Refurbishment Lab – Van Der Meeren student housing

- case studies and pilots in BAMB

In the middle of the central green space at the main campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, there are clusters of student housing. Although these 352 student rooms were built as a temporary solution in 1973, they are still in use today and have become a cherished icon of the university. However, they have comfort levels that are well below current standards, primarily in terms of energy consumption, technical quality and accessibility.  Whilst the initial plan was to demolish the units after they have been replaced (by 2020), the university recently initiated an exploration into how the housing units could complement the vision for sustainable development. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel wants to investigate and demonstrate how Reversible Building Design can prevent demolition waste when refurbishing existing buildings.

The student housing units, designed by Van Der Meeren, are ideally suited for this investigation. Each 96 m2 unit (4 rooms, a living space with kitchen, toilet and bathroom) is made by combining four prefabricated concrete support modules, and compatible infill components for exterior and interior walls. Arranging these 24 m2 standard modules in different ways resulted in a variety of room, unit, and cluster configurations.

The pilot will refurbish selected student housing modules in three stages, each one investigating and demonstrating different reversible refurbishment solutions.

  • The first stage of the pilot – the refurbishment lab – will test and showcase prototypes of transformable internal infill (partitioning walls, technical services, interior insulation and other reversible building elements).
  • The second stage will add transformable external walls, demonstrating that reversible refurbishment can be used to meet current comfort standards.
  • Finally, the third stage of the pilot is a full transformation lab, in which the basic concrete support modules of the housing are arranged into new configurations, and functions and infill are adapted, transformed and changed on a regular basis.

These units, highly visible right in the centre of campus, can be used as demonstrators, workshop spaces or pop-up shops, amongst others.

Objectives:

  • Testing & demonstrating Reversible Design for refurbishment
  • Testing Materials Passports
  • Testing new design tools and protocols, and evaluation methods
  • Significantly reducing waste production in housing refurbishment.

 

  1. Internal refurbishment of a module:

New reversible building elements added during the renovation of the modular unit will reduce waste production by about 75-90% in future transformations.

  1. External refurbishment of a module:

Reuse of the structural elements will reduce waste production by about 50-70%, both by reusing existing elements and by avoiding virgin resource extraction. In addition, new reversible building elements added during the renovation of the modular unit will reduce waste production by about 75-90% in future transformations.

  1. Transformation and reconfiguration of modules:

Reuse of the structural elements will reduce waste production by about 40-60%, both by reusing existing elements and by avoiding virgin resource extraction. In addition, new reversible building elements added during the renovation of the modular unit will reduce waste production by about 75-90% in future transformations.