Power-efficient refurbishment: Universities want a minimum of 7 billion euros

Posted Nov 23, 2022 6:02 am

The real estate heritage of the universities is “still degraded”. The Court of Auditors drew up the worrying inventory in a report from October 2022. Since more than a third of the park is in a “unsatisfactory or unsatisfactory” condition, the universities are facing a major challenge, that of their renovation. The need is immense, estimated at €7 billion by the ministry and €15 billion by French universities.

Against the background of “exponential growth in energy spending” – France Universities estimates the additional cost of the 2023 bill at more than 700 million euros compared to 2021 – financing is proving to be more complicated, albeit crucial in the long term. According to the Court of Auditors, only a quarter of the 74 French universities have planned an energy strategy and construction project management.

Refurbish the university’s thermal screens

The University of Burgundy has been working on the renovation of its real estate assets for almost ten years. “For the most part, we’ve done a great job: replacing carpentry, insulating facades and roofs, replacing heating systems…” sums up Philippe Perrot, Deputy President’s Delegate for Cultural Heritage. A thorough renovation for the six university campuses (Auxerre, Chalon-sur-Saône, Dijon, Le Creusot, Mâcon and Nevers). For example, the very popular Law and Letters building in Dijon spent €6.9 million on work funded in part by the university but also by the region and the redevelopment plan. The expected profit on the energy bill is 85,000 euros per year.

On the Albi side where the Champollion National University Institute was installed on the site of a former barracks from 1890, insulation work was carried out from the inside to preserve the historic facade of the main buildings. “We doubled the walls and replaced all the carpentry, all for 840,000 euros under the 2015-2020 state-region plan contract,” describes Olivier Glénat, General Manager of Services.

In the Emile Borel building alone (7,700 m²), up to 72% of the energy consumption could be saved thanks to better insulation and a boiler change. “It was an old building, very thermally stressed. With the most recent one, which had already benefited from improvements, we expect an increase in consumption of 20 to 30%,” Olivier Glénat elaborates. In order to further reduce the bill, universities can also rely on renewable energies. During an expansion, the University of Albi covered a roof with photovoltaic panels. The electricity production will heat the entire affected building.

Fund the work with savings

In Nantes, the University has preferred to multiply small transformations: sludge removal from boiler networks at a cost of 210,000 euros; Relamping operation, i.e. the replacement of all the lighting in the 22 buildings, for 692,000 euros … the university wants to save up to 300,000 euros per year. “These are jobs with a short return on investment. All actions are good and virtuous, even those better than a restoration plan, such as changing lamps,” assures Jean-Louis Kerouanton, vice-president in charge of sustainable heritage.

The University of Nantes will continue its efforts. A dozen buildings will be renovated for a total of 2.8 million euros, financed through the intracting technique with the support of the Banque des Territoires. The savings made will repay the investment advances or even finance other works. “These projects are associated with uses to continue the meter logic, with detailed knowledge of our consumption,” summarizes Jean-Louis Kerouanton. Intracting is a technique used by government agencies. Nine other universities have already used it: Caen, Cergy-Pontoise, Tours, Clermont, Angers, Rennes 1, Reims-Champagne-Ardenne, Aix-Marseille-University and Paris 8, according to the October 2022 Cour des Accounts report.

The Court of Auditors summed up in its report that “there is still a long way to go” until the universities are completely renovated. To spend the winter and control their energy bills, some have announced closures, such as the University of Strasbourg, whose start of the 2023 school year has been postponed to January 9th. At short notice, University Minister Sylvie Retailleau announced an aid framework of 275 million euros in a Senate hearing.

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