Be a lawyer for construction or the “setting to music of regulations”

At the beginning of January 2022, the firm Altes was born, thanks to the merger of the expertise of four associate lawyers. Their specialty? Business law, with a predilection for construction subjects. The opportunity to explore more concretely the relationship between construction professionals and the current legislative framework, in particular that relating to the environmental impact of the sector. Interview with Carl Enckell, energy, environment, urban planning and development lawyer at Altes.

Altes is the meeting of four partners divided between two law firms, Enckell Avocats and Tesla. Their collaboration dates back to 2016, going until sharing premises ». On the other hand, we never felt the need to merge completely », introduces Carl Enckell, lawyer and co-founder.

Distinct but complementary specialties

The interested party continues: But in reality, the Covid-19 crisis, the relative slowdown in one-off activity in 2020, allowed us to give some time and turn this situation into an opportunity to launch our brand. “.

But also the opportunity to unite lawyers with varied profiles and specializations: energy, the environment, town planning and development for Carl Enckell; commercial relations, management of industrial projects, competition and distribution managed for Sophie de Senilhes; technologies, commercial relations and competition-distribution for Olivier Roux, as well as the construction, preservation of interests and conflict resolution for Philippe Savatic.

Distinct themes but which can be complementary. ” The lawyer, in his capacity as an expert, has an intuitu personae relationship with his client. That is to say the personal trust placed in the lawyer as a person. But there, indeed, with our four sectors, we have the advantage of not being stepped on “, notes Carl Enckell, who aims, with his associates, to “ involve colleagues or complementary skills, because the needs of our customers do not stop at the door of our areas of expertise “.

Regulations, a matter of anticipation, innovation and negotiation

It is therefore practical for SMEs, ETIs, groups, design offices, insurers, trade associations and other construction professionals, who make up a third of Altes’ customers. Clientele made up for the most part of business enterprises, while the remaining 10-15% are local authorities collaborating with these enterprises.

Altes’ favorite subject in construction? The energy performance of a building could not be more multidisciplinary. “ We will start from my energy skills, and the understanding of the legal regulatory framework. And then at some point we will come to very contractual, very classic issues “explains Carl Enckell.

But according to the latter, the current issue of a legal construction file is ” setting regulations to music “. And at the moment, these are numerous, between the RE2020 applied at the beginning of January, the Climate and Resilience law adopted this summer, or the REP Building to come.

Legislative paraphernalia certainly necessary to reduce the carbon impact of construction. The problem is that the professionals concerned, in particular craftsmen, ” don’t have time to respond effectively in the field, recalls Carl Enckell.

Hence the need to support them legally, to guide professionals towards more ” anticipation » and to kiss the « innovation capacity » regulations, such as two solutions for reusing waste or tools for calculating the energy performance of buildings.

The regulations are sometimes very administrative, and at some point there is a dematerialization of exchanges. So our customers are faced with all of this at once. They are well aware that it is a structuring movement and not at all punctual », develops the lawyer.

He pursues : ” There is also a reestablishment of the negotiations of good decisions, because there are infrastructure projects which have their origins in consultation and exchanges which took place in the years 1990-2000, and which can be called into question with regard to the new legislation of 2010-2020. And so the challenge is also, while adopting virtuous behaviors – such as stopping the artificialization of the soil -, not to brutally call into question projects on which there have been investments “.

A compromise to be found between incentive and regulation

Especially since construction law is a real “ legislative millefeuille, designed in silos thematic, describes Carl Enckell, referring to the Environmental Code or the Town Planning Code.

The lawyer also finds that France has a ” made “legislative” very specific “. ” Where other countries like the Anglo-Saxon ones will first put forward training, awareness-raising or support, we tend to bet on regulations. And regulation is often the last pillar of public policy in other Member States of the European Union “, he explains.

Is a compromise therefore conceivable between the European incentive posture and French ambitions, which are sometimes difficult to apply throughout the territory? This is the essence of the legal profession. ” We realize that with the laws passed (Grenelle 1, Grenelle 2, Ecological transition and green growth, AGEC, etc.), between the implementing decree and the reality on the ground, years can pass. There are sometimes articles that are never applied “laments Carl Enckell.

According to him, we must claim the right to experiment “. ” That is to say that in a regulation, we must accept the idea that, despite the principle of republican equality, we can apply it, punctually on a territory, on a project, to see the effects that it involves, before generalizing it to the whole of the metropolitan territory and Overseas “, he concludes.

Interview by Virginie Kroun
Front cover photo: Adobe Stock

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