France. The article of the Heritage Code detailing the missions of the Heritage Foundation explicitly states this: this non-profit organization must contribute to the safeguarding of “natural or landscaped areas threatened with degradation”. Thus, in 2009, the foundation created the “Natural Heritage and Biodiversity” program, which has so far supported more than 350 projects.
“On the scale of what we have done around built heritage, it is obviously much less important,” recognizes Alexandre Giuglaris, deputy director general of the Heritage Foundation and next director general from October 1. With a view to strengthening its actions to safeguard natural heritage, the organization has therefore, for two years, increased initiatives in favor of the eco-renovation of buildings and biodiversity. Last year, the foundation commissioned a study, with the help of independent experts (the I Care firm and the Ecozimut agency), to measure the environmental impact of the projects it supports.
85% of respondents (representatives of local authorities, institutions, patrons, donors, elected officials, project leaders, etc.) believe that the Heritage Foundation should strengthen its action for natural heritage and declare that it has an important role to play for its preservation thanks to its territorial roots. “We work in rural areas, where the foundation is identified, confirms Alexandre Giuglaris. It can therefore convince or raise awareness among audiences who, today, are a little distant from environmental issues. » The consultation also reveals that the foundation is expected as much on the restoration of eco-responsible buildings (a priority according to 36% of respondents), as on the preservation of natural spaces (this should be its first concern for 35% of respondents).
Ten monitoring indicators
As part of this study, ten indicators were also created to evaluate each project, including the number of hectares of sustainably managed natural spaces (751 hectares in 2022), the number of species per project including the environment is preserved or restored (810 species of fauna and flora on average in 2022), or the share of eco-materials (50% in 2022) or local materials in renovation work. “The creation of these monitoring indicators will make it possible to better select our projects and observe their developments and impacts more effectively, summarizes Alexandre Giuglaris. From this fall, the projects that will be selected will have to provide at least one of the indicators,” he announces.
Last year, the 17 winners of the “Natural Heritage and Biodiversity” program shared a grant of one million euros to carry out their eco-renovation projects for built heritage and the protection of sensitive natural spaces, to which donations are less frequent. “Uprooting invasive plants in a peat bog is not necessarily the sexiest thing!smiles Alexandre Giuglaris. According to our interlocutors, the help of donations is often essential and decisive. » Indeed, if the program is partly financed thanks to sponsorship from Primagaz, the environmental actions of the Heritage Foundation operate to a large extent on its own funds (1.5 million euros in 2023). “The objective is to mobilize patronage and collect donations for these projects, and to seek public funding to strengthen our action,” explains Alexandre Giuglaris.
The latter is confident about the future involvement of donors and patrons in these environmental projects. 93% of people questioned during the impact study made a link between built heritage and natural heritage. “Either is equally important, and the two are inseparably linked”, explains the general manager. The foundation’s support for ecological projects is therefore intended to become more consistent. The foundation even hopes to reduce energy consumption in the country, in particular thanks to its label. Awarded to private owners of old buildings in rural areas, it attests to the heritage interest of a site and the quality of its renovation work. “We want to develop this label, so that it can ultimately benefit energy renovation work. It would become a sort of eco-label, the level of requirements of which would be aligned with low-consumption buildings. continues Alexandre Giuglaris.
Old buildings in fact represent a third of housing in France, a large proportion of which is considered a “thermal sieve”. A stakeholder in the discussions currently underway on the subject in the Senate, the Heritage Foundation is campaigning for the renovation of old buildings to be adapted to the energy transition, while respecting the specificities of this heritage by avoiding, for example, insulation by exterior and the disappearance of facades with remarkable character.