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Neobuild : an experiment in progress

The Neobuild Innovation Centre is a living laboratory for research into energy efficiency

In the race for energy innovation, the construction sector is not exactly lacking in ideas. However, as exciting as all of these new models and prototypes can be, they still need to be fully tested and validated before they can hit the global market. This is where the Neobuild Innovation Centre steps in.

Situated in the south of Luxembourg, the Neobuild building can be described as a living laboratory, where the ideas of today are put through their paces before they become the innovations of tomorrow. With its eight different types of flooring, a living plant wall, five different types of insulation in the roof – without counting the 14 different window designs – this 2,200m² building is, without a doubt, a one-of- a-kind testing zone. To measure the effects of these features, Neobuild uses a system of 1,500 sensors that can “understand where something is succeeding and where it can improve, and quickly detect deviations,” explains Neobuild’s director, Francis Schwall. “We are somewhere in between the laboratory and a real life situation,” he adds. His comment refers to the split nature of the building: on the one hand there really are experiments being conducted, while on the other, it serves as an office space just like the others in this industrial zone.

Founded in 2011 as an initiative of the Council for Economic Development and Construction, Neobuild’s mission is to promote and support innovative projects in the building sector. Through its unique office space, Neobuild acts as a green incubator for the companies and start-ups it collaborates with.

Waving goodbye to air-conditioning with electro-chromatic glass

In one of the meeting rooms, demineralised wood chips are being tested as a new acoustic and thermal insulation technique. In another room, the windows have been equipped with electro- chromatic glass, which means they can change colour to reduce the amount of heat entering the building. “This is something which should make its way into all office buildings,” says Francis Schwall.

This reactive glass, which can be cleaned like an ordinary window, means that energy intensive air- conditioning systems can be avoided.

On the roof of the building, both solar and thermal panels are found by the dozen. The building is not yet entirely self-sufficient energy-wise, but its designers already have plans for selective power cuts when all of their experiments are in place. “The problem today is regulation,” explains the director.

“Legislation is not keeping up with the pace of innovation.” One example is the use of recycled components in concrete mixture, which is restricted at 13% maximum by current standards.

The many strings to the Neobuild bow

In the five years since its launch, Neobuild has already had a hand in the completion of a string of innovative projects. These include the production of vacuum-insulated walls in cooperation with the company Béton Feidt. These walls offer twice the amount of insulation as conventional alternatives at a reduced width, from 16cm to just 7cm.

Neobuild equally provides support to public administrations conducting energy efficiency research. The company is currently in discussions with Sanem municipality to develop solar panelled roads, from which energy can be captured and stored in small batteries, and then used to light up the town at a low cost.

With a growing number of strings to its bow, Neobuild has become recognised for both its network of experts and for the range of techniques and materials being used and tested in the building. Its objective is to now try to replicate this model of experimentation: “what we need is for similar buildings to do the same in other regions.” Moreover, discussions are underway with various universities across Europe, mainly with the aim of collecting more data.

Undoubtedly, different local climates and building practices create different energy needs. Which means scope for further innovation, as part of this on-going, living experiment.

➢ Keyfacts

The Neobuild Innovation Centre is a living laboratory where new construction and insulation materials are tried out, in view of optimising energy efficiency for the buildings of tomorrow.

The company Neobuild aims to support the projects initiated by various enterprises and to help disseminate information. They organise around ten events per year. On November 24, the ‘Smart & Living City’ conference will focus on connected devices and innovative solutions put to the service of the city and its citizens.

➢ Some figures

– 6.1 million euros (including VAT): the cost of the Neobuild building

– 16 months: the duration of construction for the Neobuild site

– 2,200m²: the surface area of the Neobuild building

– 100: the number of different materials, products and systems currently being used in the Neobuild building

– 1,500: the number of data sensors in the entire Neobuild building

– 60m²: the area of Neobuild’s pilot ‘urban farming’ greenhouse. With the support of the Ministry of the Environment, a second urban greenhouse, this time covering 600m², will soon be built next to the building.

By Catherine Kurzawa


Phone: +352.621.384.291

Twitter: @Cathkurzawa

The project :


Director: Francis Schwall Phone: +352.

Communications Officer: Mélanie De Lima Phone: +352.

Next event: “Smart & Living Conference” city-conference- 2016

Neobuild is a member of the Construction 21 network ( and last year received the Green Building Solutions Award in the category “Intelligent Buildings.”

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