The circular school, ready for 2050

How adaptable HVAC increases a school building's circularity

To make the school patrimony of the Province of Antwerp ready for 2050 in a sustainable way, we must radically rethink the classic school concepts. Space must be maximized, there is a need for flexibility and the patrimony must be given a broader social function.

Through this project, Cenergie, in collaboration with the Province of Antwerp and the University of Antwerp, wants to draw up a long-term vision for Antwerp's school patrimony. By means of intense workshops in the educational field, the pressing demand for a more flexible use of school buildings became clear. One way to do this is through adaptable technical installations. We therefore worked out two innovative HVAC concepts based on a case study. We then calculated the environmental impact (LCA) and life-cycle cost (LCC) of both future scenarios.

Key results

Key lessons learned

  1. By forming a multidisciplinary consortium with our project partners, we have complementary expertise. Thanks to regular meetings with the parties involved, we were able to develop a well-founded vision of the future.
  2. Intense workshops led to two elaborated HVAC concepts for school buildings: a first concept works around underfloor heating and night cooling, the second concept focuses on climate ceilings.
  3. Thanks to sustainability analyses (environmental impact and life cycle cost) we were able to develop HVAC concepts that also show flexibility over time and thus increase circularity.
  4. The sustainability analysis applied to the case study of the school PTS Mechelen shows that the concept of underfloor heating and night cooling has a longer economic and environmental impact than the other concept.
  1. A sophisticated vision around the school of the future is becoming an important tool within the education field to further develop schools and make them resilient to future challenges.
  2. Although we are gaining better and better insights around circularity in the building sector, the impact of HVAC remains little explored. Our case shows that daring to develop and analyze new HVAC concepts leads to substantiated propositions that increase building circularity.
  3. Opting for flexible and adaptable HVAC initially creates a higher environmental and economic impact. After all, it requires an oversized base installation so that later expansions or modifications are smoother (and more cost-effective).

What will the future bring?

We want to continue our commitment to a more sustainable future and thus also further support school heritage. The study showed how innovative HVAC concepts can improve circularity in schools, and how that is related to the use of buildings now and in the future. The elaborated vision for schools will be taken into account as a tool in the education field to align school buildings and teaching methods. 
Furthermore, we will certainly take the technical knowledge gained into future projects to maximize circularity in all our studies. We also strongly believe in the synergy created when research and practice are linked.



Partners Universiteit Antwerpen, Provincie Antwerpen