KULeuven Living Lab
This living lab is being built on the grounds of the Ghent Technology Campus (KU Leuven) and is a test building with a terraced house typology. The prototype will be later used in urban renewal projects in deprived neighbourhoods. This includes not only group housing construction and renovation, but also roof extensions and facade renovations. The living lab has been designed so that all these scenarios are technically possible. It has also been designed so that construction companies can get involved in the social economy during construction, and so that it can be easily moved to other parts of the city. The latter is also a requirement of the prototype because in 2027 it will have to make way for the campus’s new master plan. This will be the ultimate test for the portable bio-based living lab. Look at the video or visit the lab virtually!
- Change-oriented design
- Design for reuse and recycling
- Integrating recycled and reclaimed elements
- Preparing the material bank of the future
- Waste during the construction phase
- Focus on maintenance
- Aiming for low environmental impact
- Sharing and managing information
- Innovative businessmodels and construction processes
The completed Flexibility-Calculator for this Living Lab can be found here. It was assumed that the building will be relocated after six years because it can no longer remain on the KU Leuven Campus in Ghent. In the process, it will change location and function (from office to residential). The investment to make the building remountable has been divided by two as this inevstement also has an end-of-life benefit. This has been calculated in the end-of-life calculator. The building consortium plans to produce the Living Lab on a large scale. The expectation here is that this will also lower the additional investment for remontability than can be found in the pre-completed calculator.
Integrating recycled and reclaimed materials
In the KU Leuven Living Lab, the tender documents stipulated that a certain percentage of the material used in the building had to come from reuse or refurbishment. For example, the two Velux windows were purchased from Carré Dakramen, a reused skylights dealer listed in Opalis. In addition, the interior doors, kitchen and furniture were purchased from Labeur en Scrap vzw, also traders and processors of reused materials. The building’s grid thresholds came from an old building site container belonging to the contractor. The tiles used for the front and rear facades and the roof were supplied by Wienerberger at a reduced price because the tiles contained manufacturing defects (colour shading). In other words, using the tiles in the living lab prevented them from ending up in a downcycling process or even in landfill. Finally, all cellulose insulation is made from recycled paper.
Preparing the material bank of the future
The entire living lab was modelled in BIM. The final as-built model was delivered and made centrally accessible to all parties involved. During its lifespan, it will be used to document the current location and ownership of the measuring and technical equipment (as per the leasing contract). In addition, at end of life it will be used to ensure that the disassembly and resulting yield of materials run smoothly. Technically, no material passports were made, but all the components in the model contain all necessary information regarding material properties and quantities. Finally, special attention was given to a standardised coding system (SfB/NL) for all components.
Focus on maintenance
The performance of the technical installations in the building is continuously monitored by an OpenMotics monitoring module. Based on the stored data, this module can proactively trigger a maintenance action before a defect occurs. For example, the consumption of a fan steadily increases the closer it gets to the end of its usual lifespan. The fan is then replaced just before it fails, ensuring continuous operation.
There is no digitised follow-up for the maintenance of the structure and the shell. Therefore, traditional follow-up is required here.
Innovative business models and construction processes
The access model provides product access instead of ownership and is therefore dependent on service level agreements. In the construction sector, access models are usually used for service-dependent products such as lighting, climate control and lifts. Experimental projects involve the ‘leasing’ of building components with a long lifespan, such as facades. The interviews, case studies and especially the calculators developed by the CBCI have shown that service models are best applied for building layers (shearing layers) with a limited lifespan. More specifically, the layers, the space plan and the technical installations. The uncertainty of cash flow calculations only increases the longer the term being considered. In addition, the circular added value, e.g. by residual value at EoL, becomes insignificantly small by discounting due to the current net worth methodology.
The performance model delivers product performance rather than the product itself. In the construction sector, the example of ‘pay per lux’ (a joint concept from Philips and Turntoo) is often used. The physical products are robust, sustainable and easy to maintain, meaning that revenues increase the longer the products last. This model relates to the substantiation of the costs for the user in a fixed fee and for the provider in the form of a fixed cash inflow.
In the case of the living lab concept, an access model was also applied, although this does require some additional explanation. The contract stipulates that the technical installations remain the property of the lessor and are therefore activated in their accounts. The transaction is regarded as a lease on the part of the tenant (KU Leuven). The entire transaction remains off the balance sheet of the lessee. Strictly speaking, however, this is not sufficient for circumventing the principle of acquisition of ownership by incorporation, a difficulty which was not addressed at the time of the conclusion of the lease.
So it is clear that not the components themselves, but their use was contracted. In addition, the tender did not prescribe specific installations, but the performance they had to deliver. This was done by setting applicable standards, the usual best practices and the BEN label (BEN stands for “Bijna Energie-Neutrale Woningen”, which means “Nearly Energy Neutral Homes”) as the standard for the performance level in terms of energy efficiency. This performance is made possible by design considerations (thermal performance of the building skin, airtightness, etc. tailored to the properties of the chosen installation components) and by enabling data-based maintenance and replacement of components during the use phase via the OpenMotics software and data collection.