Immoterrae has crucial role in earthworks in France's Seine Valley

Flemish know-how is helping to find a solution for surplus soil in France

Over the past decade, Flanders has emerged as an earthworks specialist. Today, this part of Belgium has made such impressive progress that we now enjoy a reputation as frontrunners in the sector in Europe. Immoterrae is an exponent of this trend with extensive legal, ecological and financial expertise in environmental risks and soil pollution. The Flemish Construction Confederation set up this organization in 2011 to help building owners and contractors, but Immoterrae is now also deploying its expertise in a large-scale project in a region stretching from Île-de-France to part of Normandy.

Flemish regulations governing earthworks are based on the European standstill principle, which safeguards the soil's environmental quality. Operators in Flanders people have found a way of transporting excavated earth quickly and safely from one region to another without affecting the quality of the receiving soil. Thanks to clear standards, the receiving soil does not always need to be analysed in advance. This saves a considerable amount of time.

Since this system has proved successful, the French government is supporting the GEOBAPA pilot project, which aims to transpose this know-how to a French context, more specifically the Seine Valley and Ile de France regions. After all, our neighbour to the south does not currently have appropriate practical methods or regulations for moving earth swiftly and safely. This is creating a bottleneck, since major works in the offing will require the processing of significant quantities of surplus soil. Flanders faced the same situation before the launch of the regulations governing earthworks around 12 years ago.

Furthermore, following the recent climate conference in Paris, the re-use of excavated soil and construction and demolition waste now also figures high up on the agenda in France.

The GEOBAPA project, which could make a major contribution, is in the hands of a consortium of engineering firms with expertise in soil research and soil statistics, tracing and certification. Together, they intend to map soil quality in the region and set up an extensive database. Meanwhile, Immoterrae is drawing on its extensive practical experience to switch to a user-friendly instrument that makes soil transportation quick and safe.

To shape this database, where necessary the existing soil data will be supplemented with additional samples. The consortium will then define sub-areas, based on soil quality, taking into account, among other things, the presence of industry, residential areas, and so on. Once the entire region has been mapped, the information about the soil to be excavated will simply need to be compared with the results in the database to ensure top-quality soil transportation.

The crucial role played by Immoterrae in this pilot project, which France is monitoring with great interest, entails drawing on its many years of practical, multidisciplinary experience in construction projects on (potentially) contaminated soil, working as a partner of governments and property developers.

For years now, the Flemish Construction Confederation (VCB) has been doing its best to create a watertight cycle for earthworks in Flanders so that it can offer its members swift, safe soil transportation. The VCB's tagline - Construction, Energy and the Environment - is now also reflected in new initiatives, such as Tracimat, to trace demolition and construction waste and prepare it as a raw material for new applications, and the Green Construction project, which highlights the importance of nature-enhancing materials and construction techniques and knowledge about them.