Clichy-Batignolles: Where urban planning meets the climate


In Paris, a major redevelopment in the illustrious Clichy-Batignolles district has set environmental goals of unprecedented ambition, paving the way for contemporary urban planning that offers better solutions to energy and climate concerns.

The 17th arrondissement district of Clichy-Batignolles in the north-west of Paris will be home to a 10-hectare park, 3 400 new homes, offices, businesses and infrastructure, as well as the new complex housing law courts and the criminal investigation police, covering a total area of 50 hectares. The authorities here are setting their sights higher than ever before by aiming to be a model of energy efficiency in the fight against climate change.

The site had originally been earmarked for the Olympic village as part of Paris’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2012 Summer Games, and so from the very outset of the design phase the planners had been aiming for environmental excellence. This goal was therefore retained for the Clichy-Batignolles eco-district proposal and incorporated into the Climate Plan adopted by the City of Paris in 2007, which set the project a target of zero CO2 emissions.

Paris Batignolles Aménagement (PBA), the public limited company entrusted with executing the project, was given a clear brief from the outset, allowing it to mobilise all stakeholders in pursuit of this target. Providers of social housing, who are building 50% of the project’s new homes, see it as an opportunity to control operating costs and cut their tenants’ energy bills. Private property developers, who have the advantage of a relatively buoyant market despite the crisis, have also lent their full support to the project’s innovation drive.

This stakeholder engagement has opened new avenues to explore in “post-Kyoto” city-building. First of all, the proclaimed objectives of the project have prompted experimentation with new technologies: the City of Paris, for example, is introducing an innovative vacuum waste collection system, which cuts CO2 emissions and protects air quality. Some property managers have successfully trialled other techniques, including heat recovery using grey water from showers to name but one.

The homebuilders taking part in the operation have been able to prepare for the stringent regulations in the pipeline: the energy standards applied at Clichy-Batignolles in 2008 are the same standards the authorities are planning to introduce nationwide in 2020. They have also learned to use technologies that are still used only relatively rarely, such as photovoltaics, which will be installed on the rooftops of all new residential buildings to boost local production of renewable energy, in a first for most of the developers involved.

Several companies have even gone so far as to branch out from their traditional core business activities in order to pool investments or leverage the opportunities generated by this dynamic project. For example, Eau de Paris, the public company responsible for producing and distributing water in the French capital, is installing a 12 million geothermal system that will provide heating and hot water. A single 650 metre well in the Albian aquifer will both secure the drinking water supply and provide Clichy-Batignolles with renewable heating. In fact, the project’s potential production of photovoltaic electricity is such that the City of Paris has created a semi-public entity through its subsidiary, SEMAVIP, for investing in and operating photovoltaic installations, to support the property developers and optimise the economic model.

To achieve the project’s objectives, PBA has devised and implemented new ways of working with the property industry. On the legal front, very precise environmental targets have been included in the sales agreements for building lots, and fines may be levied in the event of non-compliance. PBA has commissioned experts to both monitor every project and ensure that environmental commitments are met.

In terms of architecture and city-scaping, upstream of technical solutions, the plan was shaped to optimise the buildings’ energy performance, using the sun to provide light and heat, compact building design, rooftops oriented to maximise photovoltaic production, etc. These design choices were thoroughly analysed and debated in the workshops attended by the Clichy-Batignolles planners, the contracting authorities and project managers, and the experts. These workshops examined collections of several building lots in order to include interactions among the different buildings.

By the end of 2015, 2 500 people will already be living on the site. Now that most of the undelivered programmes are either under way or on the point of being launched, attention is shifting from the design of the eco-district to its management. The City of Paris and city planner are currently launching a new drive in partnership with the property managers to increase the use of digital technology in the next buildings to be delivered, with a threefold objective: first, to transition from the initial calculation of theoretical performance to the continuous measurement of actual performance; second, to help residents and users take ownership of energy issues; third, to encourage the synchronisation of local energy use and production by making buildings smarter, ie by enabling them to communicate with each other and with utility networks, in order to restrict energy imports in real time.

Raising local awareness of energy challenges can be fun as well as participatory: Clichy-Batignolles entered its own team for the government’s Familles à Énergie Positive initiative to promote responsible energy use among the public.

Controlling energy consumption and CO2 emissions was not the project’s sole approach to the climate issue. The 10-hectare park in the centre of the district has wetlands and exemplary water management. Abundant vegetation in the public spaces and buildings help to cool the city and offset the urban heat island, as well as making the city greener and promoting biodiversity.

PBA has just started an assessment programme for the first buildings delivered. This vital feedback is extremely valuable to the future planning projects in the city and the Grand Paris (Greater Paris) programme, and could also be useful in taking up the challenge of the energy transition and climate change in the existing city.

* Nicolas Rougé has been a consultant for Paris Batignolles Aménagement since 2008.


See also

©OECD Observer No 304, November 2015

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