and social challenges.
Several innovations are developed on the site of the Bretagne-Pays de Loire high-speed rail line. They include integrating recent industrial computing innovations or communication systems such as the energy security control system and a "high-availability" communications system designed and implemented by Eiffage Energie. In addition, a consolidated remote monitoring system for all the railroad facilities will streamline operational maintenance structures for the 20 years of line operation.
BPL® crushed stone ©Eiffage
Innovations were also involved during the earthworks on this project with the use of crushed stone to replace an aggregate base. This solution reduces the thickness of the sub-ballast (20cm to 15cm on average) and the subgrade, thus saving on materials and making use of local materials.
The construction of Europe's largest photovoltaic solar plant in Cestas was an opportunity to implement an industrial logistics organisation which won the "core business" prize at the 2015 Eiffage Innovation Awards. Thanks to the supplier selection process, module production validation and monitoring, logistics platform and document database, work was completed by the participating Group subsidiaries in record time: in just eight months, 983,500 photovoltaic modules were laid on 16,500 steel and aluminium supporting frames, and almost 5,000 km of overhead and underground electric cables were installed to carry the power produced to the grid.
In association with BSF Swissphoto (data acquisition), Eiffage Énergie Transport & Distribution is handling the 3D modelling of RTE's power grids, an immense project started in 2012. After reviewing 400 km of lines each year, RTE's operators will have a precise inventory in 2016. This project was also an opportunity for the teams to develop and share new expertise with other engineering departments in the division.
In 2014, Clemessy studied the feasibility of a process to separate and recover silicon from end-of-life photovoltaic solar panels. This process has now been patented. The aim is to recover this rare material and re-inject it into the production cycle. An initial prototype is planned for 2016.
Furthermore, in partnership with Veolia Propreté, Clemessy designed the control solution and participated in developing the AEROcontrol™ concept, an original aeration system for composting windrows. The solution comprises automation, supervision, interfacing with Veolia's traceability software and electric cabinets for end-to-end management of compost production while controlling the aeration based on temperature. The innovation improves composting speed and efficiency, reduces fermentation time by half and improves finished product quality. In 2015, Clemessy MNO secured another order in Australia.
A dedicated offering for the logistics sector
The warehouse of tomorrow is currently being designed: big, small, shared, temporary, flexible and profitable, pallets are no longer moved from end to end, but parcels or units carefully counted. Just-in-time flow management inevitably impacts receipt, sorting, storage, preparation and shipping processes which become a key factor of warehouse success. Clemessy has developed a packing calculation tool designed to be integrated into logistics flows, called "PACK CY". Additional equipment manually or automatically guides or performs any diversified pallet loading. The solution determines the best position of diverse packages for pallet loading, crating, and container or truck loading. The software's innovation lies in the processing based on variable criteria and objectives, according to the parcel recipient.
Clemessy participates in collaborative projects in national and international competitiveness clusters :
- The company is also involved in the collaborative SunHydrO project aiming to develop a new concept of pumped-storage energy transfer station. Stored energy will meet grid flexibility and intermittency requirements by aggregation with renewable energies like solar or wind. Initiated by Sun’R Smart Energy for the FUI call for projects number 16, the programme carries competitiveness clusters labels from EnergiVie, S2E2 and sytem@tic.
- Thanks to the SMPE project to develop a system for monitoring / analysing wind turbine power flow, the company is able to take part in the ROMEEO project developed with Compagnie du Vent, OROS and NOVAMEMS.
R&D for carbon-free energies
In 2015, Eiffage Génie Civil and Smulders took part in immersing an innovative GBS offshore wind turbine foundation demonstrator in the Channel, off Fécamp. This was a world first achievement, as the foundation was expected to float upon launching. Work was commissioned by EDF Énergies Nouvelles, the Danish power company Dong Energy, the specialised French subsidiary of German renewable energy developer WPD and the turbine manufacturer Alstom, all partners of the future Fécamp wind farm located 13 km from the Normandy coasts and comprising 84 wind turbines of 498 MW. The two entities worked in a consortium in 2014 with Seatower, a Norwegian designer of offshore wind turbine foundations and MTH to develop the technology and the innovative design. The structure, named Cranefree Gravity®, offers many time and cost benefits – namely the possibility of using traditional tow-boats rather than crane ships which are scare, expensive and more sensitive to weather conditions. The silent installation method also makes it more respectful of the environment.