WVDM Living Lab

Sustainable renovation strategies for the post-war heritage in Brussels: the VUB student homes by Willy Van Der Meeren as Living Lab

The student homes at the VUB campus were built in 1971-1973.

The Living Lab is funded by Innoviris through its 'Test it' campaign-

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) astrives a sustainable approach for its architectural patrimony. The renovation of the student homes, located in the centre of the campus in Elsene, puts forward some important challenges. These homes, designed by architect Willy Van Der Meeren in 1971-1973, are recognized as architectural heritage, yet they are also in need of economically feasible and future-oriented interventions to enhance their energy performance. The Living Lab aims to solve this question by developing innovative renovation strategies in which four issues are taken into account and put in relation to each other, namely: energy, heritage, durability and economy.

The project team is composed of the Department of Architectural Engineering of the VUB (VUB-ARCH) and the Infrastructure Management of the VUB (VUB-INFRA). They will be assisted by private partners, experts and companies, to compose a team that possesses the necessary theoretical expertise and practical experience in relation to the four main issues of the project.

In collaboration with practice the team will develop various renovation strategies, that focus on the issues mentioned above to varying degrees. After a theoretical analysis, three to four appropriate strategies will be elaborated to be tested and compared in practice. Thanks to the thorough analysis, the construction and close monitoring (before and after the renovation), the Living Lab will offer new insights for all actors engaged in sustainable conservation and extending the life of existing buildings.


Call for consortia

Read the call for design consortia here:


Related projects and deliverables

Sustainable transformation of Van Der Meeren’s student houses, a feasibility study,
Circular Retrofit Lab, a circular pilot project,
Brussels Retrofit XL, sutyding post-war heritage in Brussels,
Post-war housing in Brussels, two case studies,
Design for Change, development of a policy framework and action plan.


Related literature (preliminary selection)

Van Der Meeren W. (1993). Wonen. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels.

De Kooning E. (1997). Willy Van Der Meeren: architectuur, stedebouw, design, research, onderwijs (doctoral thesis). Ghent University, Ghent.

Kendall S. and Teicher J. (2000). Residential open building. London: Spon Press.

Leupen B., Heijne R. and Zwol J. V. (Eds.). (2005). Time-based architecture: architecture able to withstand changes through time. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

Addis B. (2006). Building with reclaimed components and materials: a design handbook for reuse and recycling. London: Earthscan.

Schneider T. and Till J. (2007). Flexible housing. New York: Architectural Press.

Jenatsch G.-M. et al. (2006). Fritz Stucky, architekt und unternehmer. Zürich: Gta Verlag.

De Temmerman N. et al. (2012). Transformable structures in architectural engineering. High Performance Structures and Materials VI, 457–468.

Van de Voorde S. (2013) The emergence of a new generation of building products in post-war Belgium. The case of lightweight concrete. (link) Proceedings of the First Conference of the Construction History Society, Cambridge, 11-12 April 2013, pp. 423 – 433.

Van de Voorde S. et al. (2015). Postwar building materials in housing in Brussels (1945-1975). (link) Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels.

Rau T. et al. (2016). Material matters: het alternatief voor onze roofbouwmaatschappij. Bertram+ de Leeuw Uitgevers.

Van de Voorde S. et al. (2016) Postwar housing in Brussels. Miramar building by Claude Laurens in Sint-Joost-Ten-Node 1956-1957. (link) Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels.

Van de Voorde S. et al. (2016) Postwar housing in Brussels. Student homes by Willy Van Der Meeren on the VUB campus in Elsene 1971-1973. (link) Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels.

Buyle M. et al. (2019). Sustainability assessment of circular building alternatives: Consequential LCA and LCC for internal wall assemblies as a case study in a Belgian context. Journal of Cleaner Production, 218, 141–156.


Last update: 31-01-2020