Gabon: FSC-certified timber used for the façade of the new French Embassy in Libreville

A crane lifts a piece of wood into place during construction of the French embassy in gabon
February 20, 2024
Category : General news

FSC certification assures that the timber façade of the new embassy comes from sustainably managed forests, in line with Gabon’s pioneering approach to forest protection. 

The new French Embassy in Libreville, Gabon, was inaugurated by the French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Libreville in March 2023. The building sits in a wooded park that is remarkable for its wealth of tree species, and the choice of FSC-certified timber for its façade promotes local timber, setting a good example for other new buildings. The finished building was opened in June 2023 by Ambassador Alexis Lamek.

Architects Fabienne Bulle and Pascale Poirier, who designed the building, stressed that “the new embassy is entirely conceived and constructed, keeping in mind materials and their environmental and social impact. We worked only with Gabonese companies, and all the sustainably-sourced materials are of local origin”.

locally sourced wood used for French embassy in Gabon
FBAA - Locally sourced timber materials used for the façade of the embassy.

Although the structural components are made of concrete, the decision to use timber was an important consideration for both architects.

“The challenge was to select a local hardwood, and to ensure its traceability and sustainable origin, to show that this timber comes from local forests”, said Pascale Poirier, who visited the country many times in the course of the project.

Surprisingly, although 80 per cent of Gabon is forest-covered, the use of timber in local construction is still fairly marginal, often confined to village dwellings.

“We wanted to change this image of timber, to give greater visibility to this noble material, which is of such quality and durability when it is harvested from well-managed forests. FSC certification has made that possible”, added Fabienne Bulle.

The architects chose FSC-certified padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii), from concessions managed by Precious Woods in eastern Gabon, to make the 226 wooden fins that form the façade of the building.

“We were invited to explore the concession managed by Precious Woods and so were able to observe the close connections between the forest and local communities. It was fascinating”, said Pascale Poirier. “We met the sawyers, loggers, carpenters, and truckers of the camp at Bambidié. This was the beginning of our fruitful cooperation in processing the timber.”

Fabienne Bulle also points up one of the great strengths of FSC: dialogue and consultation. “By creating a collaborative networking dynamic, FSC certification makes it possible to promote and develop the products of the normally inaccessible forestry industry, at competitive prices. As a result, the whole industry benefits from greater exposure and can reach out to new players and partners”.

As a further step, the building was subject to FSC project certification, a standard* introduced to encourage responsible management and the choice of certified materials in buildings. “This form of certification enables the project leaders’ to communicate about the sustainable character of the wood-based material used and demonstrate their commitment to address environmental and social issues” said Guillaume Dahringer, Technical Director of FSC France.

Side shot of the facade of the French embassy in Gabon
FBAA - The new façade of the French Embassy in Gabon.

For the architects, FSC project certification was vital to “inject a sense of responsibility into the construction industry”. They also think it essential that both the contracting authority and the prime contractor on future projects make greater efforts to encourage behaviour that is “more measured, attentive and respectful of the environment in which they operate”.

There are now more than 330 FSC-certified projects around the world. FSC supports project leaders in this area by advising on procedures they need to follow and finding FSC-certified suppliers.

Peter O. Alele, FSC Regional Director for Africa, summarised the importance of the project. “The French Embassy in Gabon exemplifies a pioneering approach in sustainability, placing great emphasis on responsible sourcing of forest products. By incorporating FSC certified materials that are sourced locally, this ground-breaking initiative not only showcases a dedication to promoting local development but also serves as an inspiring model for other projects. We should embrace the power of responsible forestry and continue to build a future that safeguards our natural resources.”

Find out more about tropical wood from Gabon by exploring the journey of tropical wood through this story map.


* FSC Standard FSC-STD-40-006 for project certification distinguishes three types of project, depending on the materials used and the proportion of materials certified: full project certification (98% of timber and other forest products FSC certified or recycled); partial project certification (covering specific project components); and project certification for which a percentage of the certified timber and other materials is determined. The façade of the new French Embassy in Libreville obtained the second type and can be found in the FSC public search with licence number FSC-P001945.

To find out more, contact Guillaume Dahringer, (FSC France) or Israel Bionyi, (Africa) or take a look at our brochure!