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“Inexperienced” building: Saint-Gobain’s North American offensive

A mountain of gypsum, the sedimentary rock used to make plaster, dominates the CertainTeed manufacturing facility in Buchanan, close to New York, on the banks of the Hudson River. Unfold over 16 hectares, this website of the North American subsidiary of the French large Saint-Gobain operates 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and manufactures 60 million sq. meters of plasterboard annually for the New York market.

This product – broadly used on constructing websites throughout the Atlantic – is strategic for the tricolor champion who’s betting huge on “gentle” building to decarbonize his exercise. As a result of Saint-Gobain is aiming for carbon neutrality in 2050, whereas on a worldwide scale, the development sector is answerable for 40% of CO2 emissions and has tripled its consumption of pure sources over the previous 5 years. . “We have now to maneuver on to a extra frugal building”, acknowledges Benoît Bazin, basic supervisor of Saint-Gobain who, throughout a fast tour of his troops within the states of New York and Massachusetts in mid-November, salutes the advance of the People on this space. “In Europe, except for the Nordic nations and Germany, building strategies nonetheless rely closely on concrete.”

Razzia within the light-weight building market

To seize demand in North America, the place the necessity for housing is estimated at 6 million, together with 4 million in the USA, Saint-Gobain has invested 5 billion {dollars} since 2020 (see field). Plasterboard, insulation options, roof and facade cladding, components for cement, dynamic glass… By way of acquisitions, it has constructed up an entire portfolio of merchandise to raid the North American market.

And the Inflation Discount Act (IRA), this package deal of measures adopted final August in favor of the local weather, ought to assist it. “Huge tax credit will likely be directed in the direction of sustainable constructing, for instance for the set up of insulation options or electrochromic glass glazing, each for renovation and new building in residential and business”, says Mark Rayfield, Common Supervisor of Saint-Gobain North America.

Plasterboard has turn out to be the main industrial enterprise – round 15% of the group’s total exercise – the historical past of which started in France in glass in 1665. The circuit is effectively established on the Buchanan manufacturing facility, from the barges which unload gypsum from Spain on the quays, to the ballet of vans which, leaving the manufacturing facility, present some 80 supply rounds within the neighborhood of the “Massive Apple” every day. The gypsum website, the place key tools was renewed final July with the intention to save 700,000 kWh of electrical energy per yr, is a showcase for the environmental efforts of Saint-Gobain North America, which has already diminished its CO2 emissions (scope 1 and a pair of) by 11% during the last 5 years.

The Buchanan gypsum plant, close to New York ©Saint-Gobain North America

Round economic system pilot venture

Since 1995, the burden of plasterboard manufactured by the group, which is absolutely recyclable, has fallen by 12%, which has an influence on transport specifically. “We’re additionally engaged on the water content material discount course of, which consumes quite a lot of vitality, or on warmth restoration”, specifies Dennis Wilson, vice chairman of Round Economic system and ESG. Above all, the American department of Saint-Gobain has simply launched a pilot venture in Buchanan to recycle waste supplies recovered from building websites and reinjected into the manufacture of its panels for partitions or ceilings.

One other flagship product, asphalt shingles for roofs can also be turning inexperienced. The Roofing entity of Saint-Gobain in North America thus spends two-thirds of its R&D finances on its sustainable initiatives: discount of water consumption, use of recycled or biosourced supplies. “The problem is to scale back carbon emissions and using pure sources, with out sacrificing the standard and efficiency of our merchandise, which should face up to more and more violent climatic occasions, similar to hurricanes or storms. hail”, insists Carmen Bodden, vice-president of the Roofing exercise, visiting the Norwood plant, southeast of Boston in Massachusetts. The corporate has developed a expertise that mixes polymers with asphalt, creating shingles which might be each lighter and really resistant. Its Solaris cooling roofs, in the meantime, cut back energy-intensive air-con consumption by reflecting daylight.

Race for innovation

On this hunt for CO2, innovation is the important thing to success. Saint-Gobain depends on its eight multidisciplinary R&D facilities worldwide to discover and develop building options for the long run. Together with the one in Northborough, Massachusetts. On this large inexperienced campus, some 350 scientists and engineers work in places of work or within the laboratory on the supplies and manufacturing processes that may make trade extra productive and extra sustainable.

This R&D middle works with universities around the globe and has signed greater than 200 partnerships with start-ups since 2017 – together with the producer of 3D printers Inkbit or the designer of high-performance wood-based supplies InventWood – within the beneath its Nova program with an annual finances of $20 million. The purpose? “Completely renew” Saint-Gobain’s supply, summarizes Todd DiNoia, Vice President of Innovation and R&D. “One in 4 merchandise we market in the present day didn’t exist 5 years in the past!”

Among the many initiatives within the beginning blocks, this black roof which, along with its elegant aesthetics, is nothing distinctive to the bare eye. It’s, nevertheless, a brand new roofing resolution that invisibly combines shingles and photo voltaic panels. Commercialization is deliberate for the start of 2024, after a pilot launch subsequent yr.

Saint-Gobain North America R&D center in Northborough, Massachussets Credit: Saint-Gobain North America

The R&D middle in Northborough, Massachusetts ©Saint-Gobain North America

The high-speed enlargement of Saint-Gobain in North America

Saint-Gobain pursues its American dream. And it goes in a short time. Current since 1967 and the creation of a three way partnership to fabricate insulation with the corporate CertainTeed -which turned a wholly-owned subsidiary in 1988-, the group now claims a place of “chief in constructing supplies” in the USA and in Canada. Its turnover on this area will attain 10.5 billion {dollars} this yr (i.e. 1.5 occasions greater than in 2018). “The USA is now the group’s main nation for profitability,” underlines Benoît Bazin, its managing director. It have to be stated that Saint-Gobain has put the means: 5 billion {dollars} have been invested in North America over the previous three years, together with 4.6 billion in three main acquisitions. Saint-Gobain thus swallowed the plasterboard producer Continental Constructing Merchandise in January 2020 (1.4 billion {dollars}), then the Canadian household enterprise of constructing supplies and exterior coatings Kaycan (928 million) in August 2022, and eventually the development chemical compounds specialist GCP Utilized Applied sciences (2.3 billion) final September. And now ? “We have now to digest. It is already an enormous accountability to generate worth from these acquisitions,” jokes Mark Rayfield, basic supervisor of Saint-Gobain North America. Earlier than entrusting to be “at all times looking out for market alternatives and able to transfer”. With a presence of greater than 145 websites in the USA and Canada, Saint-Gobain has gigantic progress goals for North America, which represented 13% of the group’s turnover in 2018 and presently weighs 19% in the present day. It goals for 25% in 2030.


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