Paradigm Shifts in Energy Efficiency Perspectives


12 Nov 2008

Vrije Universiteit Brussel | CONVIVIUM, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels

This first kick-off workshop aimed at setting the scene by providing a platform for an interdisciplinary assembly of speakers to explore several "languages" and domains that make use of the "Energy Efficieny" concept and the fascinating translations between them.


09:00 Intro and setting the scene: Gerrit-Jan Schaeffer (VITO, Belgium)
09:30 Energy, Efficiency and Life: a very special Relationship: biologist Nicolas Glansdorff (VUB, Brussels)
10:00 Energy Efficiency in outer space projects: MELIiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative): Max Mergeay (SCK.CEN, Belgium)
10:30 Questions and answers
10:45 Coffee break
11:00 Biomodd: Building community through installation art, ecology and game culture: Angelo Vermeulen (visual artist, filmmaker, writer, DJ, gamer and scientist, Belgium)
11:30 Urbanism vs. the Growth Paradigm: Elke Beyer (ETHZ, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich)
12:00 Stimulating the eco-efficient ambition of promotors and developers: Geert Palmers (3E, Brussels)
12:30 Panel Discussion
13:00 Apero & Walking lunch

Bios / Slides

Gerrit Jan Schaeffer has 15 years of experience in energy research at the Energy research Center of the Netherlands (ECN). He got a PhD in 1998 on an analytical study of the dynamics in the history of fuel cell research. He has published on fuel cells, renewable energy policy issues, technology learning curves, energy models, integration of distruted generation and renewables and "Smart Grids". He has coordinated several EU-wide projects on these issues. Currently he is Manager of the "Intelligent Energy Management" group within the research program "Intelligent Electricity Grids" at ECN. Currently he is director of Innovation & renovation at VITO, concentrating primarily on developing and stimulating technological innovation.

Nicolas Glansdorff is Emeritus Professor of Microbiology and Genetics of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Honorary Director of the Jean-Marie Wiame Institute for Microbiological Research in Brussels. He received MSc and PhD degrees in Biology from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. He was several years postdoctoral fellow of the Belgian National Science Foundation; this period included a one year visit in 1967 at the Institute of Genetics of Glasgow University, directed at the time by Professor G. Pontecorvo. He made several visits of a few months each at the Department of Microbiology of the New York University Medical School in the laboratory of Professor WK Maas At the beginning his research interests resided mainly in molecular genetics and mechanisms of gene regulation, using pyrimidine and arginine biosynthesis as a model system. In recent years, his interest became more and more focused on the molecular physiology and evolutionary relationships of microorganisms adapted to extreme conditions (such as high and low temperatures, high hydrostatic pressure) and the origin of life.

Max Mergeay retired a few months ago as Head of the Section Radiobiology & Microbiology at the SCK CEN and works now as a consultant. He joined the SCK·CEN in 1968. His main experience is situated in environmental and soil microbiology (anthropogenic or industrial harsh environments) and bacterial genetics. Interests: space biology, horizontal gene transfer, genomics, gene responses to environmental stress. Mergeay is one of the founders of the project MELIiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) has been conceived as a micro-organisms and higher plants based ecosystem intended as a tool to gain understanding of the behaviour of artificial ecosystems, and for the development of the technology for a future regenerative life support system for long term manned space missions, e.g. a lunar base or a mission to Mars. MELiSSA is a bioregenerative life support system designed by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the complete recycling of gas, liquid and solid wastes during long distance space exploration. The system uses the combined activity of different living organisms: microbial cultures in bioreactors, a plant compartment and a human crew. In this minireview, the development of a short-cut ecological system for the biotransformation of organic waste is discussed from a microorganism's perspective. The artificial ecological model-still in full development-that is inspired by Earth's own geomicrobiological ecosystem serves as an ideal study object on microbial ecology and will become an indispensable travel companion in manned space exploration.

Angelo Vermeulen
is a visual artist, filmmaker, writer, DJ, gamer and scientist. As an artist he works with digital media, video, photography and installations. In 1998 he obtained a PhD in biology at the University of Leuven, Belgium, together with a degree in photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leuven. His PhD research was situated in the domains of ecology, environmental pollution and teratology. After his studies, he moved to London to collaborate with Nick Waplington. Back in Belgium he became an artist in residence at HISK (Higher Institute of Fine Arts) in Antwerp. His bio installations, experimental setups incorporating living cells, organisms and sci-fi references are his most well-known works. Up until 2005 he has been working on the experimental film project 'SKANNER', an interactive inquiry into human fear in cooperation with Tamuraj, electronic musician and AI researcher. In 2005 he founded 'Drumlander', a creative platform on game culture in collaboration with Canadian gamer and artist Louis Blackburn. ‘Drumlander’ has been presenting audio performances with game music and installations with underground games. Currently Vermeulen develops ‘Biomodd’, a worldwide series of installations fusing game culture, ecology and social interaction. In 2008 the project received a nomination for the Ars Electronica Hybrid Art Prix. 'Translucent Futures' is Vermeulen's latest project and deals with ubiquitous technology and the attrition of civil rights and privacy. The project is set up in close collaboration with the arts organizations FoAM and [nadine] in Brussels.Vermeulen is regularly invited to give international lectures on art, science and new technologies. During the past few years he has given more than 50 talks throughout Europe, the US and Asia. He recently published 'Baudelaire in Cyberspace', a unique dialogue book on the relation between art, technology and digital culture, written in partnership with art philosopher Antoon Van den Braembussche. More info on

Elke Beyer , ETH Zürich/Project Shrinking Cities, born 1974, holds an M.A. in History and Slavic Studies; university studies in Cologne, London and New York; since 2000, free lance development and realization of events, city walks, film programs on urban history and a temporary archive for staatsbankberlin; 2002-2006 research associate in the project Shrinking Cities, Office Philipp Oswalt, Berlin; 2004-2005 guest editor of the journal An Architektur for a special issue on the eastern border of the EU for the exhibition Projekt Migration, Cologne; since March 2006, assistant at the gta (Institute for History and Theory of Architecture), ETH Zürich; research project on planning, production and current transformation of 1960s city centres in Russia and eastern Germany.

Urbanism vs. the Growth Paradigm. A relatively new and entirely unplanned trend of urban development has taken hold in old industrial societies: For increasing numbers of towns and cities, economic and demographic indicators point towards stagnation or even shrinkage. Declining birthrates and aging societies, declining demand for labour and global relocation of industrial production, suburbanization and increased mobility as well as the fragmentation of growth pockets have inverted the development of many urban regions. The growth paradigm which informs much urban planning and our imaginary of cities in general requires revision. In Germany's eastern states, unemployment, population decline and abandonment of housing continue in alarming figures while planners and politicians find themselves at loss how to ?solve" the structural problems and how to deal with the heritage of the state socialist new towns, satellites and large-scale housing estates. The cultural and urbanist research project Shrinking Cities was initiated by the German Federal Culture Foundation in order to establish new perspectives on these developments, to put them in international and trans-disciplinary context and to invite proposals for interventions from architects and planners as well as a wide range of cultural producers. More information is available on

Geert Palmers holds a master degree in Electrotechnical Engineering (KU Leuven, 1991) and in Environmental Sciences (FUL, 1993)
He was member of the R&D unit Photovoltaics in IMEC, Inter University Micro- Electronics Centre. He conducted the management of EUREC Agency, the European R&D federation on renewable energy from 1994 to 1998. Afterwards, he worked as an expert at the Cabinet of the Federal Minister of Energy J.P. Poncelet on the position of renewable energy in the liberalisation of the energy markets and the initiation of the offshore wind energy policy.
He co-founded 3E (1999) and holds the position of General Manager. 3E is an independent expert company specialised in renewable energy and energy efficiency, having 55 experts in Brussels, Toulouse and Beijing.