November 27, 2016
Antwerp, Belgium


Over the last three years 11 European partners have worked together in the EU FP7 funded projectEcodistr-ICT to create a decision support tool for urban retrofit.  At this final conference the time has come to share the results of this project with potential users and the wider audience.


The final ECODISTR-ICT conference was held in Antwerp (Belgium) on October 27, 2016. The conference gathered 40 stakeholders from business development, architecture, urban planning, universities and engineering services.

The day began with a short introduction to the project, which was followed up by a live demonstration of the Ecodistr-ICT tool. In the first round of keynotes, the topic was “Retrofitting neighbourhoods”, with three keynote speakers.

Christophe Debrabander (Bostoen) explained technical aspects of district renovation and pointed at the difficulties of different investment agendas and time horizons among building owners, which makes the planning of district renewal a logistic challenge.  Setting the example ambition with a good case is important to pull all actors to a higher level of involvement, in particular in a context of individual home owners.

Adriaan Slob (TNO) elaborated on decision processes.  He emphasized the impact of ‘emergent behaviour’: in a decision process, be prepared for surprise.  Processes have a predominant role.  Complexity of the specific context, reconciling different disciplinary and community languages and views, and providing for system understanding for all stakeholders are essential parameters for success.  According to Adriaan Slob, a decision support tool therefore must reflect well the real decision process.

Rudy Clé (Woonhaven Antwerpen) illustrated the viewpoints and work methods of the social housing sector.  There are substantial challenges for the further development of social housing in Flanders.  Social housing should no more come in concentrations, but well spread throughout the urban tissue.  However, space is limited here.  Sustainable buildings often come with a lot of technology and related control, but in the social sector all of this must be easy to use.  And heritage buildings pose an additional challenge, not only in terms of project but also for the (strictly regulated) budget: on average, renovation of a heritage listed building costs 10% more.

After that, interactive demonstration sessions with small groups around a computer with a facilitator started, hosted and moderated by ECODISTR-ICT partners. The afternoon session started with presentations about decision making and case study feedback. The session was followed by the second round of keynotes, concerning limits and potentials of an IDSS in collective decision making.

 Geert Vielfont (Ecohuis Antwerpen) works as an energy coach.  He pointed at the substantial rotation of occupancy in the rental home sector, which contrasts strongly with the situation as we find it for the ‘once in a lifetime renovation’ with home owners.  Evidently, this puts specific challenges.  Condominiums are an additional hurdle to take.  A good masterplan, setting up a proper financing scheme and lots of communication are essential to secure a successful rollout.

 Peter Swyngedauw (Omgeving) translated the urban designer’s approach.  New data streams provide for a lot of opportunities: many more information layers can indeed be put into (well informed) design practice.  Ecodistr-ICT has the additional quality of supporting data collection and processing that is not strictly GIS-related.

Tim Devos (ndvr) illustrated some of the innovative practices his office pursues.  Working on story lines and carefully mapping the multi-actor constellation are aspects to be considered on top of what the other presenters already mentioned.

Feeding back into Ecodistr-ICT as an IDSS, we can conclude that complexity is unavoidable and should be addressed as such; that the tool has potential to help in this venture; and that process, mutual learning among actors and setting up new collaborations are aspects that will necessarily come together with the use of the IDSS in real world situations.

After a wrap-up of the day, an optional site visit to the Antwerp case study was performed.




Introduction to the IDSS – Stijn Verbeke

Retrofitting Neighbourhoods as a Technical Challenge – Christophe Debrabander

Urban Renewal and the Use of Data and Software – Aadrian Slob

Parallel Try Out Sessions Case Study Antwerp

Renovation and Renewal in Social Housing

Policy Decision Making and Retrofitting Neighbourhoods – Antwerpen City

The Role of Software in a Design Process LR – Peter Swyngedauw

Qualitative Data Participation and District Renewal LR – Tim Devos