The goal for 2020 – reducing the university’s CO2 emissions by 20% compared to 1990 – has been achieved and even exceeded. We thus set the following goals: a 60% reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2035, by migrating the necessary energy-generation balance towards renewable sources. These complex challenges require a multipronged approach focusing on operations, investments, optimisation, and even behaviour.
The decision to engage in energy transition has led the University and its Facilities Managment Administration (ADPI) to establish an ambitious, multicampus, and plural energy strategy. The overall logic applied is based on the négaWatt vision of achieving an energy-environmental optimum in three stages: consume less, consume better, produce better.
Operation of the University’s nearly 400,000 m2 of built infrastructure accounts for 35% of UCLouvain’s CO2 emissions. The levers of action are therefore real – analysed and summarised in an annual update of the UCLouvain Energy Strategy, which targets a low-carbon university from an energy point of view by 2050. The bars are purposefully set high, beyond legal requirements. In Wallonia, the imperative is in fact to achieve a 40% reduction in emissions linked to the use of facilities by 2030 and an 80–95% reduction by 2050 (compared to 1990).
The University wants to move beyond facilities maintenance to facilities optimisation by promoting energy sobriety, highlighting unnecessary energy loss, and focusing on energy efficiency.
Erected in the heart of the Woluwe campus next to the Saint-Luc University Hospital, the Tour Laennec houses laboratories, offices, an ultra-modern technological platform, and a state-of-the-art animal facility, as well as the Academic Centre for General Medicine (CAMG).
This ninth tower, with a total surface area of 4,758 m² across seven levels, was designed to meet passive-building standards as far as possible. In-depth discussions were carried out concerning occupant comfort (thermal comfort and natural lighting), space flexibility (building development for future uses), and a drastic reduction in the building’s energy consumption (led lighting, condensing boiler, double flow ventilation, airtightness). An analysis of the choice of facing materials resulted in favouring wood, a first on the Woluwe campus.
Following the significant renovations made between 2004 and 2019, electricity consumption for academic activities fell by nearly 20% and heat consumption by 30% – encouraging improvements, but insufficient. To go further, a complete inventory and architectural assessment of academic and social buildings were carried out. By 2035, several projects aim to bring existing facilities as close as possible to the standards for low-energy buildings.
A building emblematic of Louvain-la-Neuve and of the Institution’s administrative centre, the Halles universitaires are undergoing major renovation to improve occupant comfort and slash the building’s energy consumption by two-thirds.
Concretely, this includes the installation of new door- and window-frames, the insulation of roofs and some exterior walls, the implementation of controlled mechanical ventilation, and a strategy to manage overheating. This imposing construction site is also an opportunity to initiate additional compliance work concerning, among other things, fire safety, electricity, concrete repair, optimal access for people with reduced mobility, etc. Other buildings will follow. In Louvain-la-Neuve, the Learning Centre for Human Sciences and the Tour Mendell are also in the running for major renovations.
Designed in 1974, the Tour de Serres, also called “Tower B” and located near the Croix du Sud auditorium, houses part of the Earth and Life Institute (ELI), practical work rooms, and several non-profit organisations.
The building, with a surface area of 6,500 m2, was completely deconstructed. Only the primary load-bearing concrete structure remains of the original. New bioclimatic facades covered with wooden cladding and vegetation lining the ventilation ducts will change the building’s exterior appearance.
The interior has also been completely redesigned, offering versatile spaces for students, courses, seminars, and practical work. Designed in a spirit of openness, this internal structure promotes exchange between the 200 people involved in this project: students, scientific staff, professors, and PhD students.
The budgets supporting this ambitious transition are drawn in particular from an energy portfolio, the annual recurring €2.2 million expenditure brackets of which are confirmed through 2024 and planned at least until 2040 in order to guarantee the Institution’s energy-policy objectives.
In 1999, the Louvain-la-Neuve campus acquired a natural gas cogeneration plant. Upgraded in 2010, this installation has enabled the University to increase its energy efficiency. Prior to its next upgrade in 2022, several avenues have been explored that prioritise renewable solutions. Each campus will have a tailor-made solution:
UCLouvain FUCaM Mons hosted the University’s first pilot photovoltaic installation project : 285 solar panels were installed on the roof of the main building. The total power produced guarantees 13% of the campus’s energy consumption.
Acquisition of green heating from a waste-type biomass vector, emanating from a short cycle (by 2023)
Construction of a biomass plant is underway. Located in Mont-Saint-Guibert, this installation, one of the largest in Wallonia, will be supplied with wood from Walloon recyparks to reduce the cost as well as the current carbon footprint of waste-wood recovery. Locally, the production of this green and renewable thermal energy will supply up to 150% of the Louvain-la-Neuve campus’ energy needs.
While no legal obligations are yet in place concerning green energy provision, UCLouvain is committed to sourcing green and/or renewable and locally generated energy supplies when negotiating the 2022 energy-supply contract.
Energy sobriety is only meaningful if everyone takes part. UCLouvain ensures that it communicates its actions in favour of better energy management and mobilises students and staff to optimise facilities use. A project is in place systematically to monitor the physical plant. Precise and regular energy-consumption reporting allows effective monitoring intervention impacts and facilitates subsequent adjustment.