Alexis Monjauze, a registered architect (DPLG) specialising in green construction, has many a journey under his belt. He offers us a tour of responsible materials such as hempcrete. And what’s the end goal? Architecture that meets the French high environmental quality standard (HQE) for green building. Let’s jump on board now!
BCB Tradical® interview with Alexis Monjauze on 13 June 2018 during the 6th edition of the Tradical® Regional Conference held in Sayat, France.
BCB: What training and career path have you followed?
Alexis Monjauze: After my baccalaureate and a diploma in civil engineering, I went to an architecture school, where I took three years out to work on building sites and travel around Europe (Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy, etc.). These trips broadened my architectural culture. I then worked with various associations (environmental awareness-raising) in Lyon. After that, I worked for six years with contracting authorities in the public sector in Puy-en-Velay.
I opened my own agency there in 2005. Today, we’re a team of five!
BCB: What made you choose green construction?
AM: My parents! They were entrepreneurs. They passed on the idea of respect for the environment, along with a sense of individual responsibility (being aware of the impact of our actions).
BCB : Architecture, why did you choose this path ?
AM: I’ve always been fascinated by architecture; it was my thing. But not at any price! It was plain to me that the building industry as it stands today is bad for the environment. I didn’t want to contribute to this generalised collective madness. That’s why I did quite a few different jobs before setting up my own company. I can only see myself working towards HQE-standard green construction, even if this market only accounts for 10% of the whole construction sector.
‘People don’t realise the impact of their decisions when they buy, build, etc. They are inevitably contributing to one type of economic system or another (wastage or recycling). We don’t speak enough about the impact of eco-friendly materials on the health system’.
BCB: How did you discover hempcrete?
AM: One day, a builder offered to cast a hempcrete screed. I dug out some old architecture school documents that had interested me a lot at the time and looked into the subject. I had a first try at hempcrete in 2007. I then worked with a company experienced in hempcrete to offer it as a solution for one of my clients in 2009.
BCB: What benefits of hempcrete caught your attention?
AM: Simplicity! You only use one material for the whole wall. And I loved its truly natural feel too. Speaking from experience, it’s great in terms of acoustics and provides a cosy, mellow atmosphere.
‘There’s something about hempcrete, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s just very restful.’
BCB: How do you go about recommending this material to your clients?
AM: I just offer to use the material and most of the time my clients accept! I’ve had to find builders who know how to handle it though: some building projects were a bit difficult to manage as this material requires real expertise. Thankfully, more and more builders are hempcrete-trained now and have acquired experience. Hempcrete first appeared about 30-40 years ago, so it’s relatively new.
It’s the material we get the most positive feedback on from our clients!
BCB: Have you got an anecdote to share with us?
AM: Yes. Once, I met clients who were intrigued by the thermal regulations for building their house. I explained to them that they didn’t actually need to install central heating. They remained sceptical.
The moral of this story is that today, regulations oblige you to insulate your house, but not enough for you to get rid of your heating completely. If we were to insulate just a little more with materials such as hempcrete, we could greatly reduce the need for heating and air conditioning!