PhD Scholarship in Circular Construction and the City

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 22 Aug 2022

1 - Working at the VUB

For already 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and connectedness. These values are strongly present on our campuses, in our students as well as our staff. At the VUB, you’ll find a diverse collection of personalities: pure innovators and especially people who are 100% their authentic selves. With about 3.500 employees, we are the largest Dutch-speaking employer in Brussels, an international city with which we are all too happy to be connected, and around which our four campuses are located.

Our education and research are grounded in the principles of free research with an eye on human progress. We disapprove of every purely authoritative argument and guarantee the free formation of judgement that is necessary for this basic principle to be incorporated in the community.

The VUB is autonomous and managed democratically. As such, we guarantee fundamental freedoms within our university, as well as the right of the university community to be involved in making and checking university policy.

The mission of the university includes:

  • the development, the transfer and the application of high-standing academic education and scientific research, free from any prejudice;
  • community integration of this in a spirit of social compassion;
  • critical development of everyone in light of the responsibilities borne in the community.

2 - Position description

The Faculty of Engineering (department Architectural Engineering) and the Faculty of Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences (department Geography), are looking for a PhD-student with a doctoral grant

More concretely your work package, for the preparation of a doctorate, contains: 

The theme of the research project is ‘‘Circular Construction and the City: The spatial embeddedness of the circular construction economy in Brussels, 1980-current”. The PhD project is embedded in the wider interdisciplinary research project entitled ‘Re-building Brussels (1695-2025): The construction sector as an engine for social inclusion and circularity’, which is based on a collaboration between the research groups Cosmopolis: Centre for Urban Research, VUB Architectural Engineering, and Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes. The PhD project will be jointly supervised by Cosmopolis and VUB Architectural Engineering.

In addition to a reconceptualization of economic models for closed-loop systems, transitions to a circular economy also require rethinking how circular activities are spatially embedded in metropolitan areas. Currently, productive activities are experiencing the pressure of rising land values leading to their exodus, while urban labor markets remain deeply segmented. As such, circularity is as much about striving for environmental goals as it is about recalibrating urban development around circular (re)production, innovation, and the revalorization of material-related activities and former waste-related sites. For a city like Brussels, the challenge is to square the circle and create inclusive circular jobs, redevelop brownfields, and set up new circular (re)production/innovation hubs without gentrification. 

Focusing on the case of the Brussels construction economy in the period 1980-current, the proposed PhD research project studies how the circular economy is spatially embedded in the metropolitan area. Four analytical angles are proposed:

  • Circular production: where are production sites (ateliers, storage, etc.) located and how are these connected to wider supply chains/sites in the region and beyond?
  • Circular innovation: what are the clusters and networks of circular building innovation? What are the agglomerative and networked dynamics of these ecosystems? How does knowledge flow in these ecosystems?
  • Circular construction employment: what are the processes that enable the labor market embeddedness of the circular construction economy?
  • Circular economy hubs? To what extent is revalorization driving (industrial) gentrification? And what are the land-value dynamics of temporary use of vacant land?

During your research you collaborate closely with three other PhD researchers who focus on the history of (de)construction and reuse, and the history of labor market inclusion in the Brussels construction sector.  

For this function, our Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus (Elsene) will serve as your home base. 

3 - Profile

What do we expect from you?

You hold a Master’s degree in Geography, Urban Studies, Urbanism and Spatial Planning, Architecture, Architectural Engineering, or equivalent. 

  • You have a good command of English (reading, writing, speaking). Knowledge of Dutch and/or French is an asset.
  • You are a team-player and can work autonomously when needed.
  • A good knowledge of economic geography, urban development, or the construction sector is a plus.
  • The position is aimed at young talent willing to prepare a bid for an individual research scholarship at the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) or similar.
  • You have not performed any works in the execution of a mandate as an assistant, paid from operating resources, over a total (cumulated) period of more than 12 months.

4 - Offer

Are you going to be our new colleague?

You’ll be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of the positive evaluation of the PhD activities), with planned starting date 01/10/2022

You’ll receive a grant linked to one of the scales set by the government.

IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.

At the VUB, you’re guaranteed an open, involved and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career.

As well as this, you’ll enjoy various benefits:

  • Full reimbursement for your home-work commute with public transport according to VUB-policy, or compensation if you come by bike;
  • Cost-free hospitalisation insurance;
  • The space to form your job content and continuously learn via VUB LRN;
  • Excellent facilities for sport and exercise;
  • Ecocheques;
  • Delicious meals at attractive prices in our campus restaurants;
  • An open, family-friendly work environment where attention is paid to work-life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract).

5 - Interested?

Is this the job you’ve been dreaming of?

Send us ONLINE and at the latest on 22/08/2022  your CV, your letter of motivation, including your vision regarding the research theme and integration in the research project (maximum 2 pages), and the highest degree you’ve attained (not applicable for VUB alumni).

Do you have questions about the job content? Contact Niels De Temmerman and David Bassens at and  or on 02/629.36.75 and 02/629.33.87.

Selected applicants will be invited for an (online) interview. 

Would you like to know what it’s like to work at the VUB? Go to and find all there is to know about our campuses, benefits, strategic goals and your future colleagues.

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