Construction of the first Cradle to Cradle school in France to embrace the circular economy with positive impacts


Sainte Hélène is a small village on the banks of the Ria d’Etel belonging to the Blavet, Bellevue, Ocean Grouping of Municipalities (CCBBO) in the area known as the Pays de Lorient, itself in the Department of Morbihan, in Brittany. Sainte Hélène has set itself the task of building the first school in France in accordance with the principles of the circular economy to make a positive impact through eco-effective design, a true Cradle to Cradle building.

Noting that the present local authority school and the municipal restaurant both have major problems (obsolete prefabricated buildings, poor insulation, presence of radon) the town council has committed itself to building premises for a school and school-related activities that will respect the environment and present no health risks for children or staff. In addition, the project is to cost the municipality no more than an ordinary project would.

The children attending the private school will also be able to use the future buildings for meals and out-of-school activities. The route between the two schools will be made secure.

The project to be implemented by the municipality of Sainte Hélène is one of the eight pilot projects chosen by the Region of Brittany in order to promote the circular economy, but it is the only project that involves putting up a building.

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© Joël PRADO - Tous droits réservés - 2016

Brittany: 8 pilot projects

© Ecole C2C - Tous droits réservés - 2016

© Joël PRADO - Tous droits réservés - 2016
© Cécilia GANNAT - Tous droits réservés - 2016


It needs an imaginative and innovative spark when it comes to building a school intended to function according to the principles of the circular economy and having a positive impact. What that means in reality is that waste is no longer created, and in the construction, only materials are used that present no danger to health, can be easily dismantled, can be recycled over and over again or can revert to nature without causing pollution, or could even serve as nutrients.

Waste becomes a resource !

The CCBBO is the contracting authority for the project on behalf of Sainte Hélène The municipality is also receiving technical assistance from the Paris branch of the scientific research and consulting institute of EPEA (Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency), an organisation specialising in the Cradle to Cradle circular economy.

EPEA and the CCBBO are going to work with Sainte Hélène from the planning stage to the termination of the project to ensure that it is in conformity with the C2C philosophy and may therefore use the C2C label. The future school must therefore incorporate the following features :

  • A building that can be dismantled
  • Innovative materials that pose no risk to health and can be ‘upcycled’ or used for other purposes
  • A positive energy supply from renewable sources
  • Good indoor air quality
  • Water should be recycled
  • Creation of biodiversity
  • Capture of CO2
  • Aesthetically pleasing and high quality architecture

All the materials used must be free of any toxic substances, must be easy to dismantle, ‘upcyclable’ or capable of re-use, and listed, so that the building in fact becomes a ‘materials bank’ in order to facilitate its dismantling and the re-use of resources.

A project like this has to be collaborative and participatory and it is the wish of the municipality that it should be so. An initial participatory workshop was held on Saturday 16th January in Sainte Hélène to introduce the project and explain the Cradle to Cradle concept to all concerned.

First participatory workshops


Brittany’s Regional Council has granted a subsidy of €550,000 through its partnership with the Lorient district; this sum represents about the quarter of the estimated cost of the project. The municipality wishes to limit its indebtedness to €700,000 (to include the purchase of land) so is calling on both businesses and individuals to contribute to the funding of the project.



© CCBBO - Tous droits réservés - 2016