PhD Position in Circularity Assessment of the Built Environment of Flemish Industry Parks

Catholic University of Leuven


Architectural Engineering aims for innovation in the design of buildings by approaching architecture from an engineering point of view. The emphasis is on the technical aspects of architecture: structure, materials, services, and comfort requirements are considered in a multidisciplinary setting in order to quantify, assess, and improve the quality, cost, and sustainability of buildings and the built environment. In order to achieve this goal, fundamental, applied, and policy oriented research is performed, and a continuous effort is made to bridge the gaps between research, education, and practice. The Sustainable Building Group, led by prof. Karen Allacker, is part of the Architectural Engineering Section and aims for advancing the state of the art in life cycle environmental impact assessment and life cycle costing of the built environment. Various scale levels are focused on: building materials, building elements, buildings, neighbourhoods and cities. Our research group contributes to the domain through advancing methodological aspects, e.g. dynamic life cycle studies, developing design support tools, e.g. TOTEM, and defining sustainable building strategies, e.g. climate resilient and circular building.


REFLIP: Regenerating Flemish Industry Parks

For the REFLIP project we are looking for 3 PhD candidates or 2 PhD candidates and one part-time post-doctoral researcher who will be supervised by Prof. Allacker, Prof. De Meulder, dr. Marin and Prof. Vande Moere (Department of Architecture), Prof. Dewil (Department of Mechanical Engineering) and dr. Ottoy (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) in collaboration with HIVA KU Leuven, PPUL KU Leuven and Humanarc Research and in partnership with C-Valley, Interleuven, City of Leuven, Leuven 2030, Kortrijk, Kuurne, Leiedal, VOKA West-Flanders, Business Park Kortrijk-Noord, POM West-Flanders, OVAM, Departement Omgeving (PBM and VPO), BBL, VRP and VVSG.

REFLIP focuses on Flemish industry parks, mostly dating from the 1960s and requiring major spatial and infrastructural updates. As construction and demolition waste constitutes about one fourth of all waste, integrated circularity transition of these built environments is key. The REFLIP research project addresses the need to develop multi- and transdisciplinary methods to realize an integrated circular economy transition of the built environment. It examines how built environment transition processes can become (more) circular as a multidimensional ‘wicked’ problem. It mobilizes iterative design, life cycle environmental impact assessment, social impact analysis, operations research, and scenario thinking to bridge complementary disciplines and currently largely disconnected data-levels. More specifically, REFLIP focuses on the built environment of two Flemish industry parks and investigates the potential of circular regeneration of Flemish industry parks, considering the existing terrain and buildings as resources. As such, the research approaches circularity of the built environment in a representative yet ‘simple’ way: construction material flows and industry parks as material stocks. Design thinking, an iterative process redefining problems to identify alternative strategies, structures the overall research to enable integration.

The first project goal is to coproduce phased quantified future circularity visions and development strategies for two existing Flemish industry parks with a variety of stakeholders and experts. Secondly, REFLIP aims to generate process frameworks to implement these visions through planning tools and policy interventions in practice. Finally, the research aims to develop quantitative tools that increasingly absorb contextual specificities. Addressing real world problems while innovating within multiple scientific disciplines, REFLIP will have a societal impact at multiple levels:

1. it responds to immediate architecture, urban design and planning questions surrounding two Flemish Industry Parks in different socio-economic contexts (Leuven and Kortrijk);
2. it gathers relevant Flemish stakeholders in a collective learning and knowledge dissemination trajectory.
Reciprocity and mutual dependence between the disciplines is key in this multi- and transdisciplinary consortium aiming to identify barriers and opportunities in conception, legislation, production and consumption of the built environment as well as to support new balances between actors.

This vacancy is for PhD1 or a part-time post-doctoral researcher: Circularity assessment of the built environment of Flemish industry parks
(main supervisor Prof. Allacker) (industrial ecology, life cycle assessment, architectural engineering, circular building)
The PhD or part-time post-doctoral researcher focuses on the assessment part, integrating various existing indicators from circular building and logistics with social and context based information from the other two PhD’s.The researcher will be responsible for developing a framework to assess circularity of the built environment of industry parks, applying the framework to two existing Flemish parks and assessing various circular transition scenarios of both parks.

The other two (PhD) projects articulate as follows:

PhD2 - Re-design of industry parks for a circular transition of the built environment
(main supervisor Prof. De Meulder), (urban design, systemic design, research on/for/through design)
PhD3 or part-time post-doctoral researcher - Design driven participation processes supporting (circular industry park) transitions
(main supervisor Prof. De Meulder) (participatory design, collective learning, design thinking, data engagement, creative data practices)
The three researchers collaborate in an iterative process of analyzing the context and other relevant data, imagining scenarios for change and circularity assessments.

Candidates preferably master Dutch as to guarantee fluid interactions with stakeholders and the community at large.


REFLIP looks for three passionate team players, eager to collaborate on common REFLIP goals, besides contributing to different disciplinary fields and developing their own research focus. Candidates will be challenged to learn other methodologies and to question their own. Since the three research projects reinforce and depend on each other, commitment to the project and the team is an important selection criterion. Autonomy, creativity, entrepreneurship, team spirit, proactive and open communication and commitment to work through disagreement and barriers in concepts and methods are key.

For the first PhD position or part-time post-doctoral position (architectural engineering, life cycle assessment) we are looking for an (architectural, civil or environmental) engineer interested in connecting quantitative models to on ground transformations of industry parks. This includes the inventory, quantification, modelling and assessment of the built environment of industry parks and the definition of strategies for a circular transition. Software skills: Autocad, ArcGis, MSOffice and LCA to develop quantitative tools that increasingly absorb contextual specificities.

Preferred degree requirements: master in (architecture-)engineering. Dutch language proficiency is a plus and a practical experience is very welcome.


This vacancy consists of one of three full-time PhD fellowships or two full-time PhD fellowships and one 25% post-doctoral research position for 48 months with preferred/earliest starting date October 1st 2020, guided by a highly motivated and dynamic interdisciplinary supervisor team developing a multidisciplinary circular cities expertise network. As part of the first batch of PhD students you get the opportunity to actively help shaping this network while developing your entrepreneurial skills. As a team of three, you get the autonomy to innovate in how we can dynamically perform interdisciplinary research.

As part of this longer term goal to realize a circular cities expertise network you will be actively involved in the broader ongoing research on circular cities, linking your expertise to other contexts and questions and co-developing circular cities expertise center future agendas.

At KU Leuven and the Arenberg Doctoral School you have access to a range of courses to refine your general,communication and research skills. As an autonomous, responsible and committed PhD student/researcher, you benefit from flexible working conditions with plenty of room for professional and personal development. Depending on your interests, you get the opportunity to be involved in education (thesis guidance, design studio guidance) and service to society up to 20% of your time.

REFLIP allows you to be part of state of the art research that contributes to circularity transition in the built environment, has direct societal impact and allows you to become an expert in circular built environments, which will be highly relevant for your further career in practice and academia.

We invite you to apply via the online application by providing following documents:

   - a letter of motivation (max. 1 A4)

   - an up-to-date CV

   - optional: a portfolio (PDF format) demonstrating relevant skills and/or interests

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview from the second half of August 2020. Candidates will be invited to present samples of relevant previous design and might be invited to fulfill specific tasks (e.g. reading and understanding specialized literature) before their interviews.

In the case suitable candidates do not present themselves, KU Leuven reserves the right to keep the vacancies open or to not fill the vacancies.

We look forward to meet you and to answer any questions you might have!

More information on admission and enrollment in the Arenberg Doctoral School can be found here:


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Karen Allacker, tel.: +32 16 32 13 75, mail: or Mrs. Julie Marin, tel.: +32 16 37 43 80, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than August 17, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijdse of deeltijdse tewerkstelling mogelijk
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: August 17, 2020
  • Tags: Ingenieurswetenschappen

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