URBCON is an ambitious European Interreg project in which bright minds search for new and especially sustainable techniques and materials for the construction sector. They specialize in clean concrete, and through their work, they reduce the use of raw materials and CO2 emissions. But what is the role of the City of Ghent in this story? We sat down with Sanne, responsible for URBCON in the Department of Economy.
Sanne: "The City of Ghent wants to become the front runner in terms of circular economy, and to achieve this, we need some strong partners. Especially since we also want and need to complete the climate objectives. Based on these ambitions, a Cleantech cluster for sustainable and circular entrepreneurship has been established by the City of Ghent in cooperation with the Capture research platform. The City of Ghent, Ghent University, the Province of East Flanders, I-CLEANTECH VLAANDEREN, and the Provincial Development Agency (POM) are joining in this project. Together, we strive for clean technology. Hence the name Cleantech, of course. The cooperation encompasses various domains: water, plastics, and CO2. URBCON mainly focuses on the CO2 story and resolutely strives for a reduction of emissions.
"Circular economy is not new, and the City of Ghent already has various projects. For instance, there is already a solid bridge between the Economy Department and the Environment and Climate Department. The Economy Department uses the maximum of new clean technology within Cleantech and together with the business community. This way, the City of Ghent wants to ensure that it becomes a circular economy front runner within Europe! Of course, this focuses on building materials and CO2, but it goes broader than that. It also concerns plastic and wood, and of course the concrete of URBCON."
"URBCON fits perfectly into the story that the Economy Department wants to tell. In the meantime, we have been looking with their team at what needs to be renovated or built in the coming years, obviously looking mainly at concrete structures. This is how, among other things, the pilot project for the fire escape came about."
Sanne: "In Ghent, the fire brigade systematically checks whether all schools meet the fire safety standards. At the Zonnepoort school, the fire brigade saw that a fire escape was missing to guarantee enough safe escape routes. A real challenge for URBCON. They are building the fire escape at the back of the school building. We are currently discussing with three different construction teams who will present their preliminary design. Afterward, we will choose a construction team to build the fire escape, always keeping in mind the ecological vision of the City of Ghent.
"The fire escape for the Zonnepoort primary school will be made of URBCON concrete with three different types of combustion ash. Which means that they will process no less than three different types of by-product in the concrete. Part of the URBCON team also investigates whether they can use new secondary raw materials. For example, they want to experiment with a type of clay from partner Imerys, which can be transformed into secondary sand."
Sanne: "We hope that based on the URBCON pilot projects, we can convince contractors and architects to start using these cleaner products, so we can stimulate the green economy. By specifically asking for this in tenders, for example, you can oblige this target group to think about their choice of material. But there are still some hills to climb. For example, there is the perception that eco-concrete is less safe, but that is not the case. Of course, the concrete meets the standard norms, as it should. And let's not forget the URBCON team and the Cleantech cluster holds some of the best thinkers our domain has to offer."