From demolition towards preservation

A paradigm shift for building in Brussels

Demolition and waste in Brussels © Cécile Guichard

In Belgium the building sector is responsible for over 30% of all waste production, an amount which is increasing yearly. Most of this waste is generated by the demolition of existing buildings. Regardless the efforts of policy makers and other stakeholders to prolong the lifespan of existing buildings, the impact on the amount of demolition waste is limited. This is partly due to the complexity of the question and the lack of scientific data.  This Applied PhD envisions to trigger a paradigm shift “from demolition towards preservation” within the building sector of Brussels.  The focus will be on the prevention of premature demolition of large-scale buildings, as these have the largest impact: one large-scale building generates up to 10 to 17% of the yearly amount of construction and demolition waste in the Brussels-Capital Region. The research project looks at the motives behind demolition, on the level of the project as well as to the context related factors. By giving an analysis of the past 40 years it gives an historical perspective to future policy making and incentives to maximize preservation of existing buildings.

A first focus of the project is the analysis of both context- and project-related factors. By studying the relationship between policies on demolition in Brussels and the broader economic, social, legal, urban, and ecological context, large-scale demolition sites in Brussels will be linked to certain trends in city planning and architectural fashions. Through case studies a better understanding of decision-making processes of building teams will be developed. New methods to analyze the preservation potential will be developed, using the knowledge of heritage conservation studies. Finally, the project will seek to formulate policy recommendations and incentives to stimulate the paradigm shift and favor preservation over demolition in particular cases.

Louise is supervised by a double team of promoters from VUB Architectural Engineering and ROTOR, a nonprofit organisation based in Brussels. The interaction between theoretical, scientific knowledge and the practical and policy-oriented implementation of that knowledge is central to this Applied PhD, financed by Innoviris.