As the birth place of Luxembourg’s wealth, the south of the country is home to vast industrial land formerly exploited by Arbed (today ArcelorMittal) and now looking forward to a new life. This has already happened in Esch-Belval, where industrial heritage and modern administrative buildings coexist in perfect harmony. Esch-Schifflange is the next big project. The possibility of turning 60 hectares of industrial land that has a century and a half of history into a new kind of eco-district is under review.

“The site was in operation from 1871 to 2012 and has been officially shut down since 2016,” explains Yves Biwer, administrative director of Agora. “Following this, we signed an agreement with the State and the owner of the field, ArcelorMittal, to carry out a feasibility study for the development of a new urban concept.”

It is important to integrate innovative aspects from the very beginning of the planning.

The idea is simple: to create a nice neighbourhood where future generations  can live. “In this context, it is important to integrate innovative aspects from the very beginning of the planning, so that forward-looking developments and trends are integrated immediately.”

At the crossroads of supply and demand

To carry out this preparatory phase, Agora called upon Luxinnovation to be able to leverage the agency’s extensive network and mobilise companies in the field as well as research centres.

“With Agora, we started from scratch,” says Charles-Albert Florentin, Luxembourg EcoInnovation Cluster Manager at Luxinnovation. “So, to begin, we had to define what could be the vision of this future neighbourhood. We therefore proposed workshops to identify innovative concepts, in collaboration with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), the University of Luxembourg and some 80 participating companies.”

Finally, three workshops were organised on the themes of (de-)construction (materials, modelling and circular economy), social integration (mobility, quality of life and urban agriculture) and urban metabolism (water, energy, materials and waste facilities and flows). The aim was clear: to propose guidelines for the future specifications and to collect good ideas for the forthcoming urban planning competition in 2019. The principles of the circular economy figured prominently in the requirements.

As a result, selected architects, planners and landscape gardeners will develop their concepts in connection with local businesses. “The ambition is to bring supply and demand together,” says Mr Florentin. “We have identified several interesting projects in the future for the country and we want to put concepts, products and services in place, regardless of whether they come from Luxembourg companies or from foreign companies wishing to settle here.”

Putting people at the centre

Various innovative approaches were devised during the workshops, both on the construction of buildings as such and on energy or water solutions. “There are some interesting ideas in this area, particularly with regards to the carbon cycle, which makes it possible to consider wastewater not as waste, but as a carbon resource for plant development,” says Mr Florentin.

The human being is one of the main challenges. You have to think of the quality of life aspect for everyone who will use the site

The approach was highly appreciated by companies, who clearly expressed their satisfaction at being involved well in advance of such a process and being able to offer their know-how. A dozen players, both public and private, were able to present their innovative technologies and concepts through tangible and documented presentations.

The study of this eco-district involves a concentration of technological innovation designed to serve the well-being of future residents. “The human being is one of the main challenges,” confirms Mr Biwer. “You have to think of the quality of life aspect for everyone who will use the site. It is essential to focus on the user who should be key in our thought process. It is not enough to develop very advanced technologies, it is necessary to constantly ask yourself how the human being will be able to derive the best benefit from it.”

This article was originally published in Luxinnovation’s Annual Report 2018.

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