Faces of EUMEPS: Dominique Radin, Market Manager at HIRSCH ISOLATION (France)

From selling chrysanthemums to spearheading advancements within the EPS sector, Dominique Radin, Market Manager at HIRSCH Isolation, unfolds his dedication to eco-friendly building practices. Amidst efforts to elevate public consciousness and navigate rigorous environmental regulations, Dominique underscores the critical role of EPS in fulfilling sustainability goals and adhering to regulatory mandates. Tacking breakthroughs like “Grey EPS” and biomass-based low-carbon materials, Dominique Radin gives us a nuanced perspective on the French EPS landscape, significantly shaped by regulations like the “RE2020”.

 

  • Can you tell us about your background and what led you to work in the EPS industry at HIRSCH Isolation?

What a lovely question! My business journey began with selling chrysanthemums in markets. Then, after various adventures in sales within the building sector, in 1991, I joined ISOBOX HENRY, a producer of EPS within the BPB group (owner of Placoplatre®) as a Salesperson.

In 1997, an additional sales network no longer dedicated to distributors and traders was created. It focused on industrial clients. This is how I became a dedicated Technical Sales Representative for Industrial clients. In 2005, the company was bought by SAINT GOBAIN, and a Business Unit solely dedicated to EPS was created. It was quickly followed by the creation of the EPS Market Manager position to support the sales force of Placo® delegates.

Finally, in January 2020, following the acquisition by HIRSCH Gruppe and the creation of HIRSCH France, the position of Market Manager under the HIRSCH Isolation brand was created and it has been my job since then.

 

  • What is your vision of the EPS insulation market in France and how does it differ from other European markets?

EPS is an essential insulation material used in construction. It is the most used in Europe and the 2nd in France. This is due to its many benefits: easy to use, light, great thermal and mechanical performance (resistance higher than 8T/M2), easy to recycle, etc. EPS is found in floors, ground; ITI (Interior Thermal Insulation) and ITE (Exterior Thermal Insulation) walls; and roofs.

The main challenge for EPS in France is the perception by the public: there is a lack of awareness and knowledge about the recyclability of EPS. Unfortunately, too few people know that EPS is composed of a significant portion of crushed and dusted scraps which are re-incorporated into new beads. The approach is truly circular!

In France, we also use EPS to manufacture void formers integrated into beam floor systems. Some other atypical uses also include surfboards; floating pontoons; cold rooms; and of course, embankments whether they are landscaped or for roads.

 

  • In your opinion, what will be the main challenges the EPS industry will face in the coming years, particularly in France?

Recognising EPS as being a perfectly suited material for the “Règlementation Environnementale 2020” (RE2020 – Environmental Legislation 2020) and the associated carbon footprint measures is the biggest challenge! HIRSCH Isolation was the first to innovate in 2020 with an ICA (Improved Carbon Footprint) for EPS: raw material comes from biomass and presents itself with a significantly reduced carbon impact.

Beyond this “RE2020”, the new “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) regulation implies a strong deployment of recycling services. Recycling has been developed by HIRSCH Isolation for many years. For instance, we were pioneers in 2011 with recycling on ITE (Interior Thermal Insulation) sites.

If I summarise, I will say that the two main challenges will be the recognition of new biomass material to meet the upcoming thresholds of the “RE2020”, and the massification and deployment of recycling services to meet the “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) for buildings.

 

  • What are the most significant innovations you have observed in the EPS industry during your career?

The turning point truly is the new “graphite” bead referred to as “Grey EPS”. It reduced the thickness of insulation for an equivalent thermal resistance, as proven by the new eligibility conditions for aid with very important thermal resistance values (greater than 4 m².K/W). Then, there is the arrival of “low carbon” EPS – as early as 2020 at HIRSCH Isolation – where raw material is no longer fossil-based but composed of second-generation plant waste.

 

  • How do French and European regulations influence the EPS industry, and how does HIRSCH Isolation respond to them?

The current regulations on energy and the environment are moving in the right direction. As I said before, the thermal performance and especially the carbon footprint of materials are paramount.

Back in 2022, HIRSCH Isolation created a configurator tool, validated by INIES, to create automatically customised FDES (Fiches de Données Environmentales et Sanitaires – French equivalent of an Environmental Product Declaration) documents. This truly is a turning point. Indeed, the tool is a calculator that identifies all components of an insulator: production, raw materials, transport, life cycle, etc. It determines, among other things, the carbon weight (in KgCo2) per qualifying unit (m3, m2, etc.) of the insulation used, and regroups all this data in the FDES document. If this document is not validated by INIES (the reference environmental and health database for building and RE2020), then it is not valid.

 

  • Can you tell us more about the RE2020 legislation? It seems to have quite a big impact on the French market.

It is an energy and environmental regulation for all new buildings. One of the main pillars of the RE2020 is significantly reducing the carbon content of materials used in construction. In the case of insulation, the document of reference is the FDES which must be provided, as per the RE2020 regulation. The FDES indicates the carbon weight of materials used for buildings. In the case of our Configurator, it is very useful to comply with the regulation: it is adapted for each construction site, and it calculates the number of kilometres from the production site to the delivery site. This data is extremely important when we talk about carbon footprint, as you know.

 

  • What trends do you anticipate for the EPS industry in France in the coming years?

The increasing of the recycling capacity in products. Then, the most delicate issue remains reaching out to the public about the environmental performance of EPS material. The carbon footprint will be crucial as well in the decision-making process for choosing a product soon.

Now, the main barrier is the “low carbon” insulation costs versus more conventional products. But in a few years, companies will have to offer concrete and complete solutions. This is why HIRSCH Isolation keeps developing ICA (Improved Carbon Footprint) ranges to cover all building applications (Interior Thermal Insulation, waterproofing; floors).

In parallel, as manufacturers, we must provide carbon footprint data as precise data as possible. This is why we launched the Configurator.

 

  • How do the ecological transition and sustainability goals affect the EPS industry in France?

Some might say it’s a hobbyhorse of mine, but as you can see in my previous answers, for me, EPS is firmly part of this transition. Expanded polystyrene is a fantastic material and has proven its utility in the ecological transition: it is 100% recyclable, it is recycled with our REuse service, it is made in France, it is efficient, and it is durable.

We could even go even further by taking back various EPS products, including packaging, for recycling in our production site. Circularity would be completed.

 

  • To conclude, do you have any anecdotes to share with us?

In 1991, my friends and family were saying to me: “What are you doing, working within the EPS sector? This material has no future!”. Well, 33 years later, I am still there and just as passionate…