Clichy-Batignolles, the future carbon-neutral city?

Mega-projects like the Clichy-Batignolles are fraught with risk. The costs are enormous, as may be the returns. Large sums in turn attract various interest groups anxious to get some of the money or spend other people’s money.

The former St Lazare railway yards were proposed for redevelopment in 2000. They were to be given impetus and momentum by being the site of the Olympic Village for the 2012 Olympics that ended up going to London instead.

The first seven hectares was developed in 2005; worked started on the remaining 43 hectares in 2007. That didn’t work out, and the city of Paris took over as developer in 2010. It is hard to find hard numbers, but it appears the City spent 286 million € delivering the site. The actual buildings are additional costs/investments, which may be the source I’ve seen that the total cost is about 506 million €.

Attempting to be a world leader eco-district required numerous revisions. Most notably, Paris decided it couldn’t meet its climate change goals with new low rises or mid rises, and revised the plans for buildings to have smaller footprints and greater heights. It also took much longer to develop the whole site (still under construction today) than originally planned.

Many buildings are 8 to 16 stories high, with the courthouse building being 56 stories. The first lots were sold to developers in 2012, with additional lots coming on stream each year.

Lots on the east side were typically small, and followed the adjacent neighbourhood pattern. Each building in that phase was subject to an architectural competition but there wasn’t an overall design. The result, IMO, is a bunch of buildings yelling “look at me!”.

On the west side, still under development, there was a “collegial workshop” of the various developers to manage an integrated skyline. The need for a neighbourhood plan may be in response to the results of the east phase, and also to the height (the artificial rise over the railway maintenance facilities: “Butte de Clichy”) and the highly visible nearly ∼2km profile along the railway tracks.

Paris also (re)built two metro stations, extended a metro line, extended the Marechaux surface tram line (streetcar) to the site (which opened in November, after my visit to the site), and numerous roads, bridges and utilities in the area. I am unable to determine if those expenses are included in the Clichy-Batignolles costs.

Below: new pedestrian bridges over the railway cut

below: the extension to the surface tram line, and incomplete access ramps and stairs (no visible elevators) from the Butte de Clichy. There appears to be a nascent bi-direction separated cycle track along the fence. The road corridor seemed remarkably wide open after the density of the housing built on the deck:

The entire Clichy project has a water management plan to promote infiltration, reducing sewer runoff (compared to what??) by ~50%.

The pneumatic pipe collection system for garbage (excluding glass) serves 2600 housing unit (of 3400 total units). The pneumatic is owned and maintained by the City.

below: the destination of the pneumatique is the foliated building at the bottom of the picture, up against the Peripherique:

The project has a city-owned 650m deep geothermal well for heat pumping,  and some buildings have waste-water heat recovery.

There are about forty thousand sq m of photovoltaic panels on the roofs and some walls, producing 4500 mwh/yr (some sources said 3500 mwh/yr) which is to be 40% of the total project demand for electricity, estimated to be 65 kwh/yr. (No, I couldn’t make sense of those numbers either). The panels are NOT owned by the individual buildings, but by the City of Paris.

below: solar panels on historic rail yard building being repurposed:

The entire project is intended to be zero carbon emission. I am skeptical about some of the means, such as having a common delivery point for outside vehicles to take all parcels and deliveries for residents, which are then reloaded onto electric vehicles for the last .6km of the journey. (What is .6km of that 8-16,000km journey from Made in China??).  I suspect the cost of the rehandling and the forwarding warehouse will exceed any energy savings or carbon fuel reduction.

The apartments are designed to meet Passive House standards (but not necessarily PH Certification). This is attained via insulation, air tightness, orienting windows to the south, and brise soleils such as exterior shutters. The target is 15 kwh of energy per sq m of dwelling. I was unable to find out the size of housing units, which necessarily affects energy consumption (very small units achieve more of their heat from the occupants and their activities).

Residents are expected to do their part to save energy and behave accordingly. Exterior shutters, roll blinds, awnings, and screens appeared to be manually operated by the residents. Suitable training has been provided.

As part of carbon neutrality and recycling/disposal of everything, the use of PVC was forbidden. Everything has to bear a label of the materials comprised. This includes every plant in the park.

The housing units for sale on the market were originally comparable to the average Paris apartment prices (currently $Cdn 1500 per sq ft, for resales)(Ottawa: $550 sq ft for resales, $650 for new) , but that has trended upwards as the project nears completion and are now carrying a premium. On the net I found several apartments in the area, including some recently built, for about $3000/sq ft.

I found one airbnb listing in a Clichy-Batignolles apartment for $150Cdn per night (minimum one week stay) for 700 sq ft. In contrast, my hotel room (much smaller) on Boulv Magenta near the Gare du Nord came in at $93cdn.

For some subsequent new urban mega projects in this series on WestSideAction, I made a better effort, and collected floor plans and selling prices.

While the project has won numerous awards for ecological and climate goal leadership, all were awarded based on the modelling of what the project would achieve. Now, data is being harvested.

Alas, there is a significant “discrepancy between the theoretical and the actual”.

An inquiry is underway.

Clichy-Batignolles was exciting and interesting to tour. Is the future of the city more “towers in the park”? There is more to Paris than old stuff, I recommend you check out some of the new on your next visit.

3 thoughts on “Clichy-Batignolles, the future carbon-neutral city?

  1. Inspiring to say the least. Thanks for this in-depth coverage and research. The NCC should be inspired by all this as they fidget with the LeBreton Flats gift to urban planning. Or might the Walkley Yards also yield such opportunties? But we simply do not have a tradition of investing/preparing with public funds and then selling and reaping the benefits. We have neither the structures for decent non conflict-ridden processes, nor the political orientation to do such things lest we get labeled as “socialists”.

  2. So what’s the deal here, the City of Paris produced a development corporation to prepare the infrastructure, then sold lots to individual developers, with architectural competitions and very specific requirements? Gasp, the audacity! What about mega-teams producing whatever they want and then getting into a total quagmire and cancelling the whole process? Isn’t that the preferred method? In all seriousness, I understand what you mean about the ‘LOOK AT ME’ architecture. However I think a little competition is a great thing. It means the architects actually care, rather than producing more bland conservative boxes.

Thank you for reading. So what do you think?