Inspiring co-creation session: brainstorming about the collective neighbourhood infrastructure

May 12, 2023

On April 25 2023, another interesting interactive session took place in the oPEN Living Lab Genk. This time, the collective neighbourhood infrastructure was central. The oPEN Lab project is not just about energy solutions on an individual level. We focus on collective interventions to achieve energy-positive neighbourhoods together with residents and project partners. Concretely, this intervention takes on the form of a collective energy building in central Nieuw-Texas: an innovative energy infrastructure for and by the neighbourhood. 

To brainstorm about this collective energy building, the City of Genk, STEBO, Nieuw Dak, VITO, Soltech and IMEC – KULeuven joined forces to organise a session in the community centre of Waterschei. Between 20 and 25 interested residents from Nieuw-Texas and Waterschei joined the session and participated actively in generating ideas for a shared energy building.


During the session, we reflected on the question, “What can the collective neighbourhood infrastructure mean for me and my neighbourhood?” We brainstormed about (global) functions the collective neighbourhood infrastructure should contain to be meaningful for the neighbourhood. Here, we build further on the results of the previous co-creation session in 2022 by reviewing previously conceived ideas of mobility, water and greenery in the neighbourhood, and community feeling. 

Next, we generated ideas for the collective neighbourhood infrastructures. Questions such as “What are we missing in our neighbourhood and how can that gap be filled by a collective energy building?”; “In what aspects can the collective neighbourhood infrastructure complement my situation?”; and “What advantages can a collective energy building offer?” were crucial to this part of the brainstorming. The participating residents came up with innovative ideas for functions that could have a place in the collective energy building, including:

  •  a collective rental service for (gardening) tools;
  • a meeting place that could also function as a waiting room, with (picnic) benches and a small kitchenette;
  • a laundry room – connected to a rainwater tank – that allows for (large amounts of) washing and ironing outside of the individual homes;
  • and a communal, electric van – charged by solar panels – that residents can use in turns. For example, for moving furniture.

During the next session in June 2023, we will work further on these ideas. The ideas will be presented again on the spot during a neighbourhood party so that non-participants can express their preferences and opinions too. So stay tuned to see what will happen next for the collective neighbourhood infrastructure in Genk!