Yes, you should put the blame on REMOURBAN

Yes, you should put the blame on REMOURBAN

I try to go there every time I can, to the FASA-Delicias district, and it still amazes me that, at the end, we have been able to make a small part of Valladolid a better neighbourhood for the people living there.

Most times I don’t stop there, due to lack of time. But only going over there and seeing from the San Agustín School the tower with the photovoltaics or the new colours of the buildings –you may like them or not– makes me feel a feeling of gratification difficult to be described.

Same happens when I happen to see the buses of line 7, those electric, and I can’t help thinking that we have contributed, even a little, to make out of this city a more sustainable place.

This path started now more than 5 years ago, and there is still more than one year in front, but now we can already see in place all the interventions that we planned in some areas of this city. Something that seemed to be impossible now is a reality.

Sometimes I feel that most of the citizens are not familiarised with this. There are not that many that have heard about REMOURBAN, and some of those that have, sometimes confuse it. Honestly, it is not difficult to understand that it is not easy to see all there is behind from outside. It is yet sometimes difficult from inside.

Long story short, you should blame REMOURBAN for the new 45 electric vehicles that we have today in Valladolid. For the new fleet that Correos, the post delivery service, has deployed with less contaminant vehicles. For the new fast charging point in CENTROLID, the logistics distribution centre, and the new 63 charging points installed by the Municipality and Iberdrola to be publicly used.

For the 950 tons of CO2 that the families living in FASA (around 400 families) have started to reduce (this is the equivalent of planting almost 2000 new trees). For having their homes at 19ºC when they wake up after having the heating system switched off the whole night, while they used to wake up at less than 15ºC in some dwellings. And moreover, for this improvements being paid with the savings in their energy bills, without investing a cent.

For the 2 new electric buses that the Municipality of Valladolid has deployed, plus other three that they have incorporated due to the leverage effect of the two firsts. Two buses that run the whole city centre without emitting contaminant gases. And also, for the other two (also electric) vehicles shared among the personnel of the city council.

For the new city information platform that contains a big amount of data and models the mobility and energy behaviour of some areas of the city. Data that will allow identifying new strategies and policies to continue improving the city.

All in all, for the improvement in the air quality of the city, for reducing the heat island effect or for the new information to make more informed decisions in the future of our city.

Also, you should blame REMOURBAN for positioning Valladolid in the map of pioneering cities through its strategy to develop a more efficient, intelligent and sustainable city.

You should blame REMOURBAN for all these issues, and also, in CARTIF, we feel a bit responsible of all them.

But REMOURBAN is not the unique project that is working to make out of Valladolid a referent in sustainability and smart city. R2CITIES, CITyFiED or UrbanGreenUp should also blamed for this, through their efforts to renovate Cuatro de Marzo or Torrelago districts, making them more efficient, or to implement nature-based solutions in the city.

Something that we have learnt along this entire path is that there is still a big barrier that prevents that all these actions can be successfully replicated to other areas of the city or other cities. And this is the lack of contrasted and credible information about the benefits and implications of these projects.

We are, thus, working hard to fight against this barrier trying to achieve that all cities in Europe can learn from our successes and failures. And in CARTIF this has been our objective in the recent years, where we have started to export this knowledge to other cities as Palencia, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Valencia, Helsinki, Hamburg or Nantes.

And giving a step forward in this path, we have embraced the challenge to organise a conference that pretends that Valladolid shines a bit more in this “Hall of Fame” of the Smart and Sustainable Cities. By & For Citizens is going to take place in Valladolid on September 20-21.

A conference where are aiming at bringing all these experiences to cities, architects, engineers, urbanists, investors, public administrations and, beyond that, to the citizens, who are the key player on the city transformation. You can’t miss this unique opportunity!

‘New old’ buildings: retrofitting and efficiency

‘New old’ buildings: retrofitting and efficiency

I have tried my best to avoid starting this post with the awarded as the most-used-ever sentence in this sort of texts that states that “buildings account for a 40% of the energy consumption and the 36% of the GHG emissions” but the fact is that it is good starting point when writing about buildings and energy. To tell the truth, in this field, with the unsustainable energy consumption rates, CO2 and other contaminants emissions, and their still too low improvement trends, everyone knows that a 40% is much more than we can afford.

When searching for reasons, it is more than evident that there is a moment in which the architecture is somehow decontextualized; losing its connection with the environment and nature, and the so called “international” style defends architecture valid for every place, where machines solve all those aspects that have not been solved during the design. But in 1973 a reality check came, and an unprecedented crisis saw the first laws about energy and the first awareness campaigns were launched. Once the energy “free-for-all” was ended, it was time to think of how to reduce the energy consumption but without affecting comfort in all its levels.

In that moment, after the effects of the crisis, architecture had a great opportunity to self-reinvent and introduce into its principles (those from Vitrubio, Le Corbusier or whatever fundaments the design process of every architect) the energy efficiency. Sigfired Giedion (Space, Time, and Architecture, 1941) states that “architecture is intimately linked to the life of an age in all its aspects (…). When an age tries to hide, its actual nature will be transparent through its architecture”. Thus, in my humble opinion, the last quarter of the 20th Century will be characterised by a strange mix of three tendencies: a magazine architecture far from understanding that the energy sources are limited; the housing bubble (this bubble could be issue for more than one post), also far; and a third movement that looks behind to find the origin of the architecture and searching to be adapted to climate while taking advantage of the latest technical developments. The two first (and many other factors, let’s avoid putting the blame only on construction) made that the 73s crisis has reappeared –or perhaps it never went– into what we know today as “energy poverty”, that has been set up to affect sectors of society that didn’t seem to be that vulnerable in the gold years of the bubble.

And, being realistic, with a necessarily low tax of new construction, and with a building stock that suffers the consequences of the above, make that energy retrofitting is one of our best “weapons” in the fight against climate change while, at the same time, one of the main opportunities for the construction sector, so hardly penalised in the recent years. But the problem with this is found on the “agnosticism” that has been set up around energy savings, which still are not understood as an economic, social and environmental benefit. It is, thus, our responsibility (read here the technicians of the construction sector) to quantify and valorise these benefits so that financial institutions, public bodies, companies of the sector and specially users, demand energy efficiency in buildings not as an extra, but as a must.

In CARTIF we have been working during years in the sector of energy efficient retrofitting and, specially, in quantifying and valorising energy savings to make of them a guarantee both economic and social. Thus, projects like OptEEmAL, about which we have already talked in this blog, work capturing all the knowledge that we have generated these years when developing methodologies to evaluate these issues and offer tools that support this change of paradigm: from establishing approaches of collaborative work and risk sharing during the design and execution, to the support in the informed decision-making to all stakeholders involved through the use of modelling and simulation tools.

All in all, we only aim at recover the relevance of the energy efficiency as project mechanism in architecture, what could make Vitrubio reformulating its principles as firmitas, utilitas, venustas et navitas efficientum.

Smart Cities for an increasingly smaller planet

Smart Cities for an increasingly smaller planet

“Cities are no more than ecosystems that consume resources and transform them to produce outputs as services, goods or waste” says Richard Rogers in his book “Cities for a Small Planet”. Certainly, sustainability of these complex ecosystems depends on our capability to reduce the non-renewable sources consumption, waste production or the various means of contamination (atmospheric, light or acoustic), as well as on establishing circular strategies that allow generating new resources based on the produced wastes.

On the other hand, the technology development (that happens mostly in cities) provokes that we have an increasingly important new resource, which is the information through data, generated by citizens and the systems they use. Perhaps this source was not considered in the Rogers’ ecosystem (or at least not as important as it is now) which he said that should be circular and therefore reduce its dependency on external sources and the production of wastes as output. But there is no doubt on that, under this new industrial revolution that we are witnessing, “data is the new oil” (as David Buckingham, President at AIMIA Shopper Insights, says), whose refinement, exploitation and transformation into services allows improving the citizens’ quality of life.

Coming back to Rogers’ text, in the prologue to the Spanish version, who was the Mayor of Barcelona between 1982 and 1997, Pasqual Maragall, wrote that “my city is imposed as an indisputable evidence, the environment of everything, or almost everything that happens to me, the greatest place among all I can modify, about which I can really influence, physically, and not only through the fiction of the vote”.

It is difficult to establish an accepted definition of what a Smart City is, and even more agreeing how to measure it, but it is indubitable that the basis of the city of the future has its ground on these three ingredients that Rogers, Buckingham and Maragall state, where if we mix them we find out that in the challenge of transforming the city –understanding that every action will have an impact on its performance–, we need to work on improving the efficiency of its ecosystem –making it more sustainable–, and integrating this important source which is data to provide to citizens new and improved services to turn their day-to-day more efficient as well. At the end, a city can’t be smart if we are not making a smart use of it and its resources.

Furthermore, undeniably, the Smart concept is trendy, and it is not only the city understanding that new mechanisms should be implemented to improve this ecosystem, but among the citizens, there is an increasing demand and use of smart technology solutions. Now, the challenge is on finding the balance among these two axes, which should converge on transforming the urban environment into a smarter and more sustainable place to live and work by agreeing those that plan it and those that are already making a smart use of sources and services.

Many of these concepts have been evident in the Smart City Expo and World Congress in Barcelona, which has been again postulated as main fora among cities, industry and citizens in this year’s edition, where all these stakeholders have gathered to learn under a Congress that this year was entitled “Cities for Citizens” which could not better summarise the ideas that this post try to share.

This was a “must” event for our Smart City projects, where we have been able to share the urban regeneration processes that we are implementing in the 16 cities in which our projects R2CITIES, CITyFiED, REMOURBAN and mySMARTLife are working, through actions in the convergence area of energy efficiency, smart and sustainable mobility and ICTs that we are implementing.