The city of La Rochelle (150,000 inhabitants) is located on the French Atlantic coast between Bordeaux and Nantes. The combination of naval, food and transport (Alstom, Delphi, Rhodia-Solvay) industries with three (commercial, marina and fishing) harbours gives the city an exceptional position amongst all maritime cities on the French Atlantic coast. In addition, the University of La Rochelle has highly developed teaching and research activities in the building science and technology field.
La Rochelle is deeply committed to develop “urban ecology” approaches. For ten years, the city has been implementing an innovative urban planning strategy involving deep retrofitting of social housing. A privileged partnership with the University has been in place for nearly 20 years, helping the city’s services to benefit from the latest progresses in terms of energy efficiency. La Rochelle has also been a pioneering eco-city and one of the first cities in France to install collective solar hot water systems (in the 70s), develop solutions for sustainable transport (the first bike rental service was promoted in 1976) and e-mobility (e-vehicles were tested by selected households in the frame of a partnership with Peugeot, a car fleet of self-service electrical vehicles was launched in 1999) and promote district heating (the heat network was connected to an incineration plant, built in 1988). Furthermore, the City of La Rochelle is engaged in the labeling process Cit'ergie since July 2012, with the support of the French National Energy Agency ADEME.
In addition, an ambitious project is taking place near the city centre of La Rochelle: the release by the army of a piece of land of 27 hectares has given an opportunity to develop a low-carbon industrial district. This district will host sustainable industrial facilities for testing, training, information and technological development in the field of building refurbishment, but also housing and training services.
The purpose of La Rochelle’s engagement in SINFONIA is to assess (with e.g. modeling) the replication potential of the new concepts developed within the project in order to upgrade the existing building stock to reduce its carbon footprint.