Vine shoot bricks: the precursor Neveu company

Example of insulating bricks made from vine shoots, an innovation currently being researched.

The recent visit of Fridays of the Eco organized by the community of municipalities of the Estuary made it possible to discover the reignacaise company Neveu (building), founded in 1968, as well as their innovative project to manufacture insulating bricks based on vine shoots of vine.

The project is called Sarmentys and starts from “a wacky idea”, according to Alexandre Neveu, co-director with his father Stéphane, of the essential construction company in Haute-Girondine Neveu, founded in 1968 by his grandfather Gilbert. A flourishing family history that today makes this company one of the major players in construction in the region.

Large-scale construction sites in the old and the new

The Neveu company generates a constantly growing turnover of 14 million euros. It employs no less than 84 employees and supports twelve apprentices in their training. Neveu can claim to have built many public or private buildings. In addition to the ongoing projects such as the singular renovation of the Napoleonic military fort of Saumonards on the Île d’Oléron, bought by the boss of Free, Xavier Niel, in order to install a computer school there (School 42), the builders at Chez Neveu recently participated in the renovation of the Régulus caves in Royan, in the construction of a semi-buried cellar of 300 m2 in a Château in Saint-Sulpice de Cameyrac. The Stam high school in Saint-André is also them, or even the future Grand Cubzaguais aquatic center as well as a 120-unit building that is currently emerging from the ground in the Bastide district in Bordeaux… And these are just a few examples .

The company is involved in both old and new buildings “but we also continue to do small projects close to individuals because it is the DNA of the company, as it was created by my great -father” recalls Alexandre Neveu. The range of trades developed by the company is wide, ranging from stone cutting, roofing, structural work… With also the desire to position itself in the innovation niche. This is where the Sarmentys project comes in.

An innovative project

“We have a local resource: the vine, we have skills within the company and we are quite innovative and well committed to our CSR (corporate social and societal responsibility)”. The idea therefore appeared to try to create insulating bricks based on vine shoots, as is already being developed with hemp (hemp lime) or straw, to meet the growing demand for biosourced materials (from raw materials organic materials) in the construction sector.

A scientific study was launched with the support of an engineering school and a doctoral student. The objective is thus to anticipate changes in regulations by inventing new materials with low greenhouse gas emissions, limiting the depletion of resources, reducing energy consumption and waste production.

An unexplored domain

“The vine shoot is a biosourced material made up of renewable organic matter,” explains Alexandre Neveu. In other words, thousands of tons of it are produced each year without a destination. Maybe something could be done…

France has no less than 750,000 hectares of vine surface and 200,000 in New Aquitaine, which is a very substantial resource. Very little research has been conducted so far on this material.

“What interests us is the cellulose in the vine shoot” points out the co-director of the company, for its insulating power, while prototypes have already emerged.

Recovery, grinding, drying, molding…

The process would consist of bringing together winegrowers to collect the vine shoots, crush them on site to make transportable bales. It would then be necessary to carry out a sieving and drying operation to finally create agglomerated blocks. Said like that, the operation seems quite simple, but research continues to find the right glue, the right binder (preferably non-chemical) based on wheat starch, raw earth or lime in order to produce a material stable over time, permeable to mold and without the manufacturing process being too complex. Once molded, the bricks could replace materials such as glass wool. To make 8 m2 of insulation, you would need a ton of vine shoots.

“We are at the start of the research and the challenge is complicated, but we could imagine the launch of the industrial process by 2025” enthuses Alexandre Neveu.

There is also a question of the cost to succeed in producing a cheap material, but also to carry out this type of research. A budget of between €600 and €700,000 is required, 60% matched by Ademe (Ecological Transition Agency).

The small company Neveu, which has become large, could well become a pioneer in the development of this new production sector, like another local company, Vinea, which develops the production of fuel for industrial boilers.

based on vine stock.

Aude Gaboriau

Vine shoot bricks: the precursor Neveu company – Haute Gironde