De Nieuwe Dokken,
Gent – Belgium
DuCoop, the first Circular Economy Service Company for a district created in Europe, is a paradigm for the real estate industry.
Circular developed the local cooperative DuCoop in tandem with the real estate developer for the Nieuwe Dokken district in Gent, Belgium. Ducoop provides local services such as district heating, water circularity, electric mobility, waste processing, a local energy community and thus resilience for the district.
The visionary work started some 5+ years ago, and is now fully operational for the first construction phase. The work is very rewarding.
Not only has DuCoop been recognized with important awards such as the Belgian and European business awards for the environment, as well as the Energy Globe award for Belgium.
Especially the positive interactions with residents of the neighborhood and stakeholders leave a profound impression.
It is impressive to see how the presence of these district services has added great value for residents and thus increased the prestige of the neighborhood in its city and surroundings.
The Nieuwe Dokken district
De Nieuwe Dokken district is a development in the old harbor of Ghent. The site used to be an old railway producing company and is reconverted.
In total, 400 houses and a city building (school, daycare center and sports hall) will be developed by 2026. The development is a project of real-estate developers Van Roey Vastgoed and Caaap (www.denieuwedokken.be). The city building is developed by city development of Ghent (SoGent).
At the moment of writing, the first building phase is finished and building of the second building phase is ongoing. The third building phase is expected to start in the beginning of 2022.
Circular developed the cooperation DuCoop for the project, which provides services for energy, water, mobility and waste in the district.
DuCoop is developing a combination of innovative technologies to close the cycles of energy, water and resources (the ‘ZAWENT’ principle) in a new neighborhood in Ghent ‘De Nieuwe Dokken’.
The main aim of the project is to demonstrate economically viable business models for decentralized treatment of domestic wastewater with integration of other sustainable technologies, such as low temperature district heating, resource and water recovery and smart energy control systems.
When fully deployed, the district will be an example of a circular economy, with the annual reuse of more than 30,000 m³ of city water (>90% of the total consumption), recovery of more than 2,500 MWh of residual heat and the production of 1,500 kg of phosphate and nitrogen-rich crystals ( struvite), which can be used as a renewable fertilizer in a local urban farming project.
The water treatment system combines new technologies such as vacuum sewer systems, fermentation of black water, struvite recovery, and recovery of waste heat from the effluent of the water treatment plant with a heat pump.
The DuCoop cooperative has realized a 4th generation district heating network that provides the 400 apartments in the Nieuwe Dokken in Ghent with central heating and sanitary hot water, with sustainable residual heat produced from biogas and a heat pump. This covers up to 1/3 of the district’s residual heat production. The remaining heat will be supplied by low temperature waste heat (55 °C) from the nearby industry, which must be able to meet the peak demand of the heating system at any time. The industry then uses the purified water to make its products.
In addition, DuCoop places solar panels on the roofs of the apartment buildings and offers EV charging points for sustainable (shared) mobility.
We optimize energy consumption through storage, information networks and data monitoring, and the use of intelligent energy management system (EMS).
Local participation of water-utility and energy cooperation
DuCoop has different shareholders to fund the cooperative structure. Next to the impact investors and real-estate developers, local water utility Farys and local energy cooperative Energent are shareholders of the cooperative.
Water utility Farys is involved strongly in DuCoop and supported throughout the building and operational phases. They provide different services for the DuCoop: management of the water treatment plant, grey water collection system, IT-network and 24/7 online monitoring of the systems of DuCoop.
The energy cooperative Energent is a local cooperative in Ghent. Their expertise is mainly on the energy part, with installation of solar panels and sustainable heating solutions. As shareholder of DuCoop, next to financing, it supports decision making regarding energy and mobility aspects.
Due to the cooperative nature of DuCoop, end users in the neighborhood are directly involved in the organization of the sustainability services in their neighborhood. They are already involved from the moment they buy the apartment/housing unit and are invited to follow the organization through the annual meetings and info moments of the cooperative.
Social cohesion in the community can also grow from this initiative. Further basic initiatives can arise from this social cohesion, such as car sharing, care applications, group purchases (e.g. sustainable electricity), etc.
Future homeowners and tenants can also participate in the functioning of the cooperative: they can participate financially in the capital and/or they may be involved in the management of the cooperative. This ensures that end users are more engaged, better understand what DuCoop’s goals and mission as a service company mean to them, and thus make better use of the system.