Understanding the French HQE Certification and Its Relation to Architectural Signage

A modern architectural complex with multiple cube-like buildings and a street in the foreground, showcasing Modulex signage. People are walking, and nearby structures feature various other signs. The sky is clear.

The High Environmental Quality (HQE) certification is a French standard for green building that aims to minimise the environmental impact of new and existing buildings, as well as land developments, while enhancing the ecological quality and performance of the building. As an integral component of sustainable development in France, HQE addresses a wide range of environmental factors, from energy efficiency and waste management to the health and comfort of building occupants. HQE is among the most stringent and comprehensive green building schemes, emphasising the social and health aspects of a building’s performance and user experience.  

Structure and Aims of HQE  

The HQE certification is structured around 14 targets grouped into four main themes: Eco-construction, Eco-management, Comfort, and Health. The targets within these themes encourage building practices that promote better environmental integration, enhanced user experience and site health, efficient energy, water, and waste management, improved indoor environment quality, and careful selection of construction materials. Each target awards points that contribute to the overall building score, determining whether the building will be certified and at which level (Good, Very Good, Excellent, or Outstanding).  

HQE certification is based on third-party audits performed by independent auditors on data submitted by the client and its design office. The certification process involves rigorous assessment and auditing, ensuring that buildings meet stringent standards and contribute positively to their surroundings. Furthermore, the HQE scheme considers the local and national context of the projects to be certified. 

Signage in the Context of HQE  

Architectural signage plays a pivotal role in achieving and maintaining HQE certification. Signage in this context refers to the design, placement, and materials of signs within and around the building. To align with HQE standards, signage must adhere to eco-design principles and sustainable practices.

  • Material Selection: The materials used for signage are crucial. Eco-friendly materials such as recycled plastics, sustainably sourced wood, and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint help reduce environmental impact. These materials contribute to HQE’s eco-construction and health targets by minimising the release of harmful substances and promoting resource conservation. Local materials that support a circular economy are also positively rewarded.
  • Energy Efficiency: Signage that requires illumination should use energy-efficient lighting solutions like LED technology. This aligns with the eco-management theme, aiming to reduce the building’s energy consumption. Prioritising natural light and using solar panels to power illuminated signage wherever possible will positively contribute to the building’s energy efficiency score.
  • Waste Management: Implementing signage solutions that are durable and easily recyclable at the end of their life cycle supports HQE’s waste management objectives. It’s essential for signage to be designed for disassembly, facilitating recycling and reducing waste. For instance, modular signage products are designed to be easily updated and reconfigured, reducing the need to discard entire systems as informational or branding needs evolve. Likewise, materials made from waste, which contribute to a circular economy, also support this target.
  • Integration and Comfort: Effective signage enhances the usability and accessibility of a building, contributing to the comfort targets of the HQE standard. Signage that is thoughtfully designed improves navigation ensures safety and enhances the overall user experience without compromising aesthetic and functional quality. Applying universal design principles (e.g., braille) ensures accessibility and adaptability for people with diverse needs, enhancing the user experience for all navigating that space. On the other hand, using signage as a communication tool to raise awareness about environmental issues or the building’s sustainable performance will also support the overall score in an HQE project.

By integrating these principles, architectural signage adheres to the HQE standards and reinforces the building’s commitment to sustainability. Effective signage thus serves as both a functional and an environmental statement, aligning with broader goals of sustainable development and ecological responsibility.  

Overall, the French HQE certification is a comprehensive framework that emphasises sustainability in the building sector. Architectural signage, when designed in accordance with HQE principles, not only supports the certification’s aims but also enhances the building’s environmental and user-friendly qualities.  

 To find out more about how sustainable signage can support your development, learn more here.