Biodiversity, from regulatory to competitive challenge
The Eiffage Group is conscious of the impact of its activities on biodiversity and water resources, whether in terms of wetlands and other natural habitats, or plant and wildlife species, ecological continuity, diversity depletion and risks relating to the proliferation of invasive species.
Consequently, Eiffage has been committed to a very proactive biodiversity conservation policy since 2009, based on its Biodiversity Charter and Water and Aquatic Habitats Charter. A book entitled Towards green civil engineering, published in May 2014 and distributed to partners, also describes this commitment through examples illustrating how issues relating to the living world are addressed in the company's core businesses and practical initiative.
Commitment to France's national biodiversity strategy
In October 2015, Eiffage and its divisions had their commitment to the French national biodiversity strategy (SNB) in its full scope officially recognised for a second period, by France’s Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.
This strategy endorses the commitment of french government to the Convention on biological diversity which defines a coherent frame for all actors to deliberately contribute. In this perspective, Eiffage is the only actor from the public works sector to be recognised since the beginning of this approach. By renewing its triannual engagement, the Group continues its 2012-2015 programme which actions are still to be intensified.
Following the success of initiatives such as the setting up of beehives on operating sites in the APRR-AREA network, the testing of a biomimetic process using fungus to decontaminate soil in the Smartseille demonstrator zone and the publishing of the book entitled “Vers le génie civil écologique” concerning the civil engineering business and its major interactions with biodiversity, the Group has now committed to new initiatives through to 2018.
Update on the FIPAN BPL project
Three years after submitting a bid containing a proactive, innovative proposal for the restoration of natural water purification ecosystem services in areas bordering the LGV Bretagne-Pays de Loire rail link – FIPAN –, the Group implemented its proposal by officially launching a FIPAN BPL demonstration project near the city of Rennes. Studies and work are under way on agricultural land targeted for its interest in terms of ecological services, especially as regards water purification. 500 metres of hedge and some 10 trees have been planted to facilitate the seepage of water, bird nesting aids have been installed and the banks of the Yaigne river have been restored. This experiment shows that it is feasible for committed players – Eiffage, Green Cross France & Territoires, Dervenn, Ter-Qualitechs and the farmer – to organise and carry out actions in the field. It validates the model of a regional eco-engineering project based on the concept of payment for the maintenance of ecological services, and opens up the possibility of contacting other players and the inhabitants interested in this approach.
This motion design awarded a silver Trophy at the Deauville Green Awards.
Raising awareness and training to fulfill commitments
Since 2010, the Sustainable Development department has been creating and regularly updating operational and awareness-raising tools in partnership with the divisions. For example, the Biodiversity risk prevention and management kit, the Biodiversity archive and the Economic assessment module for ecological offsetting help employees assimilate and implement the prevention and management of risks to biodiversity in the performance of their work, from drafting proposals to operating structures.
Bioterre Master’s programme, Public works enters a new era
Eiffage launched in 2009 the Bioterre master's programme in partnership with la Sorbonne. Acknowledged by the Ministry as part of the National strategy on biodiversity (SNB), it trains students and profesionnals to environmental issues within the context of major infrastructures and development projects. The Master's curricula is based on fundamental teachings and applied to profesionnal realities, regarding managerial, economical, technical and judicial dimensions of a project.
In 2015, Bioterre Masters programme was ranked in sixth place in the SMBG masters classification, raising it to first place in the university masters programmes in the field of environment and sustainable development. Since its launch six years ago, this training scheme has been attended by 26 employees from all divisions. They have written 12 theses on the relationship between their business and biodiversity, and now constitute strategic resources for Eiffage.
After Of cities and people, a book about sustainable development published by Eiffage in 2013 in its Stratégies d’avenir collection, and distributed in more than 15,000 free copies, a new book came out in May 2014. Towards Ecological Civil Ingineering covers the gradual integration of challenges related to the living world into the company’s business lines and the steps it has taken in the context of three development projects representing three “butterfly effects”: firstly, realisation and strategic awakening in the context of the Grenelle environmental summit (A65 motorway) secondly, work on the company’s culture and actual organisation (LGV Bretagne–Pays de la Loire rail link); and thirdly, examining the fields of expertise and professions in the building and concessions business with respect to the living environment (Route du Littoral).
The "Butterfly effect" website
The opening of the Butterfly Effect website focused on biodiversity in April 2014 was one of the key events of the year. As an interactive tool to raise the awareness of employees, this website highlights the links existing between biodiversity issues and the Group’s businesses. A few days after coming on line, the interest it held for employees was shown by the fact that it had registered 1,500 logins and more than three pages viewed per visit. Companies among Eiffage’s partners and customers are also interested, for their own staff.
The divisions are also developing actions to promote the awareness of their employees and customers.
In 2015, APRR sought the collaboration of the Bourgogne natural spaces conservatory (Conservatoire d’espaces naturels de Bourgogne) to talk about and explain biodiversity at three motorway rest areas: La Biche on the A6 (Auxerre-Yonne), Le Rossignol on the A6 (Beaune-Côte d’Or) and Bois des Potets. In addition, maintenance practices preserving ordinary and exceptional natural surroundings will be explained and discussed with customers, such delaying mowing operations in order to preserve orchids growing in the Le Rossignol rest area and the seasonal management of the wooded area at Bois des Potets.
To optimise the diversity of flora and promote the awareness of the Jura motorway users, flowered meadows were planted at three rest areas on the A39 motorway in spring 2015. These meadows reduce the need for maintenance to just one mowing operation a year, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Protecting biodiversity, and even public health, also means fighting against harmful and invasive plants. For that purpose, nine members of motorway staff were trained in 2015 to recognise such plants and take appropriate action to control them under a training programme launched in 2014. Descriptive sheets specifying key identifying points are included with the natural spaces maintenance guide to help pinpoint areas where these plants are proliferating and take preventives or remedial steps at the right time according to the characteristics of the species concerned.
APRR is also taking specific action to promote the discovery of biodiversity. This involves setting up beehives on operating sites between 2013 and 2020. Volunteer employees from Réseau Bzzzz are now managing 11 hives, as three new sites are equipped to host bees for at least three years, at Montmarault on the A71, Les Éprunes on the A5 and Annecy on the A41 – with three hives, each containing up to 50,000 bees, on each site
Promoting awareness on the Eiffage Energie site
At its head office at Plaine Saint Denis, Eiffage has been implementing a policy of sustainable management of the green spaces around its premises for several years. In that context, the site’s natural, uncultivated green areas are mowed just once a year in order to allow the visible development of biodiversity. As part of a workshop for the Bioterre masters course, students update the initial inventory annually via the “Sauvages de ma rue” participative science programme. This initiative also promoted employees’ awareness of "ordinary biodiversity", and these actions are to be continued, with regular professional feedback and discussions for employees who are interested.
The Infrastructures division is updating its best practices sheets and promoting the awareness of its worksite personnel. Teams on the LGV Bretagne–Pays de la Loire worksite, for example, have put up protective fences for amphibians and have marked out environmentally sensitive areas. The corresponding best practices sheet can be circulated to have that practice adopted for the division’s other projects and sites.
Knowledge sharing and participation in peer networks
The Group continued its work with environmental bodies, particularly through its involvement in task forces set up by the Orée association, the FNTP construction industry group and the MEDEF employers association. It is also a member of the CIL&B “linear infrastructure & biodiversity club”, composed of leading managers of publicly and privately-owned linear infrastructures.
On the international scene, Eiffage – which has been a member of this organisation since late 2013 – participated in its annual seminars in London in 2014 and in Barcelona in 2015.
The LGV Bretagne–Pays de la Loire rail link offsetting programme was presented to show that early ecological offsetting can avoid excessive land consumption while preserving the efficacy and quality of all the offsetting measures adopted. In this way, fungibility levels of about 20% were achieved for this operation as a result of compensatory tree-planting and targeted offsetting action for protected species, especially bats – and as a result of steps taken to provide wet areas and offsetting action for protected species such as amphibians, in particular.
Eiffage opens up to share its natural science observations
Sharing and furthering knowledge of natural science is a key challenge for the protection of biodiversity as this field is little known throughout the world, including in France. In this context, CILB member companies – including Eiffage – are taking action, with MNHN, to pool the natural history inventories they have drawn up in their networks or during their development projects in order to enrich France’s national natural history heritage inventory (INPN), launched in 2003, which is now the country’s most extensive natural history database with more than 125,000 species listed, nearly 3 million items of data made available to the general public and a website attracting more than 50,000 logins a months.
CILB member companies have added their field observations of flora and fauna to the CardObs platform, an MNHN tool for the online posting and management of natural history data.
In September 2015, CILB, assisted by the French committee of IUCN, published a report entitled “Corridors d’infrastructures, corridors écologiques ? Etat des lieux et recommandations” (Infrastructure corridors, ecological corridors? Survey and recommendations), following its symposium addressing that subject in November 2014 based on a key question: How can linear transport infrastructure and the area it occupies make an effective contribution to ecological continuity?
Eiffage joins the CIBI
Eiffage has become a member of the International biodiversity and property council (CIBI). The group joins thus land and property developers, and builders already members of the CIBI alongside with Bouygues Construction or Gecina. This new partnership which fits into the Group's action plan for SNB, aims to promote urban biodiversity within the construction and property workfield, but also for the wider population, especially through the propagation of the BiodiverCity label.
The 101 words of urban agricultural for all
Eiffage supports the edition of the book : « the 101 words of urban agriculture for all », published at Archibooks by « les jardins de Gally », a landscape design company, and written by the CEO Xavier Laureau.
This glossary features all the social, environmental, technical and economical aspects of urban agriculture which generates more and more passion with the project managers. It is a plural and complex reality. This new partnership is a chance for Eiffage’s Group to show its implication in a deep reflection on the new urban ways of life and the issues about the integration of the biodiversity.
Using operations in the field as test laboratories
The construction by AREA of the Mauvernay partial interchange on the A48 motorway in Isère, which came into service in 2014, provided the opportunity to join forces with the Voiron region urban community to draw up guidelines for compensatory measures and hydro-ecological development to offset the project’s environmental impact and restore the site’s original character by creating a large area of wet land absorbing high water overflows and the ecological rehabilitation of two water courses featuring meanders, reeds, an island with trees and marshes. The site has now become, once again, a haven for a wide range of species, some of which are protected, including a great many birds, amphibians and reptiles. This area of some 5 hectares also plays a part in the environmental offsetting of a development area near the A48 motorway, along with the future wildlife crossing at La Buisse due to be built in 2017, as well as works on the other side of the La Chartreuse mountains. This approach preserves land of high economic or agricultural value and focuses environmental measures in areas which have little attraction for human activities - so optimising the long-term conservation of those areas.
Enhancing knowledge of "biodiversity"
APRR continued its assessment of crossing structures – and measures for bat roosting sites and flight routes – in order to make optimal allowance for fauna criteria before carrying out maintenance or renovation work on those structures.
The Biodiversity and Urban Planning (Biodiversité et urbanisme) tool developed by Eiffage Aménagement and ecological engineering consulting firm Dervenn is designed to provide project supervision assistance to ensure that urban development caters for the needs of biodiversity. Comprising a project management guide, information sheets covering important, recurrent topics for this type of operation, and recommendations on collaboration, this tool helps users clearly understand the issues involved, identify the available resources and start discussions with stakeholders. It takes the need to comply with existing construction and sustainable development regulations into account including, in particular, HQE Aménagement™, HQE®, BREEAM® and LEED®.
It’s all green at the Pierre Berger Campus
The Pierre Berger campus was handed over during the summer 2015 with HQE "Exceptional" and BREEAM "Excellent" certifications. Reflecting the sites’s compliance with very high-performance environmental specifications, all outdoor areas except for access routes and paths are planted, including the green roof. The range of plants covers about 100 different species and the site’s runoff water drainage system is integrated into the landscape.
The campus’s planted area covers a total of 4,000 sq. m, including more than 1,900 sq. m planted directly in the ground to represent all levels of a beech and pine forest. In addition to the gardens around the buildings there are two patios planted with trees, 2,500 sq. m of rooftop natural green space with wildflowers and ditches providing a habitat for wetland flora and fauna.
These potential habitats are completed by an insect lodge, nesting boxes and bat roosts which are beginning to attract local fauna. Four beehives are also set up in June 2016 by the Réseau Bzzzz association of Eiffage beekeeping employees (see above). A biodiversity awareness campaign aimed at employees is planned for the following summer and autumn.
Eiffage Route is pushing ahead with its policy of collaborating with environmental associations on quarries with the goal of rolling out solutions minimising the inconvenience caused while they are in operation. As a result of the partnerships formed, quarrying methods and periods may be modified and sites may be redeveloped in an exemplary fashion when quarrying operations have ended (as at the Grands-Caous-Var quarry). The increasing focus on the environment and biodiversity in rehabilitation schemes is reflected by the creation of ecological corridors and green areas, and the conservation of favourable habitats for pioneer species.
In 2016, 28 quarries out of 64 in France were rated on level 4/4 for the French quarrying industries environment charter and some - Vougy, Izeaux, and Corbigny - have even obtained a Biodiversity rating recognising the exemplarity and excellence of sites on the basis of key criteria.
On the Izeaux site, an annual convention has been set up with the LPO bird protection league to monitor wildlife. Following the creation of a 15,000 sq. m ecological area in 2013, 1,000 m of hedgerows were planted in spring 2014. Work on the sites was entrusted to Jardins de la solidarité, an association for the social reinsertion of people with problems, and to the CAP professional diploma classes of a local horticultural high school.
At Vougy quarry, a remarkable site from the ecological point of view owing to the diversity of plant and animal species it hosts, regular monitoring is performed to study its colonisation, in particular, in order to plan future development – islands, channels and ponds. In 2014, the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) was spotted in a backfill area.
Quarrying best practices
By carrying out renovation and maintenance operations on waterworks, Eiffel Industrie helped optimise the safety and reduce the environment impact of hydropower installations.
In Aquitaine, a two-year contract is under way to optimise the performance of salmon ladders (photo), which play an essential part in preserving the ecological integrity of aquatic habitats. In addition, projects to increase the safety of engineering structures in case of flood waters aim to protect the stability of sediment layers required to safeguard the hydromorphological balance of rivers.