A school under construction, built in biosourced materials, affected by a fire

A fire struck, on April 15, 2023, the almost completed construction site of the Jules-Ferry nursery school, in Montfermeil (Seine-Saint-Denis). The disaster, impressive, fortunately did not cause any victims. Its causes are, for the moment, unknown. But the event serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of certain buildings made of biosourced materials in the face of flames. A real challenge for the construction sector, insofar as they are destined to become widespread in the years to come, under the impetus of the 2020 environmental regulations (RE2020). “Wooden structure, posts and beams, CLT floor, straw bale insulation: […] fires in wooden buildings present risks. In the construction phase, it is aggravated”, publicly commented Aurélien Sabourdy, member of the national prevention commission of the national federation of firefighters of France, on social networks. The specialist notices “the rapid collapse of the structure” and the “significant risk of spread”.

“Let’s not create a new ‘Pailleron'”

A bio-sourced, fire-resistant construction is nevertheless possible, he continues, by respecting a few rules, namely the “intrinsic fire stability of structures”there “limitation of exposed wood or [la présence d’un] extinguishing system” and the “taking into account the risk during the construction phase”. As a reminder, work is underway to draft fire regulations specific to bio-sourced buildings. According to THE Parisianthis seven million euro project was intended exemplary in environmental matters.

The images of complete ruin of a school echo a dramatic disaster, well known to fire safety specialists, the conflagration of the Parisian college Édouard-Pailleron, in 1973, at the origin of 20 deaths, including several children . The building, in metal structure, did not have the necessary fire resistance qualities. “In wanting to adapt regulations to promote a constructive mode, let’s not create a new ‘Pailleron’ that would jeopardize a sector”warns Aurélien Sabourdy.

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