The territory of today´s great nation of France has long been the epicentre of innovation in construction. Some of the world´s most famous testaments to engineering excellence sit on what is now French soil.
The Pont du Gard in Nimes, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge, has graced the southern countryside since the 1st century AD. It isn´t just pretty but is also the highest and best-preserved aqueduct the Romans ever erected, built with incredible precision at a time when the technological advancements we have today could not have even been an engineer´s fever dream.
Its long history and location in the very heart of the continent has given France plenty to be proud of – its incredible cities and towns, churches, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel tower, the Pompidou Centre, the multitude of palaces and bridges.
The French people have historically had an eye for the beauty of functional objects and buildings, and have brought this attitude into the 21st century, collaborating with excellent engineers from across the globe, not just from within France´s folds.
A more recent beacon of such engineering prowess is the Millau Viaduct, a magnificent, elegant bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn in southern France. Designed by renowned starchitect Sir Norman Foster, it is the highest road bridge in the world and the highest building in France. It has become more than just a bridge and now functions as a tourist attraction in a less popular part of France´s southern region.
THE “JE NE SAIS QUOI” OF FRANCE`S CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
Despite the effects of the global finance crisis of the early aughts, innovation has not halted in France. The country´s construction sector finally recovered in 2017, registering a growth of 2.6% after a period of sustained struggle that hit in 2008, recovering in no small part due to a reinvigorated confidence from both investors and consumers, as well as governmental investments into transport infrastructure.
France´s construction industry is projected to continue experiencing positive growth until 2022, getting investments in energy, transport infrastructure, commercial as well as industrial projects. More investments and more consumers mean more construction. The country will be investing around 375 billion Euro into construction in the near future.
The housing market will most likely remain in the lead, reaching a 40.3% share of the construction industry´s total value in 2022. The loan interest rate on housing is set to remain low due to the government´s efforts to provide affordable housing (40.000 units per year as of 2020) under the Housing First plan.
But it´s not just housing that will contribute to the industry´s growth. Not one to be left behind by flashier companies like Tesla, French automotive behemoth Renault SA will invest 1 billion Euro into local plants for the production of electric vehicles. Japan´s Toyota is planning to invest 300 million Euro into refurbishing and expanding their French manufacturing operations close to the Belgian border.
France has pledged to generate 40% of its total energy from sustainable sources. This means that many power plants that can harness the planet´s powers and transform them into energy need to be built as soon as possible. In a bold and ambitious undertaking, the French government is planning to build a multitude of wind power plants until 2030, as well as 18.4 GW of solar energy power plants by 2023. Last, but not least, 25.OGW of hydropower plants by the year 2023.
OUI, OUI, LE GRAND PARIS
In order to reduce traffic congestion, the bane of all cities around the globe, the government is investing heavily in transport infrastructure. In 2018 it was announced that 80 billion Euro would be spent to develop France´s transport infrastructure by 2037, 2.4 billion Euro already having been spent on this cause between 2018 and 2020.
All the government’s intentions have culmnated in the largest transport project in Europe, the “Grand Paris Express”. Paris’ iconic metro system will be fundamentally redesigned and expanded, with a multitude of measures designed to reinforce and enlarge the capital’s public transport network:
- 4 new metro lines
- 200 km of new railway lines
- 68 new interconnected stations
- a daily total of 2 million passengers
- trains will run every 2 to 3 minutes
- a 100% automated metro system
- 90% of train and metro lines will be built underground
A new ring route will engulf the metropolitan area of Paris in its embrace, connecting developing neighbourhoods that have so far had to rely on peripheral transit options to get to the centre. 4 new metro lines will be constructed, making sure that all 3 of Paris’ airports, business districts and research clusters are easily reachable from the centre of the City of Light.
Travel time, a sore topic for the city´s inhabitants, will be significantly reduced – cutting transit time from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, Paris’ main airport, to La Défense from 53 to only 34 minutes. Orly Airport will get an even better deal – 15 minutes, as opposed to the horrendous 1 hours and 6 minutes commuters deal with now – for those going to the Paris Saclay University Campus from Orly.
The newly built train stations will function as more than just commuting hubs, having been designed to be welcoming and house various typologies, such as shopping, living and working.
Construction of the megaproject Le Grand Paris Express started in June 2016. It is expected to last until 2030. The project is expected to encourage commuters to switch from personal vehicles to using public transport, helping keep carbon emissions at bay, even saving up to 27.6 million tons of CO2 by 2050. Once the lines are up and running, the Grand Paris Express will bring in 100 billion more Euro to the country’s GDP, as well as generate at least 115.000 jobs.
Between the years 2020 and 2030 around 250.000 to 400.000 housing units will be built around the 68 new stations, converting 140 m2 of land into new mixed-use districts and making this large-scale project a great investment opportunity for the city, private developers and public housing authorities.
THE OLYMPIC GAMES PAR EXCELLANCE
Paris will host the Summer Olympic Games in 2024 for the third time (after hosting in 1900 and 1924). It is expected that construction work related to the Games will also increase the output of the construction industry, as the government plans to spend 6.8 billion Euro to develop and refurbish the infrastructure needed to pull off such a large scale sporting event. In order to comply with France’s efforts to combat climate change, many pre-existing locations will be used for the Olympic sporting events.
The organizers promise that these Games will be a truly spectacular event, with beach volleyball being played on the Champ de Mars, right beneath the Eiffel tower. Fencing and taekwondo competitions will be housed in the spectacularly beautiful Art Nouveau exhibition space, the Grand Palais, in the very heart of Paris; archery will, somewhat fittingly, take place on the esplanade at Invalides, the epic site of the French military museum and perhaps most famous as Napoleon Bonaparte´s final resting place.
Not to be overshadowed by Paris´ iconic monuments, in 2019 the government launched construction on a massive Olympic village that will be built from scratch in the Seine-Saint-Denis area north of Paris; one of the poorest areas in the country which is to be reinvigorated by this large-scale development. The village will house 15.000 athletes and officials during the 2024 Games. After the Olympic flame has moved on to its next destination it will be transformed into a new neighbourhood with 3.000 homes.
It seems that the eternal city of Paris will become even more interesting in light of the construction industry´s growth. Seems like a good excuse to go visit the city and see what all the fuss is about, n’est-ce pas?