A complex of 24 flats constructed solely of wood is being built in Paris, France

A complex of 24 flats constructed solely of wood is being built in Paris, France

A unique project of common housing, aptly titled “beautiful hillside”, is being implemented on the outskirts of Paris called Ivry-sur-Seine. The main structural material comprises of Novatop, solid wood panels of cross-laminated timber (CLT) made by a Czech manufacturer.

Currently, the surroundings of the already finished houses are being arranged; the first flats should be handed over to their new owners in early August 2015. However, the successful finale was preceded by six years of demanding negotiations. In 2008, the architect Alain Costes, a founder of the ‘Association for Employment’, that creates awareness and solidarity with the unemployed and workers in precarious jobs, came up with the idea of creating quality housing for several families in the Ivry complex. Thus, they responded to the unsatisfactory situation of social housing in the area and especially to the unsuitable conditions in the existing peripheral housing estates.

Flats finished at half price

24 selected families together with a team of architects SCOP Atelier 15, participated in the project of the new residential complex. Although it is a relatively attractive location, we managed to negotiate a reasonable price for the sale of the land (252 Euros per square meter) with the town hall and a favourable interest rate with the bank. The interested party formed a cooperative with a collective investment, thus it was able to compensate for the financial problems of the socially disadvantaged investors. “The final price per square metre of a usable area amounts to 2,850 Euros, which is twice as low as in the rest of the Ivry. We were able to prove that really anyone can get housing for an affordable price because the purchase price of the housing equals the cost,” points out Leo Garos from the team Atelier 15. “But for the same reason, we are a thorn in the big developers’ flesh.”

Wood prevailed – not only because of the finance

The originally intended brick construction did not succeed in the end; in comparison with solid wood panels, it was too expensive because the price was influenced by the slope gradient of the terrain and the poor accessibility of the site. “Energy efficient buildings can be built of wood; also the wooden structure is light and simple for implementation,” points out the architects. “NOVATOP can also be combined with other natural materials – in Ivry-sur-Seine, a mixture of flax fibres with cellulose and fibreboard insulation was used.”

Since the terrain is steeply sloping and the subsoil poorly bearable, the designer chose foundation of steel piles. The use of Novatop wooden panels was then just another logical outcome – it is a light structure, ideal for similarly unfavourable initial conditions. In accordance with the contracting authority’s wish, the panels had a higher degree of prefabrication – sheathed with insulation, namely to enhance the maximum acceleration of the assembly.

FR_Construibois_Prudhomme_2011 (19)Interiors in the natural spirit

Already at the design stage, it was clear that Novatop panels will be supplied in visual quality because they will, to the maximum extent, form the final surface of the interior of the flats.  “In this respect, we recognize the uniqueness of Novatop,” Costes explains this solution. “We did not have to deal with plastering, painting or wallpapers, which thus made the project not only cheaper, but even prettier.”

 Original inspiration

There are only a few months left before the selected families move into their dream housing. Some of them withdrew from the project because of the administrative burden or family reasons, the hard core, however, persisted – even though they have committed themselves not to sell their homes for the next 15 years.

The model in Ivry-sur-Seine is original and viable, which is evidenced from the number of similar projects launched in recent years, both in Paris and other major French cities. Currently, there are 80 ongoing implementations.


“We have created a collaborating team”,

The authors of the project from Atelier 15 added about the selection of NOVATOP system. “It was an absolutely invaluable experience for us, especially in the area of information exchange between the architect, the designer and the factory. And apart from the difficulties in tuning up the business contracts and structural calculations, we encountered no problems. On the contrary, the production was very flexible, machining accuracy very high and there is maximum satisfaction with the quality of the visual wood.”

Building construction:
 thickness 84 mm  (1,754m2) in visual quality, supplemented with a mixture of flax fibre and cellulose + thickness 116 mm for the mezzanines
Ceiling –  NOVATOP OPEN thickness 227 mm (801 m2) for ceilings + thickness 247mm (905 m2) with fibreboard insulation Steico
RoofNOVATOP ELEMENT thickness 160 mm (574 m2) with fibreboard insulation Steico

Architects:  SCOP Atelier 15
Implementation: CMB, 2014/ 2015

Published 11.5. 2015

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