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Wednesday 28 September 2022
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3D houses, ugly extensions: Five updates for property owners in France

We also look at one couple’s surprise discovery that their house is scheduled to be demolished and a potential increase to eco-renovation grants

We look at a surprise demolition project, a much-maligned roof extension, an possible update to renovation grants and new 3D-printed houses Pic: Bogdanhoda, Zivica Kerkez, MIND AND I, ronstik / Shutterstock

A couple from Bordeaux learned by chance that their house was scheduled to be destroyed after attending a local meeting about a new renovation project in the city. 

The couple live close to Saint-Jean train station, a site that is to be developed as part of the Bordeaux Euratlantique project, which will span over 730 hectares and house 50,000 new people by 2030. 

The couple went along to the presentation of this project and it was only then that they discovered that their house was to be knocked down. 

“I never expected to experience anything like this in my life,” Roland, who only gave his first name, told RMC.

“It was a shock. What will happen to us?” 

He said that they were not told about plans to demolish their house or offered any alternative housing options. 

Read more: French couple’s clever way to get squatters out in just two days

Bordeaux’s mairie has said that it is the responsibility of the central government and social housing company ICF Habitat to inform residents about the development plans, as it is a national project. 

“I don't think they warned the local residents because the demolition is not planned until 2024 or 2025, which is not so soon,” Olivier Cazaux, deputy mayor of Bordeaux Sud, said.

Following the couple’s surprising discovery, local authorities have asked ICF Habitat to look into the option of renovating the homes on the current site rather than knocking them down. The social housing company has commissioned an architectural study to assess this possibility. 

Read more: Map: The 101 French communes affected by coastal erosion

1. Eco-renovation grants could be matched to inflation

France’s economy minister is considering linking inflation to the amount people can receive for home renovation projects that improve efficiency to tackle rising renovation costs. 

Read more: French pensions to be tied to inflation in July, labour minister says

Bruno Le Maire has said that he will meet with relevant parties after the second round of France’s legislative elections on June 19 to discuss the idea. 

Construction and renovation costs have been rising due to supply chain issues and also Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - two countries that typically supply a lot of raw materials needed for building projects. 

Read more: Can tradespeople in France raise price of job after signing a quote?

Read more: Cost of home DIY projects rises due to shortages: should you delay?

An association representing tradespersons, Capeb, supports the idea of linking grants to inflation or the cost of material.

It has said that if tradespersons pass on these rising costs to clients, then quotes for jobs could increase by around 5-30% by the end of the year. 

“If the cost of work goes up 30% but government aid for renovation jobs remains the same, then the amount the client has to pay is going to explode,” Jean-Christophe Repon, head of Capeb, told Capital

French building association, the Fédération française du bâtiment, also supports the idea.

“The indexation of grants to inflation would not only accelerate the rate of renovation, but also allow the country to wean itself off Russian gas sooner,” it stated. 

MaPrimeRénov’ is France’s main state aid for renovating elements of properties to make them more energy efficient. So far in 2022, 207,000 eco-renovation grants have been issued to households. The government is aiming to subsidise 700,000 renovation jobs per year as part of its goal to make France carbon neutral by 2050. 

Read more: Explained: How to apply for a renovation grant for your French home

Read more: French grants covered 30% costs to replace my old oil-fired boiler

3. Rooftop extension on historic building a ‘wart’ and ‘lawnmower shed’

Residents of Les Sables-d'Olonne (Vendée) have criticised a modern extension built on the roof of a historic villa after a tarpaulin covering it was removed earlier this month. 

The Mirasol building is classed as a monument historique and was built in 1914. It had been under renovation since 2021 and the roof was covered. On June 10, the cover was taken off, to the surprise of local residents. 

One tweeted: “Finally, the opaque veil that hid the renovation work on the Mirasol villa has fallen and shock! This is how things go in Les Sables d'Olonne.”

Another Twitter user quipped: “Look Gérard, I built a roof shed to store the lawnmower.”

The town’s mayor, Yannick Moreau, also expressed disapproval at the extension. He described it as a “wart”, saying that nothing was right, “from the shape to the materials to the height to the overall look”. 

“This was not at all the spirit and the expectations that the town had expressed to the building's owners,” he told Ouest-France.

The rooftop extension did receive the necessary go-ahead from architectural group Bâtiments de France. But after its completion, it was inspected by the regional culture authority, which said that an error had been made during its construction. 

It said that due to a weak point on the rooftop terrace, the extension was brought 40cm closer to the street and made 40cm higher, making it more visible from below. 

The owner of the building, Dominique Beaulieu, also admitted to being surprised by the result of the completed building work. 

Meetings between relevant actors are now underway to find a solution to the perceived eyesore. 

Read more: Can you have solar panels on homes in historic areas of France?

4. Damage to properties under construction. Who pays?

If a property that is under construction is damaged or destroyed in a disaster - storms, fires, floods, etc. - then it is the responsibility of the construction company to repair or rebuild it, France’s supreme court of appeal, the Cour de cassation, has confirmed. 

It comes after two similar cases went through the court. 

In the first, a property under construction was completely destroyed in a fire. The court ruled that the construction company could not take payment for work that was incomplete and ordered all money received up to that point to be returned to the clients. 

In a second case, a property under construction was damaged in a storm. The court stated that the construction company is responsible for the repairs. 

Read more: Vehicles, homes: claiming compensation for weather damage in France

5. First concrete 3D-printed houses in France

Five houses built using 3D printing techniques to construct concrete walls have been completed in Reims (Grand Est), a first for France. 

The project is called Viliaprint and was initiated by social housing company Plurial Novilia. Several companies and actors were involved in the four-year project to build the single-story houses, which have three bedrooms and a garden.

Rochdi Zardi, 60, will move into one of the units on July 1 with his family and is very happy with his future house.

“I have been searching for ground-floor social housing for one year,” he told BFMTV. 

He is a former teacher and supermarket manager but now no longer works as he takes care of his wife who has severe disabilities. 

He said that the rent for the new 3D-printed house is €920, which he considers a good deal despite it being more expensive than his previous flat. 

“When you compare it to what you have, it's very reasonable. Plus, a house like this, brand new…”

Seven walls in each house were constructed using giant 3D printers that poured liquid concrete into the correct shape. These walls were then transported to the housing site and put in place using a crane. 

This technique means that houses can be built faster and with less waste. It also means using 50% less concrete than normal housing projects. 

Alain Nicole, managing director of Plurial Novilia, said he was very happy with how the project turned out. 

“3D printing has proven itself in the operational phase and opens up exciting prospects for our sector in terms of performance and production times,” he said. 

Emmanuel Coste, the architect on the project, was equally satisfied, but also said he hoped that eventually an alternative to concrete could be found. 

“Concrete is the solution we have at hand at the moment, but it still emits a lot of greenhouse gases,” he said. 

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