PhD Scholarship in Circular Construction and the City

Updated: 11 days ago

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. 


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