UCLouvain, a true ecosystem. Students, staff, visitors, those employed by neighbouring businesses, and local residents are all people whom the University considers in its territorial design, and in each case the Institution implements concrete projects that have major effects in terms of accessibility and mobility, the quality of green and blue networks, access to housing, social diversity, etc.
UCLouvain, seven locations and as many specific characteristics. Characteristics the University must consider locally in an appropriate manner while nurturing its ambitious global vision: that of (re)positioning itself at the forefront of territorial development.
On 2 February 1971, the cornerstone of UCLouvain was laid in Louvain-la-Neuve. It is the plinth on which rests a cutting-edge project distinguished by a meticulously constructed master plan. Out of the fields grows a unique city, a new city that wants to be a university and urban centre. Inspired by Leuven and in particular by its beguinage, Louvain-la-Neuve includes numerous sustainable development concepts which anticipate the needs now to be met by the necessary ecological and social transition:
- Soft mobility : Reserved for pedestrians, Louvain’s urban centre is like those of traditional university towns, where the paths are conducive to meetings. This contributes to the friendliness of the city while not affecting its accessibility: the train station is located directly beneath the town centre.
- Respect for the water cycle : Right from the start, the city’s urban plan took into account water supply, the evacuation of runoff, storm drains, the treatment of wastewater, and the protection of groundwater reserves. Dual drainage channels wastewater separately from runoff, which ends up in the lake, which acts as a storm basin. This efficient dual system demonstrates multiple uses. Concentrating pollutants in a smaller volume allows for more efficient and more extensive purification at lower cost. As for the rainwater, it is freed of its suspended matter by simple decantation in the lake.
- Air and soil quality : The absence of cars in the centre undeniably improves air quality, an effect reinforced by the ban on heating oil and the installation of district heating.
- Biodiversity within reachThe Bois de Lauzelle’s 300 hectares have been preserved in their initial state. The hilly forest area is managed by UCLouvain with respect for nature.
Louvain-la-Neuve’s urban planning follows a Master Plan drawn up in 1970 by the University’s Groupe Urbanisme – Architecture under the direction of Professor Raymond Lemaire. This document defines the structure of the city, as well as the programme of urban functions and facilities. The plan is guided by urban-planning principles approved by the Academic Council in 1968 to ensure the city developed as desired by the University. We now realise that several of these principles have been decisive in terms of sustainable development, these two in particular:
- Louvain-la-Neuve is a city on a human scale.
- Louvain-la-Neuve is a pedestrian city.
The human scale of the city is key. The human being is the reference point: everything is done to make people feel good in the city, whether in terms of open sight lines, the layout of buildings and the quality of the environment. The construction of streets, squares, and buildings is on this human scale: no overwhelming building, no disproportionate space. According to Professor Lemaire, “Town planning has no justification in itself: it only exists in terms of the services it provides to man.”
Designed for pedestrians : The radius of the city is 1,100 meters at the widest, or ten to fifteen minutes of walking. The urban centre is built on a four-ha slab covering the automotive roads and railway, as well as two to three parking levels. One can therefore walk around in complete safety. The city has several neighbourhoods, each with a small square with a few local shops; they are connected to the centre by direct and legible pedestrian routes. These can be considered as the primary pedestrian network. It never meets the road network at the same level and is as much as possible twinned with covered walkways. Important buildings are preferably found close to this primary network. Driving is discouraged: access to the centre is only by points of entry (there are no through roads) or by rail.
These initial choices prioritising the human scale and walking promoted soft mobility, but also encouraged informal meetings, energy savings, less space consumption... as well as a lively city, both in the centre and in the neighbourhoods.
Planned Athéna-Lauzelle eco-district
To be a leading example of sustainable development: this, neither more nor less, is the goal for the planned neighbourhood known as Athéna-Lauzelle. In 2024 there will emerge from the earth 1,500 new dwellings. Half will be single-family homes, and half will be multi-unit dwellings. The site is located in Louvain-la-Neuve between the Bois de Lauzelle Natura 2000 site, the Athéna science park, the Boulevard de Lauzelle, and the National 4 highway.
Rooted deeply in its natural and human environment, this project profited from a citizen consultation process initiated early in the planning stages by UCLouvain and associated consulting firms, but its most outstanding feature is its desire to be an exemplar of sustainability. A desire that is expressed at several levels:
- Accessibility and mobility : The district will be connected to the station and the city centre via soft mobility. It will be served by new public transport lines and the use of shared mobility will be encouraged. Silo or underground car parks will accommodate motorised vehicles in order to limit the presence of cars in the neighbourhood.
- Social intégration : The neighbourhood will accommodate a social and generational mix (single-family houses, social housing, apartments, studios, cottages) while taking into account new forms of housing (“logements kangourous”, “maisons groupées”, shared housing, etc.).
- Sustainable access to housing : In order to guarantee accessibility to housing, the district will be based on the emphyteutic lease model, at prices significantly lower than those on the market. Conditions of sale will be established to avoid speculation and partnerships will be entered with public actors.
- Environemental criteria : The district will be designed with protected natural areas and ecological corridors in mind. Public spaces will be developed according to the green and blue grid of the site. Particular attention will be paid to water management (soil permeability, reuse of rainwater, etc.). Buildings, compact and dense, will reduce space consumption while meeting the challenge of eighty housing units/ha imposed by the Decree on amending the sector plan.
Mons SMART Campus
Creative, cultural, connected, eco-responsible…these are the goals of the SMART concept applied to the UCLouvain FUCaM Mons campus. Located on the edge of the city of Mons, this campus is destined within ten years to become the SMARTest of the Hainuy campuses.
Given the increase in its student population, we want the UCLouvain FUCaM Mons campus to be pioneering and innovative. Investments, amenities, and careful consideration shape the campus and encourage its inhabitants to take an active part in the transition to a more sustainable society.
In 2018, the campus hosted UCLouvain’s pilot photovoltaic installation project: 285 solar panels were installed on the roof of the main building, providing 13% of campus energy needs. And initiatives likely to reduce the carbon footprint and make the campus part of an eco-responsible approach are multiplying: encouraging soft mobility through the acquisition of electric bicycles and the installation of bicycle parking spaces; membership in carpooling platforms and creation of a dedicated car park; installation of a centralised heating network; reduction in consumption through new installations; elimination of the use of plastic for catering; planting of an orchard on campus; installation of water fountains and distribution of water vessels to students. Very recently, UCLouvain also adopted a new master plan, drawn up jointly with the Haute École Louvain en Hainaut (HELHa), aimed at making the campus even greener. Meanwhile, work is being done to raise awareness. Each year, sustainable development week encourages students to consider their daily habits. This activity is made possible by the establishment of a sustainable development unit of students and staff in partnership with HELHa. The Appl’ose application was also created to help raise awareness in the University community. Its goal: to reward eco-responsible behaviour on campus. Carpooling, using an electric bike, or eating a smart meal are all actions that allow you to earn green points throughout the academic year.
Carried out jointly with HELHa and driven by the community, these actions are all taken to support our vision for the FUCaM Mons campus: to evolve towards a low-carbon and energy-autonomous campus.
Woluwe-Saint-Lambert: an example of development serving the capital
Like Louvain-la-Neuve, the Woluwe-Saint-Lambert campus is a cosmopolitan space designed on a human scale. It marks the University’s presence in the capital of Europe. The 52-hectare campus is home to three faculties and five internationally renowned research institutes, the Saint-Luc University Hospital, and accommodation for nearly 1,000 students.
The campus is above all a vibrant space for living, studying, working and offering health care, frequented every day by more than 26,000 workers, students, patients, and visitors from a wide variety of backgrounds. It is also regularly visited by the inhabitants of neighbouring districts. Since the 1970s, the campus has hosted several hautes écoles, biomedical companies, a regional life-sciences incubator (Brussels Life Sciences Incubator), various shops and services, cultural and social organisations, and actors in student life. Through controlled urbanisation preserving a landscaped and natural setting, the ensemble is recognised for the quality of its environment, its energising activity, and its multicultural population. Several sustainability factors contribute to this.
Economical use of space and careful land-management have made possible a balanced and gradual growth of this slice of the city, both in terms of activities, facilities, and networks. This development was characterised by qualitative architectural production and eco-responsible approaches from the earliest stages of construction. The certification of the Hof ter Musschen site in 1994 and the inclusion in 2020 of the entire Mémé site (the work of architect Lucien Kroll) on the landmarks list reflect the campus’s success.
The urban-planning principles underlying this development focus on four areas:
- the balanced development of the six sub-districts, particularly the Alma area located at the heart of the campus, and the production of housing adapted to needs;
- hosting research, training, social, and cultural actors in a pleasant, sustainable, and attractive living environment
- the deployment of sectors and services generating jobs and training in the fields of health and life sciences;
- improving mobility as a key to sustainable urban development.
The environmental advantages are clear. Urban planning has preserved vast green spaces such as the Hof ter Musschen (or Ferme des Moineaux), a semi-natural space of ten hectares with high biological value; a two-hectare sculpture garden; and the Paul Moens medicinal plants garden. The landscaped management of rainwater has made it possible to enhance this element and return it to nature. Air and soil quality were prioritised from the outset through the inclusion of planted spaces and the reduction of space dedicated to cars. A district heating network was implemented from the start and is being optimised. The certification of Hof ter Musschen as a Natura 2000 site in 2016 confirms the high biodiversity value of the campus.
Architectural quality has been and remains a constant requirement in the development of the campus. Recent achievements include the A. Simonart auditorium (2015), a low-energy building with durable materials; and the Tour R.T.H. Laënnec (2018), the first passive laboratory building in the Brussels region. Both buildings incorporate recent advances in eco-responsible architecture. Several other planned projects will soon embody the University’s and Saint-Luc University Hospital’s ambitions for environmental sustainability: the Learning Centre of the Health Science Sector, the new Tower 76 for the de Duve Institute, the Institute of Integrated Psychiatry (IPI, a partnership between Saint-Luc University Hospital and Valisana), the Institut Roi Albert II, focusing on cancer, at UCLouvain and Saint-Luc University Hospital, the Hospitacité project, and the reassignment of the hospital tower (tower T10).
Mobility and accessibility have been valued as an asset since the campus was first built. The campus has three metro stations which will take you to the centre of Brussels in fifteen minutes, and is served by a dozen local or regional bus lines. A dense road network promotes walking and cycling and creates a peaceful urban atmosphere. As in Louvain-la-Neuve, measures are being taken to reduce space for cars, develop innovative alternatives, and promote a shift in approaches.
As a training and employment hub, UCLouvain and the Saint-Luc University Hospital together have a major economic, social, and educational presence in Brussels, and the campus is therefore considered a priority development site by the Brussels-Capital Region. The district alone is home to nearly 15,000 students (university and secondary), 6,800 staff from the two main institutions, and 3,000 residents. There is a primary school and several nurseries. The University and hospital are developing ambitious projects consistent with the public authorities’ sustainable development priorities. It shares municipal and regional authorities’ concern that increases in density should be dealt with in a measured way to guarantee a balanced mix of activities – principles that have guided development of the campus for almost 50 years.
The University also contributes at the local level through local projects, guaranteeing users and inhabitants a balanced, compact living environment that is well equipped, accessible, and eco-compatible, integrating natural and landscaped areas.
Projects are being considered concerning housing, training, and modernising hospital facilities and mobility that will respect the nature of this residential and student district, endowed with nurseries, schools, and green and recreational spaces, and custodian of local identity.
STOP principle across campus
UCLouvain has had a strategic mobility plan since 2020. A response to the growing demand for transport. The aim of the approach is to improve and promote the city’s multimodal accessibility for all those who frequent it in order to ensure the ongoing development and attractiveness of the city and the University. The idea is therefore to reduce the space for cars in favour of other modes of transport according to the STOP principle, which prioritises walking, cycling, public transport, and shared cars.