With THT poplar, the school at Saint-Germain-en-Laye is both attractive and environmentally friendly!
After 2 years of work, 350 young pupils from Saint-Germain-en-Laye (78) went back to a brand new school. The school Marie-Curie, located in the Bel-Air neighbourhood, underwent massive restructuring with the extension of existing spaces and the construction of a new building. The careful attention to aesthetic and environmental aspects led the project leaders to choose Ducerf wood, and more specifically THT poplar, for the external cladding of the premises.
A new school is always an exciting event for a district, a symbol of its appeal and its collective energy... Saint-Germain-en-Laye, in the county of Yvelines, inaugurated its new and improved institution in September 2018 with the return of the pupils. In effect, it involved the complete overhaul and extension of the existing Marie Curie primary school: a concrete building from the 70s. To welcome more pupils, it needed to be renovated, and new structures created in order to house a pre-school, a new school canteen and a leisure centre.
A site that combines modernity and comfort
The idea of the architect, Olivier Desaleux, partner at the firm Desaleux-Soares, was primarily to change the perception of the site: “It was imperative to restore a modern image to the school that was a bit ‘dated’.” This meant a redefinition of the site. “We decided to renovate the old part from both a functional and energetic point of view. So, we installed insulation on the outside of the existing building and covered the insulation with timber cladding.” With very clear objectives, “first improve the quality of life inside the building.” We put the emphasis on a result where comfort comes first, without going for something spectacular. When delivery time came, we needed the decision-makers from the municipality to be convinced, the children to be delighted and the parents, envious if their children weren’t registered at the school!” To achieve this goal, the general contractor took great care over the aesthetic and environmental aspects. They designed an extension and a new building of 1,800 m², with bright spacious rooms, and chose wood as the material of predilection for the exterior.
The choice of high temperature treated poplar
To obtain approval for this choice, Olivier Desaleux did, however, have to overcome a few popular misconceptions. “Some people believe that wood doesn’t age well, that there’s no guarantee against discolouration after a few years. Yet solutions exist...” Take for example THT poplar from Ducerf, a material that was able to sway the project’s decision-makers. “When it’s retified, upon delivery, it’s already quite dark, and even if there’s a variation in tones due to the effects of UV exposure or rain, it’s a question of varying shades of grey which remains subtle.” Ducerf played an important role in this selection phase. “You were of enormous assistance before the installation contractor was appointed. Your technicians supported and advised us when we were drafting the written documentation, and thanks to the samples, the municipality was completely convinced.” The preference was for poplar, “an interesting wood that has no knots at all, an attractive appearance and that ages well. We decided on a pre-greyed collection, proposed by the Ducerf group, which allows us to best sustain the colour upon installation and over time.” Despite facing in different directions, we can indeed see the uniformity of the cladding.
The Environmental qualities of the product
If Olivier Desaleux is accustomed to using retified poplar on projects, it’s also because he appreciates its environmental qualities. “It’s a timber we really believe in, but that up until now, wasn’t used in construction due to the fact that it’s lightweight and didn’t fare well in bad weather. The natural THT treatment enables it to be used for external cladding. In addition, this wood grows really quickly, so it’s easily renewable. Moreover, it’s a timber that’s grown at home and isn’t imported from far away. As with douglas, we know that its sourcing is controlled.” So, the carbon footprint related to transportation is limited. An argument that held sway with the district and that became clear on this school building. The choice of wood was joined by high-performance insulation and green roof terraces, which incorporate a technique to recover rain water.
A well-managed installation
During the works, the installation of the cladding was carried out by the company Cruard Charpente. “There was no pre-assembly at the workshop. There were a great many boards, and so even more nails and battens on the site, yet it was all done with maximum precision: quality work from beginning to end,” enthuses Olivier Desaleux. The works supervisor from Cruard, Gilles Lenouvel, talks about the conditions of installation for the THT poplar boards. “We carried out a vertical installation for a timber volume of about 26 m3, supplied by Ducerf. It’s a lightweight product and pleasant to work with. The difficulty came from dealing with the complex trapezoidal shapes around the building. We fitted the battens by hand.” And he adds, “as far as installation’s concerned, but also aesthetically and in terms of durability, it’s an excellent product. ”
The satisfaction of the project owner
From the sketches to the completed project, the result is compelling. “Town officials in Saint-Germain are extremely pleased with the result. They were completely won over by the wood and by this poplar cladding that creates a light aesthetic, with a natural yet sophisticated overall quality.” The desired effect has, therefore, been achieved. Last September, teachers, pupils and parents discovered a brand new site that offers the very best conditions in terms of comfort and aesthetics for learning in peace...
Find out more:
Project management: City of St Germain-en-Laye (78)
Architects: Olivier Desaleux, Desaleux-Soares Architects, Paris 18ième and Lusso & Laurent Architects (93)
Industrial fitter: Cruard Charpente Constructions Bois – (53) SIMPLE