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“We keep the coat”… Heating Rennes 1 University, mission impossible?

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“We are going to open a shop with hot water bottle rentals in front of the university. It’s going to hit! “. While the mornings are getting cooler and cooler, the students of Rennes-1 University keep smiling. When they are in class, it is common for them to also keep their coats on. Designed in the 1960s, the huge Beaulieu campus today suffers from its poor thermal performance. A heavy legacy which is even becoming a real burden as the price of energy is soaring. At Rennes-1, the annual bill was around five million euros. But that was before. Because in 2022, this figure will climb to nearly 7 million. And in 2023? “The optimistic range is 13 million. The most pessimistic exceeds 18 million, ”concedes Béatrice Bouchet. The vice-president of the university knows these figures by heart as they haunt her crisis management.

On the lawns of the campus, it is rather the date of ignition of the heating which worries the students. While the temperatures were still mild, many of them shared their daily lives with us. “In the morning, it is really cold. In the TD rooms in the basement, you really feel it. We keep our coats on for the first few hours”, testify Emma, ​​Noyah, Lise and Maëlle, enrolled in the third year of biology. Further, others tell us the same thing. “Sometimes you can’t write because your fingers are so cold. But when it was too hot, we were dying of heat in the amphitheater, it was the horror”, slips a group of students following a course in biology of organisms. Everyone agrees on this observation: their campus is pleasant but old-fashioned. “A good renovation wouldn’t hurt,” say students in business management and administration.

This facelift had been programmed long before the surge in energy prices. This record inflation will however accelerate it. “The renovation plan was drawn up in 2020 to define how we are going to restore this enormous heritage. We have the ambition to do it in fifteen years without waiting for subsidies, ”explains the vice-president. And there is work because the Rennes-1 university alone has 160 buildings for 320,000 m² of floor space and 147 hectares of land. “We didn’t benefit from the campus plan in the 2000s, so we have a lot of work to do. About 80% of our buildings are to be renovated”. The cost of this huge project is already known: 450 million euros, more than twice its annual budget. Colossal.

The Presidency wants to lead by example

To complete the envelope, the science faculty will activate all the levers. It will benefit from subsidies from the State, the metropolis, the region for around a third of the amount. For the rest, it hopes to enhance its heritage, either by renting its buildings or by selling plots or goods. But also by squeezing a little and contracting the area occupied by 20%. The presidency has shown the example by leaving its beautiful walls of Thabor to land in Beaulieu and by sharing offices. “The head of department alone in his big office, it’s over. Everyone must contribute,” recalls Béatrice Bouchet.

The vice-president of Rennes-1 has however found a reason for satisfaction with this immense renovation plan. Because his strainer offers him a considerable advantage: it was almost entirely designed at the same time. “Louis Arretche’s architecture is not perfect, but it is well thought out. All the buildings came out in record time because it was industrialized. All the modules are made the same, to the nearest millimetre. Our renovation solution, we will be able to duplicate it everywhere and achieve significant savings, ”assures the vice-president. For the renovation of the first ten buildings, Rennes-1 will pay 24 million euros, instead of 26 million. The saving of the equivalent of two months of heating version 2023.

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