The Ghent University Horizon project is a research platform to develop a sustainable renovation process of post-war housing blocks in private ownership.
Different faculties and research groups take initiatives related to building physics, construction, architectural design, urban planning, communication, and finance. Based on a solid background in academic research, innovative concepts and solutions are developed and evaluated.
Horizon not only refers to the magnificent view from inside the apartments, to the significant impact these buildings have on the view of the surrounding areas, but horizon also refers to a glance at the future.
The high-rise model was commenly used after the second World War as a strategy to deal with the housing shortage in Brussels and Flanders that resulted from the destruction during the war. Industrial building methods made this typology possible to achieve a large quantity of appropriate homes in contrast to the homes built during the fifties. Improvement in hygiene was one of the advantages.
The modernistic ideology behind this typology prefers individuality, flexibility, and collectivity in the housing industry. All activities that are not strictly essential for living have been moved from the private sphere towards collective areas. Existing examples of modernistic principles are Unité d’habitation in Marseille (Le Corbusier), Ieder Zijn Huis in Evere (Willy Van der Meeren) and the high-rise in Het Kiel (Renaat Braem).
Nowadays, many copies and remnants of modernistic high-rise buildings remain. The infrastructure is often outdated and the technical installations inefficient. The modernistic idea is not working properly. Collective areas are often not implemented and when existing, they are not in use anymore. Besides, most buildings are no longer conform to new standards and regulations (such as fire safety, thermal performance, and acoustical performance). In many housing blocks, each apartment belongs to a different owner. Multiple owners in one building block complicates thorough renovation in many cases. As a conclusion, the renovation of these housing blocks is a complex process hampered by several practical, technical, financial, organizational, and legal obstructions.
By contrast, the residential towers have some considerable advantages. Many buildings have an interesting urban location and some are situated in a green area. In addition, the higher a residence is situated, the larger the view on the surroundings. These and other assets give potential to the building blocks and open opportunities for thorough renovation.
The Ghent University Horizon knowledge hub aspires to present an overview of scientific research, related to the renovation of post-war housing blocks in private ownership.
The Horizon project provides a first step to deal with these so-called “wicked” problems or multidimensional problems with a complex interdependency. As these impediments require an interdisciplinary approach, eleven professors from Ghent University have decided to combine their forces.
Ghent University aims to conduct advanced scientific research and to provide excellent education. Because of the relevance of this topic both for technology and society, this interdisciplinary project is an obvious step to face this challenge.