La Lainière Project House

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European Metropolis of Lille

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2014/01

La Lainière Project House demonstrates the cradle-to-cradle (C2C) philosophy in action.

The Metropole Européeenne de Lille has developed a building that has a positive impact on the environment. La Lainière Project House acts as an events, resource and meeting space as well as a regional exemplar of a circular approach to architecture and construction.
Using The Cradle to Cradle concept, (by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (2002) Cradle to Cradle®: Remaking the Way We Make Things) a new approach for designing intelligent products, processes and systems taking into account the entire life cycle of the product, optimizing material health, recyclability, renewable energy use, water efficiency and quality, and social responsibility. The difference in designing a C2C building is a question of priorities - besides prioritising the quality of spaces and light, defining the materials and construction methods to make sure they fulfil C2C criteria and ensure the building has the flexibility to change function and be dismantled and put up in another place. 
The Metropole Européeenne de Lille opened La Lainière Project House, the first French C2C building, in 2016.
Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities:

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts


This project was shortlisted for the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2017 in the following category: Innovation.

European Metropolis of Lille, France

Size and population development
The European Metropolis of Lille (MEL) brings together 90 municipalities with a population of 1, 154,103 recorded in 2014. it is the fifth largest urban area in France after Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse.

Population composition
43.5% of the population are under 30 (source KPMG 2016). The population increased at a growth rate of 0.4% between 2010 - 2014. 36% of people in the European Metropolis of Lille live as a single-person household.

Main functions
The European Metropolis of Lille is an intercommunal structure, centered on the city of Lille. It is located in the northern department, in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France, bordering the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium and covers the part of the Lille metropolitan area that lies in France.

Main industries / business
Located at the crossroads of North-West Europe, European Metropolis of Lille sits at the centre of the wealthiest consumer pool in Europe, gathering 80 million citizens and a GDP of 1,500 €Billionn within a 300 kms radius. The metropolis’ proximity to the key decision-making centres of the European Union (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg), combined with transport infrastructure including 2 High Speed Train stations (25 million passengers annually) and its vibrant economy make the European Metropolis of Lille a preferred location for foreign investors. Lille European Metropolis ranks in the top 3 regions in France for foreign direct investments. Historically a major trade hub, Lille European Metropolis has the highest concentration rate of exporting companies amongst French metropolises.

Sources for city budget
Adopted on February 10, 2017, the total budget of MEL is € 1,625 million. Despite the decline in state allocations, it is characterized by a priority for investment, the pursuit of rationalized management of operating expenses, fiscal stability for metropolitan areas and businesses

Political structure
The Metropolis of Lille is a public institution of intercommunal cooperation established by the law of December 31, 1966 in order to remedy the disadvantages resulting from the fragmentation of municipalities in large cities. On 1 January 2015, Lille Métropole became the European Metropolis of Lille as provided by the law of modernization of territorial public action and affirmation of metropolises called MAPAM law, adopted on January 27, 2014. The 184 elected members of the MEL were appointed after the vote of the Metropolis Council of December 15, 2016. They come from the 90 municipalities that make up the Lille Metropolitan Municipality. All municipalities of the MEL are represented on the council according to the number of inhabitants (1 elected for the smallest municipalities and up to 33 seats for the most populated). The President of the European Metropolis of Lille is in charge of the implementation of the metropolitan policy.

Administrative structure
The MEL wants to involve citizens in decisions and develops participation through public meetings, participatory workshops, preliminary consultations, public inquiries, major debates, etc. It also has consultative bodies such as the Development Council that allow citizens to express themselves better.

The Metropole Européeenne de Lille has prioritised the regeneration of the factories and wastelands remaining from its industrial history - and created a charter for 21st century business parks to outline its strategy. From the beginning there was a commitment to improve the quality and sustainability of the new business parks set up to provide today’s employment opportunities. These aspirations led to the city’s interest in the cradle-to-cradle (C2C) concept, which enables buildings to be reconfigured, recycled, dismantled and used elsewhere, as well as to its participation in the European INTERREG IV C2C BIZZ project. After contributing to the C2C BIZZ project’s framework for the planning, building and operation of C2C business sites, Lille was keen to be one of seven cities that would put these to the test. The Lainière, a 30-hectare site of Europe’s first woollen mill, was chosen for the pilot project. Visited by Queen Elizabeth II and other famous guests in the 1950s, more than 6,000 people worked at the site in its heyday. Closed and demolished at the turn of the century, the objective was to reimagine the site as a place to live and to work. The Project House was to be an innovative part of, and the first step towards, this goal.

A competition was launched, challenging architects to come up with a visionary design for a future-proof building that would positively impact the environment, economy and society. Lille chaired the judging panel which chose a design by architectural agency EKOA. Lille put collaboration at the project’s centre, recognising that it would only succeed if experts from a wide range of fields, from real estate to renewable energy and materials technology, were brought together to stimulate innovation and problem solving.

All the materials used in the building’s construction can be dismantled and reassembled, recycled, biodegraded or reused after the lifespan of the building. Smaller rooms can be easily rearranged to change their function thanks to mobile furniture, lighting, kitchens and electrical cables that circulate through metal beams across the rooms. One of the outstanding elements of the project is the inflatable meeting room which can be stored in a bag and put up in minutes, transforming into a 65m2 space. The infrastructure for water, energy and heating is similarly novel and flexible, allowing for future changes of use and on-site recycling and power generation. The multifunctional rooms are heated by a boiler that combines two energy sources - solar panels and wood pellets - using a heat exchanger. The building also makes use of passive energy systems. In winter transparent roof enables it to benefit from free solar calories and in summer, a natural ventilation system is used to keep the building cool.

From its extractable foundations to its non-bituminous roof membrane, the building brings to life the three founding principles of C2C: 
  • all products must be biodegradable or capable of being transformed into new products for use elsewhere; 
  • diversity and mutability of systems, architecture, social environments, revenue, biodiversity and more are embedded for resilience and longevity; 
  • energy must be renewable, from diverse sources and saved where possible.

The lead agency for the project is The Metropole Européeenne  de Lille and developer SEM Ville Renouvelée.  Funding for the building work and operational costs totalled €1,160,000, to which the European INTERREG project contributed 50%.

La Lainière Project House accommodates a wide diversity of uses. In its first year, hundreds of local people came to the house for tours, book fairs and workshops and school children visited to learn about their area and its sustainable future. The building has given The Friends of Lainière opportunities to celebrate the site’s textile past and urban renewal. It also brings together stakeholders in the area’s regeneration to promote C2C principles. In addition, the Project House is home to the Lille team responsible for the Lainière project, 107 people whose energy and commitment have galvanised citizens, associations and public and private partners to participate in the project. 

The project could have come to a stop many times. There were significant difficulties with regulations written at a time when the building’s materials and methods were unheard of. Manufacturers initially quoted high prices, given that they were unsure of the C2C concept. Once explanations and design modifications were completed, the construction itself took just three months.

In pioneering a change in the way business sites are developed, restructured and managed and learning many lessons along the way, the project has been able to contribute to the C2C BIZZ project’s ‘Guide to cradle-to-cradle Inspired business sites’. This guide will certainly be of great value as the rest of the Lainière site is developed. What is less certain is the future of the Project House itself. But whether it is sold as corporate real estate, or is reused elsewhere, it will fulfil its function as a building designed for a changing world.

- Cities in action - Lille - La Lainiere Project House, Cradle-to-cradle building validates and publicises innovative concept, EUROCITIES, November 2017

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