Circular Retrofit Lab: the first major circular renovation project in Europe

The past few months, the office of researcher Stijn Brancart and his colleagues has shown the busy activity typical of a building developer’s office in the final months before a big project’s due date. “There have been a lot of phone calls to contractors, a lot of drawing up of schedules and a lot of site meetings with contractors,” says Brancart, a member of the research team behind the Circular Retrofit Lab.

That’s because the gleaming new Circular Retrofit Lab in the middle of the Etterbeek campus was designed like an actual building project from the get-go. To renovate the eight student rooms – which have a combined surface area of 192 sq. metres – Brancart and his colleagues embraced circular building methods. That means that they used demountable, adaptable and reusable building solutions so as to create as little demolition waste as possible.

Why does it matter that the Circular Retrofit Lab was designed like a fully-fledged, real-world renovation project? Because no-one else has attempted something similar.

“This is a pilot project for circular building; there are no existing examples of buildings in Europe that were renovated in this way at this type of scale,” Brancart tells VUB Today. “With the Circular Retrofit Lab, we really want to show researchers, the construction industry, architects and designers how we can start building in a different way, and how circular building is not that different from traditional building.”

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