The NEXT panel tested in real-life conditions

Before they can be integrated into the furniture of the test school in La Rochelle as part of the “La Rochelle Territory Zero Carbon” project, Next panels are being tested in the Eureka house of the Tipee building technology platform.

The project in short Tests carried out by Panneaux de Corrèze and validated by the FCBA show today that NEXT’s formaldehyde emissions are as neutral as those of a untreated wooden planks. For the future, NEXT’s ambition is to become a material of choice for improving indoor air quality in homes (toys, furniture, fittings), but also in sensitive sectors such as day care centers, schools, hospitals, etc. As a first step towards this market, NEXT is currently participating in a full-scale project with the Tipee platform, to evaluate its formaldehyde emissions in more advanced humidity conditions that are closer to reality. Once the test results are in (summer of 2021), the next step will be for our panel to apply for use in the furniture and fittings of a test school in La Rochelle. The community is committed to the “La Rochelle Zero Carbon Territory” initiative, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality.

Interview with Jérôme Nicolle, head of the QIE (Quality of Indoor Environments) laboratory of the Tipee platform…

  • What is Tipee?

The Tipee platform is a project that was created at the University of La Rochelle about ten years ago to provide a link between academic research and the professional and industrial world, to serve as a conduit for new ideas, and to help the industry and researchers find solutions together. What is your link with NEXT and Panneaux de Corrèze? “As part of the La Rochelle project, we support the community in its approach to improving indoor air quality. That is why we wanted to be the vehicle for the NEXT innovation and contacted Evertree and Panneaux de Corrèze. The project is called “Ecrains”, and is supported by the ADEME. Our role is to challenge the teams, owners and project managers, to find the most suitable solutions to maintain indoor air quality throughout a building’s life cycle. We intervene on different levels, such as the ventilation systems, but also the furniture within the building. That is where NEXT comes in.”

  • What is the difference between the tests you perform and the tests in technological institutes?

“Today, standardized tests set parameters that are perfectly legal and legitimate, but that do not always represent reality. The tests take place in relatively aseptic rooms with a perfectly stable and fixed temperature, humidity level and air renewal. In a house or any other building, you have variations related to the environment and to the uses concerning temperature and humidity. It is this last point that particularly interests us. Studies of panels using a urea-formaldehyde adhesive formulation have shown degradation reactions in the presence of high humidity or heat, resulting in exacerbated formaldehyde release.The Evertree biobased resin formulation and NEXT panel composition limit the amount of formaldehyde released into the indoor air of buildings, but the same adverse conditions must be replicated to study the reaction and neutrality of NEXT.Our objective in the Eureka house is not to verify the tests already carried out, but to carry out tests complementary to those of the FCBA for example. To simply supplement them with new data.”

  • What are the “recreated” conditions for testing Next?

“We will observe the untreated panel. Generally, these panels are painted or lacquered, which also blocks their potential emissions. Except in the case of wear and tear and surface degradation. Looking at the untreated panel, we really test everything. We will observe a standard and a NEXT panel, installed in two completely independent and sealed rooms, but with exactly the same humidity conditions.We set up dynamic tests and monitoring (a measurement every five to ten minutes), for several days. We can then compare the results.”

  • Why is the humidity level in the air the most interesting condition for this test?

“I have the distinct impression that about ¾ of today’s schools do not have a proper ventilation system and operate solely on airflow and the opening of windows or doors. When, depending on the season, or during the day, everything is closed, the humidity related to the presence of students, breathing, etc. will increase very quickly. Much faster than the temperature difference that can occur. We can quickly get humidity levels in the order of 70%. When we know how humidity reacts with the glues of the panels, we really need to observe this parameter. Beyond that, it’s a key issue in the La Rochelle school project. Indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring has been made mandatory in preschools, elementary schools and daycare centers since January 1, 2018, and in recreation centers, middle schools and high schools since January 1, 2020.”

  • Why did you choose NEXT for this experiment?

“To create an MDF panel, a panel to make a shelf, a piece of furniture that is not untreated, a school desk, you need glue. Many resins and glues are quite decried in their use and presence, whether we are talking about urea formaldehyde or other compounds such as isocyanates.With the NEXT innovation, we start from plant residues with Evertree, on a natural wood fiber manufactured by Panneaux de Corrèze, which makes the difference beyond its formaldehyde emissions, in terms of sustainable development and carbon impact.Today, there is a real interest for reuse in the building world. NEXT is not a reuse, but the logic is the same, composed of sawmill residues, small wood from forest clearings, plant residues, etc. This biosourced approach is on the rise. This is the future of sustainable development in the building industry.

  • Will NEXT be present in the school in La Rochelle tomorrow?

“We are only in the testing phase and it is too early to say that NEXT is the right panel, but we have every reason to believe that it will be. Then there are all the steps to be taken for public procurement, project development, etc. to build this future school. Let’s talk about it again in the fall of 2021!”