Ingenium brings heating network expertise to Mechelen’s climate district

Ingenium’s expertise

Commissioned by the Flemish Government’s Environment Department, the Vlaams Bouwmeester team and the Flemish Energy and Climate Agency, Ingenium and an interdisciplinary team investigated the ‘climate district Mechelse Vesten’. Ingenium assists the project with heating network expertise and energy and building engineering vision. In addition to Ingenium, the study team consists of our partners Atelier Horizon (urban planning), Bureau Bouwtechniek (building renovation), Levuur/Contutti (participation) and Metha Advocaten (legal).


In the spring of 2020, the developers launched a call for projects to support local authorities in concrete conversion projects on a neighborhood scale. This with a major focus on the challenges of energy, climate and space: the Climate Districts. By connecting these challenges at the neighborhood level, there are potential opportunities.

From the submitted neighborhood projects, three Climate Neighborhood projects were selected in Mechelen, Leuven and Kortrijk. An interdisciplinary study team was subsequently appointed for each of these projects. Ingenium was given the opportunity to be part of the study team in Mechelen.


Through research by design, discussions with internal and external experts and by involving the right actors, cabinets and administrations, an intense process was carried out for this climate district. The complex task of renovating and renovating existing (residential) neighborhoods is a long-term task and requires intense collaboration between designers, residents, technical experts, governments, …

At the same time, it is an extremely urgent task. The speed with which the out-of-date buildings must be adapted to meet the climate targets is high. The task is to make the Flemish cities and municipalities fossil-free as soon as possible. Only by thinking about this transition task on a collective scale and in an integrated way can a solid story be crafted.

heating Tenet and renovation

The climate district Mechelse West stands out because it focuses on two different needs. Work is being done on both the possibility of developing a heating network along the West, a city-wide infrastructure and the targeted collective renovation of apartment buildings. These two complementary dynamics provide opportunities for transformation at different scales and with a diverse focus. The challenge then lies in being able to incorporate these aspects into one coherent transition project. It requires both motivated building owners and ambitious administrators.

Big steps can be taken through a combination of city projects and triggering individual actions. This can only be achieved when the ambitions are formulated and the goals are clear.

fossil-free environment

In addition to technical and spatial strategies, it is essential within this transition task to be able to submit a supported project. Mechelen Municipality is therefore working on an integrated heating strategy for the territory and on a heating coalition, where various stakeholders are gathered and where the transformation process to a fossil-free environment is central. Specifically for Mechelse Vesten, the focus is on the apartment buildings’ VMEs (Associations of Co-owners). As they provide access to a collective renovation of buildings along the city ring, they occupy an important position. This collective renovation is extremely necessary.


The design for the Mechelse Vesten Climate District looked for insights at different scale levels to achieve the most complete approach. On the one hand, the research in building scale is a decisive approach to map the renovation possibilities and the challenges regarding the image quality of the buildings along the West. Subsequently, the scale of the West as a whole provides the strategic view of the urban scale. This is where the more large-scale interventions and strategies can be drawn up, such as the technical infrastructure on a city scale or the necessary interventions in the public space.

Finally, the (intermediate) scale of the building block is also of great importance within this design research. After all, it makes it possible to tackle the challenges in a collective way, where the spatial approaches to core strengthening, densification, excavation and program are essential. The building block can thus form the missing puzzle piece between the building and city scale.


Although the problem definition for this research by design is very clear and the need for a solution becomes urgent, the research shows that there are still many challenges that transcend the spatial-energetic aspect. This study therefore presented options and approaches that are the first steps to make the ambitions a reality, but which will depend on further feasibility studies.

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