At VK, we strive for an integrated approach of each project. This approach is based on less energy, more comfort, better usability and at the same time takes into account the different stages of a building's life-cycle.
For this purpose, we not only map the ecological aspects such as energy, materials, transport and water, but also the economic and social aspects. Think of profitability, lifespan, safety, comfort and integration into the environment. Because sustainability goes beyond energy efficiency. It is also about the choice of materials, being environmentally friendly and long-term operation.
VK helps you in designing and realising a sustainable, timeless and maintenance-conscious project.
We achieve this through an array of specific services within various categories:
- Sustainability assessments
BREEAM, GRO, WELL, HQE
- Energy efficiency and optimisation
Dynamic energy simulation, PHPP passive calculation, EPB calculation
- Smart Buildings and Monitoring
design advice, follow-up and optimisation in operational phase
- Livable buildings
daylight simulation, solar radiation study, thermal comfort analysis, CFD simulation
- Building Physics
thermal bridge and condensation calculation of building elements, hygrothermal simulation of spaces
- Renewable energy
life cycle cost analysis, total cost of ownership, design advice, optimisation of BIPV, guidance on ESCO cooperation
- Heat networks & energy grids
feasibility study, design advice
- Adaptive and circular construction
pre-demolition audit, design advice, guidance on end-of-use circular business model
- Environmental impact of materials
Life cycle analysis on environmental impact of materials (Totem, SimaPro), support for the design of a material passport
- Water management
design advice on water saving measures, stormwater management plan
- Healthcare Design
- Building Engineering
Contact one of our experts:
principal Sustainable Design
Interested in what we do with our expertise?
Check out our latest news, blog articles and events to see how our experts apply their knowhow to improve our projects, and how they share their expertise with other professionals.
The guiding principle for an integrated approach to sustainable construction for VK lies in the sustainability assessments. A wide range of rating systems exist, including LEED, BREEAM, HQE, GRO and WELL. In Europe, the last four mainly apply. We use their philosophy in our sustainable designs and also offer these services for official certification of your project.
- BREEAM International Assessor
- BREEAM Accredited Professional
- BREEAM In-Use Auditor
- WELL Accredited Professional
- Référent HQE
Certification gives you market recognition for sustainable buildings and a system to reduce operational costs and improve working and living conditions.
The aim of the sustainability evaluation systems is to enable a structured assessment of the various performances of a project. Such an assessment goes beyond the evaluation of the energy performance of buildings and is extended to all life cycle phases of the building. It supports the realisation of sustainable buildings with minimal environmental impact. This impact is evaluated on the basis of several themes: management, health and well-being, energy, water, mobility, materials, waste, landscape and ecology, pollution...
For new construction, renovation and existing buildings, we evaluate the sustainability criteria of the project and assist the design team and the client in achieving their ecological objectives. The sustainability criteria are defined, after which we guide you in achieving the environmental objectives, depending on the classification you want to achieve.
It is crucial that the input is given during the design process. This allows us to draw up a list of priorities in order to achieve a high sustainability score. This integrated approach appears to be the most cost- and time-efficient way to design innovative and sustainable projects.
Energy efficiency and optimisation
The way in which energy is handled in a building is essential for its sustainability. We conduct energy studies to achieve energy efficiency and optimisation, whether it's an existing project, a project to be renovated or a new construction project. This enables us to evaluate the current energy consumption but also to estimate the future consumption at monthly, daily and hourly levels.
An audit of existing buildings involves the measurement of exact usage data by recording the existing situation. Usage data are determined on the basis of on-site measurements, analysis of existing energy bills and building monitoring. In addition, a numerical model is created to dynamically simulate possible adaptation measures in the building. This simulation model is calibrated on the basis of the collected usage data of the existing building. On this basis, various measures can be analysed and proposed in order to adjust the energy consumption if required.
For new concepts, energy optimisation can be carried out on the basis of various calculations. VK uses several models, according to the client's wishes: EPB, PHPP, dynamic simulations ... The final result of the study is a technical-economic analysis. This provides a clear picture of possible measures, alternatives and the economic impact. So well-considered choices can be made.
Smart Buildings and Monitoring
Measuring is knowing. This is certainly the case when it comes to the energy consumption of buildings. VK has a wide-ranging library of projects to which research and development of energy monitoring is applied, enabling the use of big data concepts to evaluate the energy consumption in the usage phase and to adjust it for optimisation.
In addition to energy monitoring, a smart building can also implement other Smart applications. VK advises how these can be implemented in an efficient and integrated way. By using data collected in and around a building in a smart and responsive way, a range of integrated applications can be offered. The building facilitates the real-time connection between people and things and acts as the ultimate "personal assistant" for staff, visitors and the building manager. Applications can be selected in function of the following "smart objectives":
- create an innovative and inspiring place
- improve the satisfaction and well-being of building users & attracting new talent
- increase productivity, flexibility and efficient use of space
- increase digital connectivity, employee empowerment and collaboration
- improve environmental sustainability
- optimise the service, operation and maintenance of the building
The applications make the user-experience for staff, visitors and the building manager more pleasant, easier and more versatile.
The overall comfort in a building is mainly determined by air quality, thermal, visual and acoustic comfort. But the optimum comfort of the user is not just a question of numbers (temperature, air velocity, daylight factor...).
A building in which the users are in touch with the outside world and in which they also have control over their comfort, greatly increases their psychological comfort. Several studies have shown that good psychological comfort results in higher work efficiency, a lower absenteeism factor and faster recovery in the health care sector. This is why we pay due attention to the principles of the WELL standard on the seven themes Air - Water - Nourishment - Light - Fitness - Comfort - Mind.
To ensure the specific comfort requirements in and around a building, VK offers a number of studies, including daylight simulations for the maximum use of daylight without glare and without compromising on thermal comfort. Solar and shadow studies determine the impact of a building on other surrounding buildings (see the "hoogbouwnota”). CFD analyses and dynamic thermal comfort simulations optimise the design in relation to the seasons. Indoor air quality is guaranteed by applying an Indoor Air Quality Plan that takes into account sufficient fresh and healthy air in the building, possibilities of natural or hybrid ventilation, and a limitation of the sources of air pollution by, among other things, a conscious choice of finishing materials.
Building physics studies the (hygro)thermal behaviour of materials, components, spaces and buildings. The ever-increasing requirements imposed on the building envelope (energy, thermal, acoustic...) together with the need to guarantee user comfort, the economic aspects and a minimum environmental impact, also increase the importance of analysing the hygrothermal performance of the building envelope.
VK has many years of experience in EPB and PHPP energy calculations that determine the influence of thermal bridges in order to reduce heat losses through the building envelope. We calculate the heat loss through specific building details using a 2D/3D calculation program, allowing us to determine its impact on energy consumption.
Especially in renovation projects, it is essential to also estimate the possible hygrothermal risks of building elements. We calculate the condensation risks on the basis of a glaser calculation and give design advice on how to prevent them. In order to map the heat and moisture behaviour of existing building components and buildings, sensor techniques can also be used on the site itself.
There are several possibilities to integrate renewable energy production in a project: solar energy by means of thermal solar collectors or photovoltaic panels, geothermal applications, an air-to-water or air-to-air heat pump, a biofuel cogeneration plant (CHP), residual heat from industrial companies, riothermal energy, wind energy, H2 fuel cell...
VK specialises in the integration and coordination of several renewable energy systems, taking into account the latest technologies. For example, we can optimise the energy production of building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) panels in the façade and determine the best match between the different technologies in terms of energy production and consumption.
Also, we always look at the possibility of storing heat and electricity in the short, medium and long term. In addition, each technology or combination is subjected to a life cycle cost analysis in which the return on investment and the total cost of ownership are determined. In the case of large investments, one can opt to work with a third-party investment system or an energy service company (ESCO). VK offers counselling in such an ESCO collaboration.
Heat networks and energy grids
The current energy transition requires an approach that goes beyond the building level. Collective energy networks offer many opportunities for the integration of sustainable sources and the mutual exchange of energy, and thus become smart grids.
On a multifunctional building site or in a neighbourhood, the surplus heat from one building function can be supplied to another via a collective heat network. Energy surpluses can be sustainably stored by, for example, geothermal energy or PCMs (phase changing materials). The network also allows easy connection to residual heat from power stations and industry, biofuel cogeneration plants, river heating, or other collective energy networks in the vicinity. Moreover, it is flexible enough to integrate in a later stage new renewable energy sources into the network.
Smart electricity grids ensure optimal production, distribution and storage of electricity. In this way, renewable technologies such as wind, PV and H2 biofuel cells can interact intelligently with the various consumers. The challenge is to coordinate energy consumption and production. In this context, usage profiles of heat pumps, sustainably controlled lighting and ventilation, smart equipment, electric cars and bicycles... become very important. The use of a direct current network instead of alternating current is an interesting approach. It is fully compatible with renewable energy technologies, it guarantees higher energy efficiency, energy storage is more efficient, it is also more reliable and safer, and it provides a responsive system ready for a green energy future.
In a feasibility study, we examine whether it would be energetically and financially interesting to connect to a common energy network. We examine to what extent this can be advantageous or possible for your project, city or municipality, depending on the existing environment, surrounding energy sources and customers, usage profiles, applied technologies...
Adaptive and circular construction
Adaptive and circular building is about more than ecological building. It encourages us to think about the lifespan of buildings and materials, their function - which can change during that lifespan - and their 'end of life'.
Adaptive building requires a design approach that anticipates future use and/or renovation scenarios already in the concept phase. VK assists the design team and the client in this process, exploring various possibilities from design and implementation to use. For this purpose, principles such as the Support-Infill method can be applied: the support being the fixed infrastructure around which the layout (infill) can be freely changed. Sensible implantation of the support structures ensures a spatial use that is multi-orientable and multi-applicable.
This degree of modularity also ensures an efficient and flexible management in which spaces can be adapted independently of each other. At the building level, this inherently results in an extension of the lifespan of the building and its surroundings, which in the long term results in a reduction of the environmental impact.
From the outset, one can select building materials with the certainty of keeping a closed loop. Several circular principles deserve attention in this respect. Research into and application of innovative reversible building methods contribute to the concept of a circular economy. Testing the possibilities of implementing product-as-a-service to stimulate better quality and maintenance of techniques and materials, contributes to an extension of the life span and a reduction of the environmental impact. Keeping materials within their cycle (direct reuse or take-back manufacturer), reduces the number of new materials that need to be addressed.
From the perspective of waste management, this can gradually lead to zero-waste buildings. In this way, the materials of an existing construction on the site and their possible applications can be mapped out via a pre-demolition audit. We also advise you on end-of-use circular business models and look at the (financially) most interesting options for you, in the short and long term.
Environmental impact of materials
At material selection level, we want to make a responsible choice by calculating the financial and environmental costs. The environmental cost is defined by taking into account the shadow cost of the different environmental indicators, i.e. the financial impact for society to neutralise the material impacts. Numerous environmental indicators are taken into account, such as mineral use, water consumption, energy consumption of fossil fuels, climate change related to greenhouse gas emissions, quantity of radioactive waste, emissions of substances in soil/water/air that affect the stratospheric ozone layer, human health or ecosystems, emissions of substances that cause an excess of nutrients, SMOG or acid rain...
VK can evaluate the environmental impact of a building, building element or material by the means of a life cycle analysis or LCA (e.g. through the Totem tool or the SimaPro simulation programme). Such an LCA compares different elements in order to make a balanced choice at the design stage. It is also important during the construction and operation phases to track, evaluate and map the different materials present in the building in order to reduce the environmental impact over the entire life cycle of the building. This can be done by means of a material passport.
Only 2% of the earth's surface consists of potable water. It is becoming increasingly scarce and will soon be significantly more expensive. That is why we have to deal with it in a well-considered and careful way. In this context, VK offers, among other things, preliminary advice on water-saving measures and the management of stormwater.
In a sustainable building, the demand for water must be reduced. For this purpose, we recommend the use of water-saving devices and taps, as well as secondary water sources such as rainwater, purified grey water or even black water. Water monitoring and leak detection will also play an important role in the operation phase of the building.
Rainfall in Belgium is expected to increase by 38% over the next 100 years. It is not so much the number of rainy days that will increase, but the amount of rain per day. In summer, there will be fewer wet days. In winter, wet days will have a higher rainfall intensity. It is best to draw up a stormwater management plan for this purpose. Additional rainfall affects both the structure of the building and the entire sewerage concept. The building structure must be able to absorb the extra rain intensity on roofs. Green roofs provide additional buffering, permeable paving allows for additional infiltration. Rainwater from the roofs is best collected for reuse inside and around the building, but in times of heavy rainfall (natural) buffer reservoirs must be provided to collect the extra rainwater to drain it at a slower rate. In this way, the downstream circuit at city level is less stressed and the risk of flooding is reduced.