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The construction sector is responsible for almost 40% of all waste. Scientists from the VUB now show that building can also be environmentally friendlier and create less waste: they recently renovated eight of the well-known student flats on the campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Etterbeek, using solely reusable materials that can later be installed in another building. The outcome of this ambitious project is the brand new “Circular Retrofit Lab”, which opens its doors today.
Fifteen organizations in seven countries are researching circular construction methods and business models with funds from the European Horizon 2020 project. For the Circular Retrofit Lab, the team of VUB’s prof. Niels De Temmerman - comprising Stijn Brancart, Stijn Elsen, Wesley Lanckriet, Anne Paduart and Jeroen Poppe - started with research into circular building methods and materials. They then applied the gained knowledge during the renovation of the student accommodation, using only building materials that are removable, changeable and reusable. It is the first time that such a circular renovation project has been successfully concluded in Europe. The Circular Retrofit Lab will initially serve as a signboard for circular construction and as an event space, but it can also be used for other purposes:
“The entire concept of the Circular Retrofit Lab is premised on change-oriented construction: the Lab can one day serve as a student room, or as a study room, laboratory, classroom or even as an ecological guesthouse. The days when a building had only one function are over. This pilot project also proves that the prejudices that are still prevalent around circular construction are unjustified: these new, innovative materials offer just as much quality, comfort and (architectural) freedom as traditional building materials and methods,” says Prof. Niels De Temmerman.
With support of the construction sector
For the realization of this project, the VUB also joined forces with various partners from the construction industry. Specifically, the façade was built with a modular system of prefabricated facade panels developed by Reynaers Aluminium, Beenes and Jonckheere Projects. For the interior of the Circular Retrofit Lab, the researchers used a dry floor system from Tarkett and four different interior wall systems developed by Saint-Gobain, Systimber, Geberit and JuuNoo - respectively a demountable wall system, a wall system with wooden beams, a modular construction kit and a rapidly mobile and adjustable velcro system. Smart techniques for the heating, lighting and water supplies of the Circular Retrofit Lab were next developed by companies such as Jaga, Bao Living, Zehnder and the VUB spin-off, Lumency. General contractors Groep Van Roey managed the coordination of the entire project in the right direction; Kaderstudio and MK Engineering assisted with the architectural design and techniques.
Finally, the project also materialized due to the financial support of the VUB’s General Management. Nic Van Craen, general administrator of the VUB, explains: “the VUB is committed to sustainability and we are constantly investing in making our infrastructure more sustainable. The new Circular Retrofit Lab is a great example of this, as is the new swimming pool that is substantially more sustainable than its predecessor. Moreover, the Lab is also a fine example of innovation and serves an example of a beautiful marriage between the scientific and academic knowledge of a university and the practical knowledge of business.”
About VUB Architectural Engineering
VUB Architectural Engineering has been researching change-oriented building for more than 10 years. Reusing and reducing construction waste, makes a constructive contribution to the more sustainable development of building and renovation.
About the Circular Retrofit Lab
The Circular Retrofit Lab is a pilot project of the European Horizon 2020 project “Buildings as Material Banks” and is located in the old student quarters designed by architect Willy Van Der Meeren on the VUB campus. The project also has the support of various prominent partners from the construction industry, including Geberit, Group Van Roey, Reynaers Aluminium, the Saint-Gobain Group (Gold partners); Jaga and Jonckheere Projects (Dilver partners); and Bao Living, Beneens, JuuNoo, Kaderstudio, Lumency, MK Engineering, Systimber, Tarkett and the Zehnder Group (consortium partners).