Green buildings: a site from today for tomorrow

Published on 12/20/2021

According to the United Nations, 55% of the world’s population now lives in cities, a rate that is expected to rise to 68% by 20501.

Given this outlook, with nearly two billion people still without adequate housing2, and with greenhouse gas emissions from buildings accounting for about 20% of global emissions and 36% of European Union emissions3, building and renovating differently is a necessity. Buildings are a massive source of emission reductions: this has been well embedded in public policy, as demonstrated by Fit for 554, which raises the annual renovation target for buildings to 3%5, and provides for the creation of a sector-specific emissions trading scheme and an increase in the percentage of renewable energy used in buildings.

Suzanne Senellart and Camille Barré explain how the Mirova Europe Environmental Equity Strategy6 contributes to the achievement of the Fit for 55 objectives, by investing in innovative solutions capable of meeting the challenges of the building sector, whether in terms of energy restraint, greenhouse gas emission reductions, materials used and their recycling, or preservation of biodiversity.


At a glance

  • Rethinking buildings, both new and existing, is essential to achieving carbon neutrality, as greenhouse gas emissions from buildings account for 36% of emissions in the European Union*.
  • The building sector is not only confronted with the challenges of energy restraint and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also with issues related to recycled and recyclable materials, and the preservation of biodiversity.
  • The Mirova Europe Environmental Equity Strategy aims to invest in companies developing innovative technologies and solutions to address these issues. The green building sector represents 14% of the portfolio as at 30/11/2021.

An array of challenges to meet

Collectively, buildings in the European Union account for 40% of our energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions7, mainly from construction, renovation and demolition activities, but also from the use of buildings.

The first issue raised by the construction of buildings is that of CO2 emissions, which are high, primarily because a lot of new buildings are being built, and they are getting taller and taller. Since the beginning of the 2000s, living area in square metres has increased by 65%8, while at the same time the energy consumption of these buildings has been reduced by only 15%9.

Buildings are mainly made of concrete, a material whose key ingredient - cement - alone generates 7%10 of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, three times more than air transport. Cement is still the most consumed material in the world today, at around 150 tonnes per second11.

In addition to the materials used, it is important to emphasise that buildings are rarely regulated by standards in less developed countries, and are often not very energy efficient. The issue here is both environmental and social, as non-compliant buildings expose users to significant health and safety risks.

At Mirova, we believe that a sustainable economy must be built with sustainable cities. With the Mirova Europe Environmental Equity strategy, we support companies deploying best practices and solutions to design energy-efficient and low-carbon infrastructure and buildings that respect the environment and meet the needs of users.

The preservation of biodiversity is another major challenge: poorly controlled construction sites can generate waste, which can cause air, water and soil pollution. Moreover, urban sprawl and soil artificialisation12 are one of the main causes of biodiversity erosion13 (the transformation of a natural area into artificial land modifies or even destroys the habitat of animal or plant species), but also of global warming.

Indeed, artificialized land no longer absorbs CO2 and therefore contributes to the rise in temperature. It also loses its capacity to absorb rainwater, thus increasing the risk of flooding. Finally, from an agricultural point of view, soil artificialisation limits food production.

Considering the building sector from the sole perspective of construction will not be enough to achieve carbon neutrality and preserve biodiversity. It is also necessary to reassess the renovation of existing buildings: today, around 75% of buildings in the European Union are not energy efficient, while 95% of current buildings will still be in use in 205014. Despite this alarming fact, only 1%15 of buildings in Europe are renovated to be energy efficient. One of the targets of Fit for 55 is the renovation of 3% of buildings by the public sector each year16.

Renovating buildings not only has a positive impact on our carbon emissions, but also helps to reduce fuel poverty, which is not to be underestimated considering that almost 34 million Europeans cannot heat their homes properly17.

The transition to sustainable cities in motion

Solutions and technologies that contribute to the construction of sustainable cities already exist and represent investment opportunities. Green building is one of the themes of the Mirova Europe Environmental Equity strategy, which has been investing for nearly 15 years in companies developing solutions for the environmental and energy transition.

To meet the Fit for 55 targets, it is necessary to have a comprehensive view of the issues facing the building industry, including construction, renovation and demolition, as well as the use of buildings. This is the approach of the Mirova Europe Environmental Equity strategy, which invests in several types of solutions, including:

  • Reducing emissions from the manufacture of concrete, by replacing cement with industrial waste or organic residues (e.g. volcanic rock); or by reducing heating consumption (currently 1,450°C) by “heating-free” processes.
  • Building positive energy or at least non-emitting buildings by using low-carbon building materials such as wood, by deploying innovative materials and new insulation methods to reduce the energy consumption of infrastructure, or by installing energy production equipment such as solar panels on roofs.
  • Erecting buildings that are fully integrated into their environment, taking into account their environmental and social impacts. The building is thus conceived as a whole that must be integrated in symbiosis with its neighbourhood and with the local urban biodiversity by exploiting, for example, the “5th façade”: the roof. This approach is regulated by labels such as Biodivercity®, WiredScore® or Well®, which - in addition to already well-established labels such as HQE (High Environmental Quality18 in French), LEED19 (US) or BREEAM20 (UK) - aim to certify that criteria such as the diversity of ecosystems and species, as well as the quality of life inside buildings, have been taken into account.

At the heart of the Mirova Europe Environmental Equity strategy

Focus on SAINT-GOBAIN: Make the World a better home

Aiming to respond to the challenges of climate change and resource scarcity - but also to promote the health and well-being of occupants - sustainable construction considers the structure as a whole, from the manufacture to the deconstruction of the building at the end of its life. It draws on new practices involving the entire construction chain, starting with safe and efficient building materials that are recycled, recyclable or reusable, with a low carbon footprint over the entire life cycle.


    Created by Louis XIV in 1665 as the "Manufacture des Glaces de miroirs", Saint-Gobain today operates in 72 countries and employs over 167,000 people. The Group and its dozens of specialist brands design, produce and sell materials and solutions that can be found everywhere in the home and in everyday life: in buildings, transport, infrastructure, as well as in numerous industrial applications. They aim to provide comfort, performance and safety while meeting the challenges of sustainable construction, efficient resource management and climate change.

    Saint-Gobain is committed to reducing its energy consumption and GHG emissions from its industrial, infrastructure and transportation activities, including setting an internal carbon price to stimulate low-carbon R&D projects.

    Key Figures

    • 2020 turnover: 38 billion euros
    • Organic growth over 5 years: 2 %
    • 2020 Ebitda margin**: 11,6 %
    Source: Saint-Gobain

    High-performance products

    • Eglas® is a heated glazing system which, under the action of an electric current, diffuses a gentle and uniform heat. It can be used in double-glazed windows, French windows and conservatories as an auxiliary or main source of heating.
    • Sageglass LightZone®, a dynamic electrochromic glazing solution with variable tinting that tints according to the degree of sunlight. It replaces interior blinds while offering optimal solar and thermal protection.
    • Magnetic plaster, a construction and insulation material that is revolutionising interior design. No more adhesive residue on walls thanks to magnetic particles that adhere directly to the walls without additional material.
    • Novelio® CleanAir, a wall covering that - in addition to covering cracks and irregularities - absorbs and permanently captures 50% of formaldehyde, an aerosol pollutant emanating from glues, paints and other laminated products used in renovation/construction work.
    • Isover® fibreglass, which contains up to 90% recycled glass and whose new formaldehyde-free binder is produced from bio-based materials.

    Other innovations and technological trends

    • Building Information Modelling (BIM): digital modelling used to anticipate the final performance of the building or to correct design errors;
    • prefabrication and 3D printing: agile, flexible techniques that facilitate architectural creativity;
    • the gypsum and ceiling business: develops products with specific technical features such as fire protection, moisture resistance and thermal insulation.

    ”Together with and for its customers, Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures and distributes materials and solutions that have a positive impact on everyone's life and provide well-being, quality of life and performance, while caring for the planet. This is the profound ambition of its purpose: Making the World a Better Home.”

    Focus on KINGSPAN: Better Buildings for a Better World

    The building of the future is about maximum performance. It must combat climate change by maximising its energy efficiency through superior heat quality while incorporating less carbon-intensive products throughout its life cycle. It produces its own renewable energy, it is healthy, it is inspiring, it maximises the benefits of daylight, fresh and clean air, it is designed, built and operated to protect natural resources and to save water wherever possible. And of course, it protects people and property from fire and other natural hazards.


    With 14,000 employees working at 130 manufacturing sites in more than 60 countries around the world, Kingspan Group is a global leader in insulation and building envelope solutions for energy-efficient, low-carbon buildings.

    In 2018 alone, its insulation products saved 192.7 million MWh of energy and avoided 38.15 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

    The company has adopted a new global sustainability strategy for the next 10 years, 'Planet Passionate', which aims to address three key global concerns: climate change, circularity and protection of the natural environment.

    Key Figures

    • 2020 turnover: 4.5 billion euros
    • Organic growth over 5 years: 3%
    • 2020 Ebitda margin**: 13%
    Source: Kingspan Group

    High-performance products

    • Kingspan QuadCoreTM, a technology of insulating sandwich panels with organic cores that provides multiple benefits, including the best thermal efficiency on the market (Lambda 0.020 W/m.K - ACERMI certified).
    • UltraTech Versatile, innovative and versatile technical solutions (CLEANsafe ultra watertight system, HYGIENEsafe antibacterial coating, etc.) adapted to many industries, from aeronautics to nanotechnology, which need to work in high-performance cleanrooms.
    • BioFicient+®, a new generation of complete domestic wastewater treatment plants, developed to treat domestic wastewater in a simple and compact system. The treatment is carried out in three stages, in a single, autonomous, robust and light tank, easy to install and low in electricity consumption.

    "We believe that in order to achieve truly future-proofed, sustainable built environments, all buildings must be designed, constructed and operated to deliver 10 key benefits: energy efficiency, embodied carbon, circularity, fire performance, occupant wellbeing, water conservation, healthy materials, digitalization, property value and construction efficiency. This is all embodied in the Kingspan approach."

    A pioneer in 0% clinker low-carbon cement

    With 4.6 billion tonnes produced per year worldwide (i.e. 150 tonnes per second!), cement is the second highest CO2 emitting industry. Carbon dioxide is mainly emitted during the process of decarbonating limestone by firing it in a rotary kiln at 1,450°C for 18 hours, to obtain clinker, one of the main constituents of cement, itself an ingredient of concrete. As the most consumed manufactured material in the world, it was imperative that cement begin its revolution.


    Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies, a true industrial adventure, invents and offers high-performance 0% clinker low-carbon cements that are a complete break with existing technologies and capable of meeting the challenges of climate change.

    • March 2014: David Hoffmann, a scientist, and Julien Blanchard, an entrepreneur, decided to develop and mass-produce new generation cements with a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional Portland cement.
    • August 2016: The future French president, Emmanuel Macron, visited the laboratory.
    • September 2018: Already awarded the Horizon 2020 label for research and innovation in Europe, the company joined the very ambitious French Future Investment Programme 3 (PIA3).
    • 22 November 2018: Inauguration of a first 4.0 production site respecting the environment and the principles of the circular economy.
    • October 2019: Record equity raising operation of nearly €75 million on the Euronext Growth Paris market.
    • 2022 and 2023: Planned opening of two new production sites, in the Vendée and in the Paris region, to reach a production capacity of 550,000 tonnes per year by 2024.

    Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies operates exclusively in France and has 13 employees.

    With a focus on innovation, the company intends to double its human resources dedicated to R&D by 2024 and has begun formalising its EHS policy.

    Thanks to the new H-IONA cement, Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies is able to reduce the carbon footprint of cement by a factor of 6, with identical or better performance.

    In 2020, its use avoided the emission of 710.6 tonnes of CO2 and the extraction of 1,435 tonnes of limestone***.

    Key Figures

    • 2020 turnover: 504.000 euros
    • Order book growth in 2020: 18%
    • 2026 turnover target: 130 million euros
    • Ebitda margin** target: breakeven in 2024 and a target of 40% in 2026
    Source: Hoffmann Green Cement Technologies

    A unique, clean and revolutionary heating-free manufacturing process:

    The manufacturing process for Hoffmann Green cements is based on the systematic use of abundant co-products - from industry and construction - as a substitute for natural resources:

    • blast furnace slag comes from the metallurgical and steel industry;
    • flash clay is a co-product of clay sludge;
    • gypsum and desulphogypsum are produced from construction site excavcated material.

    This innovation makes it possible to produce a carbon-free cement with 0% clinker while preserving natural resources, particularly without the use of quarries.

    With the absence of a firing process, the carbon impact is significantly reduced compared to the traditional cement manufacturing process.

    Without kilns or chimneys, Hoffmann plants are located as closely as possible to urban areas with major works, thus serving the three main cement markets:

    • precast concrete: assembly/delivery of products on site.
    • Ready-mix concrete (RMC): transportation of plant-prepared concrete to place of use.
    • bags of cement bags: marketed for professionals and the general public.

    “Hoffmann Green’s purpose is to act on the climate and the environment in a different way and right now, by designing and producing low carbon cements with 0% clinker. Thanks to our innovative technological solutions, construction players will be able to significantly reduce their carbon footprint with eco-friendly concrete to create the sustainable cities of tomorrow.”

    SENELLART Suzanne

    Suzanne SENELLART

    Head of Environmental Equities
    Camille Barré

    Camille BARRÉ

    SRI Analyst
    **A measure of a company's operating profit as a percentage of its turnover. The acronym EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.
    1. Source United Nations
    2. Source United Nations
    3. Source: IPCC, IEA, Mirova
    4. Fit for 55 the most ambitious European legislative package dealing with the environmental transition, both from a time horizon = perspective and for its sectoral implications. The Fit for 55 measures aim to reduce Member States’ greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990.
    6. All investments carry risks, including the risk of sustainability and capital loss
    10. Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA)
    11. Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA)
    12. This phenomenon consists of transforming natural, agricultural or forest soils through development operations that can lead to partial or total sealing, in order to allocate them to urban or transport functions (housing, activities, shops, infrastructure, public facilities, etc.)
    13. Source: French Ministry for the Ecological Transition
    18. The High Environmental Quality (HQE) label was created in 2004 to recognise the qualities and performance of buildings in accordance with a demanding reference framework
    19. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) label is a standardisation programme for buildings that meet high environmental quality criteria.
    20. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a benchmark in terms of sustainable construction.
    The stocks mentioned in this article are shown for illustrative purpose only and should not be considered as a recommendation or a solicitation to buy or sell. The information provided reflects Mirova’s opinion / the situation as of the date of this document and is subject to change without notice.
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