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Charlotte Cambier

Charlotte Cambier

Ir. arch. Charlotte Cambier is a PhD researcher at the Architectural Engineering Lab of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Her PhD research, under the supervision of prof. dr. ir. arch. Niels De Temmerman, has the aim to develop a method to assess the architectural and technical feasibility of preassembled transformable façade systems. The interest in transformable architectural design was aroused during her education as an architectural engineer. Charlotte obtained the degree of Master of Sciences in Architectural Engineering at the VUB in 2017.

PhD research

Development of a method to contextually assess the architectural feasibility of preassembled transformable fa├žade systems

Date2017 - ...
SupervisorsNiels De Temmerman and Waldo Galle
FundsResearch Foundation Flanders - FWO (Strategic Basic)

As an alternative for the linear 'make, use and dispose' model, the circular model strives for an industry without waste. Examples of products and systems to be able to move towards a circular building sector already exist. However, to realise an operating circular model in the construction sector, an important gap should be bridged. The technical knowledge on how to manufacture circular building products should be aligned with the requirements and complexities of architectural practice. In other words, only if manufacturers know which products are architecturally feasible to create, and if architects know which building products are circular, the sector's growth can be decoupled from its resource consumption. Technically, a lot of knowledge already exists, but its implementation needs further guidance.

Therefore, this research will develop an assessment method so companies are able to test and evaluate the architectural feasibility of their development, while architects are able to get guidance in selecting suitable structures and systems. The focus in this research lays on the implementation of preassembled transformable façade systems. The façade has a critical role related to energy performance and interior function of a building, while it has also an aesthetical aspect. Moreover, a transformable façade can anticipate future changes and can adapt to changing functions. Transformability relies on applying Design for Disassembly principles, which allows to efficiently maintain, repair, replace and reuse the building elements. This way, by implementing transformability, the lifespan of the façade is extended and it contributes to the reduction of excessive waste. The implementation of preassembled transformable façades will be tested in different contexts, as well as the feasibility assessment method. With this feasibility assessment method, construction teams will be able to test and evaluate the architectural and technical feasibility of a transformable façade in their context of use.

Master’s thesis

Expandable houses: Exploring the potential of anticipated extensions in terms of changing lifestyles, material efficiency and life cycle costs

Date2016 - 2017
SupervisorsNiels De Temmerman and Waldo Galle

Affordable and environmentally-friendly houses are high on the agenda in Flanders. To be able to generate financially, socially and environmentally sustainable dwellings, an alternative is required for the current housing stock. What if our houses were adaptable to our needs and not the other way around? This research sought an answer by exploring the potential of expandable houses.

An expandable house consists of a core house and has the possibility to add or expand spaces. The core house is a complete house and includes the mandatory functions to accommodate one or two persons. The core and the expansions are designed so that they can anticipate and adapt to changing needs. This requires that the future is considered in the design phase. In order to take into account the uncertainty of the future and to show that the expandable house can withstand time, scenarios of family households were generated. The core house is thus designed in such a way that it can adapt to the different household scenarios by means of expansion.

Then, the material efficiency and the life cycle costs of the expandable house were calculated for each scenario. To demonstrate the benefits of the anticipated expansions, the material efficiency and the life cycle costs of the expandable house is compared with those of a conventional row house in Flanders.

In terms of costs, both the initial costs and the life cycle costs are lower for an expandable house than for a conventional house. Also in terms of environmental impact, the expandable house is more favorable because less materials are needed to build it. Furthermore, using demountable and lightweight materials facilitates adaptability, but it has also a favourable impact on the environment. A remarkable finding is that it does not matter, in terms of costs, whether the core house and the extensions are built out of conventional or out of demountable materials. Only if the house would shrink at a given moment, there is a difference. When using demountable elements, they can be disassembled, sold and reused in another project. This approach can even imply profit. Building elements that are broken down when they have not reached their maximum lifespan thus result in ecological and financial costs.

The exploration into life cycle costs, material efficiency and adaptability of expandable houses underpins supports the hypothesis that transformable housing is a possible catalyst for sustainable development in the housing sector. Households, architects and entrepreneurs benefit from the social, economic and ecological qualities it generates over time.