A summer course provides guidelines for neighbourhoods to generate, manage and consume their own energy

  • Organised by the GAIA cluster and in collaboration with the partners of the BIRTUOSS project (Opengela Programme), the UPV/EHU International Summer Course on Energy Communities was held in Bilbao and Urdaibai.
  • Success stories of energy communities established across Europe were presented and the need to empower citizens and stakeholders to get involved in such projects was discussed.

The UPV/EHU’s International Summer Course on Energy Communities, whose main focus is empowerment through sustainable energy, was held in Bilbao, Gernika-Lumo and Forua on 4 and 5 July. It explored the transformative potential of energy-positive neighbourhoods as the seeds of decarbonised and sustainable cities.

Attendees have been immersed in the opportunities offered by proximity offices, addressing theories, practical strategies and tangible experiences through test benches involving stakeholders in urban regeneration processes. In addition, there have been guided visits to successful cases such as the ‘Otxar Opengela’ in Otxarkoaga (Bilbao) and the Tek San Fidel energy community in Gernika-Lumo (Biscay).

The main objective of this course was to provide participants with an in-depth understanding of energy communities as an innovative model for sustainable energy generation and management. Once finished, they would be able to lead energy districts initiatives, as well as applying practical and sustainable solutions in their own environments.

The opening session was led by Ignacio de la Puerta, director of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government and leader of the BIRTUOSS project (Opengela programme); Momir Tabakovic, professor and researcher at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien, and Jokin Garatea, director of the summer course and international head of GAIA.

De la Puerta opened the summer course with a perspective from public administration and governmental work on the extension of the model developed with the Opengela programme in the Basque Country. He also stated that «energy communities and positive energy districts are at the forefront of the energy transition, and that «these concepts imply that local communities generate, manage and consume energy in a sustainable way». The aim is to achieve «friendly, liveable and digital neighbourhoods» with «shared energy production facilities in neighbourhoods that turn them into positive energy districts», generating new opportunities for economic activity located in the neighbourhood itself, such as coworking spaces, which will have an impact on their revitalisation.

Tabakovic presented the example of energy communities and districts within the Prolight project, of which he is the coordinator. It aims to empower citizens in the participating districts to become active and responsible partners in the necessary low-carbon transition. These six demo districts are located in Vienna, Milano, Gernika-Lumo, Vaasa (Finland), Matosinhos (Portugal) and Kozani (Greece). In four districts (Gernika-Lumo, Milan, Matonsinhos and Kozani), preliminary conclusions have already been reached.

Garatea said that, in the context of energy efficiency, living labs play a crucial role in testing and refining innovative technologies and strategies for energy renovation. They provide a dynamic environment for experimentation, learning and scaling up successful practices.

Afterwards, the principles and advantages of proximity offices, working as one-stop shops for energy sustainability, were explored by Txari Vallejo, architect of Bilbao Municipal Housing; Nagore Urrutia, from the CAVIAR UPV/EHU research group, and Michael Heidenreich, from the Department of Renewable Energies of the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien. Case studies highlighting the tangible benefits and best practices linked to the BIRTUOSS (Opengela programme) and Prolight projects were presented.

Vallejo explained the principles of the Opengela programme approach, its application in different contexts and the results achieved through its implementation. This methodology underlines the importance of community participation, tailor-made solutions and the use of local resources. She also described the case of Otxarkoaga in Bilbao, with its proximity office, called Otxar Opengela. «We want this neighbourhood to become the centre of urban regeneration in Bilbao and an example for everyone,» she emphasised. In terms of renewable energies, she spoke of the installation of between 18 and 24 photovoltaic panels in Otxarkoaga, in one of the buildings on Txotena street.

Urrutia explained that in urban regeneration most of the building works are energy related. «It is good to focus on passive solutions, on the architecture of buildings. In fact, it is the most democratic solution we can offer as it is for everyone,» she said. There are also active solutions, which improve energy efficiency in thermal conditioning and allow greater control of indoor temperatures.

However, Urrutia warned that there is still an energy gap in Spain caused mainly by inaccurate physical modelling of buildings and tenant behaviour. This is where one-stop shops or proximity offices become an essential element, as they can empower and raise awareness of energy use among neighbours. She also emphasised the importance of courses on energy use in everyday life.

Heidenreich, who is involved in the Prolight project, also spoke about the one-stop shops, which, according to him, «should offer comprehensive advice on energy efficiency and solar projects, covering both technical and administrative aspects», as «the term energy community is a recent development and needs to be made known to people».

Jokin Garatea and Irene Bertolami, researcher at Eurac Research, shared experiences in the creation of energy communities and discussed strategies for participation and identification of multiple benefits for citizens and neighbourhoods.

Both agreed on the importance of communication and acceptance of these projects by citizens and stakeholders to get involved in them. They must feel that they are part of these energy communities and experience first-hand the positive impacts of the project. Garatea gave the example of Tek San Fidel in Gernika, a Prolight project, in which, through a cultural and creative approach, it has managed to involve citizens through collaborators such as San Fidel School and Kultur Etxea, which are part of the initiative.

Alessandro Rancati, from the EU Policy Lab and expert on the New European Bauhaus; Matina Di Gallo, project manager at Planet Idea, and Paula Ferrando, project analyst at GNE Finance, spoke about the importance of community participation in the success of neighbourhoods.

Rancati warned that a neighbourhood is a «complex adaptive system» where response cannot be predicted based on rational parameters, that it is based on co-evolution and where the «hidden talents» of the community cannot be predicted. Thus, there may be cultural differences, conflicts of interests and priorities, pre-existing conditions and unexpected events. He also mentioned the need to communicate, but with a learning purpose, that no governance model is perfect and that transparency, which is sometimes financially costly, needs to be underpinned by trust.

Di Gallo presented the D2FX project, developed by Planet Smart City, in which innovative initiatives such as gamification are carried out to actively involve residents in energy management and in which they receive rewards, thus fostering unity and demonstrating that individual efforts benefit everyone.

Ferrando explained the SHAPE-EU project and gave four examples of projects that have served as inspiration for others, such as Vilawatt in Viladecans; the energy community in Luče (Slovenia), the first to be developed in the country; the Watteco cooperative in Catalonia, which helps families and communities to achieve energy self-sufficiency, and Las Naves Brillen in Valencia.

In the last talk of the day, Pablo Agustín, researcher at TECNALIA Research and Innovation, and Noelia Ortiz, technical director of BUILD:INN, explored the potential of renewable energies at district level; they presented several innovative 360º technological solutions and materials for housing renovation to build energy positive neighbourhoods and the successful application in EU projects such as BIRTUOSS and drOp (specifically in the Santa Ana neighbourhood in Ermua).

The second day of the course took place in Gernika, specifically in the auditorium of the San Fidel School, with a visit to the school’s local energy community, called TEK San Fidel. It has 200 photovoltaic panels that occupy a surface area of 600 m2 and allow 150 homes and businesses in the area to consume renewable energy and reduce their electricity bills. It also avoids the emission of 885 tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to planting 3,500 CO2-absorbing trees for 25 years.

Afterwards, the context of the energy communities in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve was explored by Jose Maria Gorroño, Mayor of Gernika-Lumo; Mikel Magunazelaia, Mayor of Forua, and Javier Zuazola, commercial director of EDINOR, through practical cases that highlight demonstrable benefits.

To conclude, Ugaitz Gaztelu, co-founder of View arkitektura and professor at the University of the Basque Country; Jokin Garatea, Sustainability Councillor of Forua, and Alba Juncal, from the CAVIAR UPV/EHU research group, discussed sustainability and scalability to build positive energy neighbourhoods. Thus, they talked about sustainable renovation models for energy efficiency; the adoption of nature-based solutions in the area, and more specifically, the EU iCOSHELL project, and good practices of positive energy neighbourhoods.

Once the lectures were over, the participants put into practice everything they had learnt through a joint artistic work and visited energy efficiency projects and nature-based solutions in Forua.


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Co-funded by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the funding authority can be held responsible for them.

A delegation from the Flemish region gets to know the Opengela model of urban regeneration

On 6 June, a delegation from the Flemish region made up of 50 senior officials and civil servants from areas such as energy, circular economy, environment, mobility, heritage and justice was welcomed at the Otxarkoaga neighbourhood office (Bilbao).

The objective was to explain the objectives of the Opengela programme in its integral and transversal vision, and afterwards a tour of the neighbourhood was carried out. This visit is contextualised in the relationship between The Basque Country and Flanders and the trip that the association of civil servants from Flanders organises every year.

Representatives of the Basque Government; GAIA; EDE Fundazioa; Build:Inn; Bilbao Municipal Housing and ACLIMA were at the meeting.


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Alex Carrascosa (EDE): “The ability to build trust is the great strength of the ‘opengelas’”.

Alex Carrascosa is a consultant for EDE Fundazioa, one of the entities that participates as a partner in the BIRTUOSS project, through which the Opengela programme is being developed. Through listening, EDE Fundazioa collects testimonies from all the people involved in this European urban regeneration project: their concerns, their complaints, their assessments, their proposals for improvement, among others.

In this interview, he explains the role of the foundation in the project, and provides details of the study they carried out at the end of 2023 on the assessment of the service of the neighbourhood offices (‘opengelas’) by the different people involved in the pilot experiences in the neighbourhoods of Txonta and Otxarkoaga: the process of elaboration, the weaknesses and strengths detected in the service, the lessons learned, the most mentioned proposals for improvement and the conclusions they drew from the study.

Which is the role of EDE Fundazioa in the Opengela project?

Throughout the process of urban regeneration, and in particular the rehabilitation of buildings, we take care of the social and human side of the work for the people involved. Not only for the people who will experience or live the effects of the refurbishment, but also for all those involved in the works.

EDE Fundazioa listens to the beneficiaries first and foremost because they are in vulnerable situations. After all, these urban regeneration processes are carried out in old housing estates, many of which are social housing estates. These are buildings with very simple dwellings that do not meet energy efficiency requirements, have accessibility problems or are affected by multiple problems. In addition, their neighbourhoods are generally elderly and all these habitats need to be adapted to their needs. This is why these urban regeneration processes are carried out wherever there is a population, an urban centre or a group of people with needs that require economic, training and communication support to carry out works of this magnitude, as well as institutional support and assistance. What we are doing is listening to the reality of these people.

You recently presented the conclusions of a study to Opengela’s partners. Tell us more in detail about it.

The study basically consisted of identifying all the professional sectors involved in urban regeneration interventions and the beneficiaries, in other words, all the people involved. We wanted to identify the real people involved in the process of building rehabilitation or urban regeneration as a whole. We are talking about three main groups. The first would be the beneficiaries or owners of the dwellings in the buildings to be refurbished; the second would be the staff of the ‘opengela’ itself, and the third would be the professional entities that have been involved in the building rehabilitation and urban regeneration works. The idea was to locate the reference people in these groups, interview them and gather as much sensitive information as possible from these three groups. And here I would like to clarify something to avoid confusion: what we are assessing in the report is not so much the degree of satisfaction with regard to building renovation or urban regeneration works, but with regard to the Opengela service. Therefore, the contents and results of the report revolve around the service from the perspective of its protagonists: the professionals who offer the service, the beneficiaries who experience it and the professionals who rely on it.

How was the process of carrying out the study?

First, we identified the stakeholders. Once identified, we proceeded to look for the reference people for each group. The study was carried out for two neighbourhoods, Otxarkoaga in Bilbao and Txonta in Eibar. Therefore, we interviewed the Municipal Housing Agency of Bilbao in the case of Otxarkoaga and the Local Development Agency Degebesa in the case of Txonta and, from there, we located the teams or people who are providing the service in the offices in order to interview them. Once the office teams had been interviewed, they helped us to contact the neighbours who wanted to give an interview or fill a survey about the service. In the survey we asked questions about the accessibility of the office or the information provided by the ‘opengela’ to the neighbourhoods; about counselling and accompaniment; about funding mechanisms, if any; and about the post-rehabilitation experience. On this last point, it was not possible to speak in absolute terms in either of the two places because there were works still to be completed or started.

In addition, through the ‘opengelas’ we also located professionals who had been involved in the works, which are the architectural firms, the construction companies and other people and entities involved such as the property administrators. They were invited to two face-to-face meetings. The interviews were very valuable as they brought us very interesting recommendations.

Going into the study in more detail, what were the main strengths of the Opengela service that you identified?

The great strength identified is the unanimity of the positive judgement of the service. All three groups consulted gave it a very positive assessment.  In the case of the neighbours, it is even more positive because the Opengela service is a technical ally with authority in different areas and helps them as an intermediary. The fact of having an entity next to them that is perfectly familiar with the technical and legal context favours mediation between the needs of the users and the product offered by the professional entities. This relationship, which is usually very vertical and unequal, is balanced and horizontalised thanks to the ‘opengela’.

At the same time, however, the service also has a very positive effect on the professional entities, as it acts as an intermediary that lightens their workload and also acts as a kind of filter. The works bring with them problems of all kinds that affect personal and everyday aspects of people’s daily lives. The neigbourhood office also helped them to ‘humanise’ the service, as it made them aware of how they often operate more from the interest of the company than from the interest of the client.

Another of the great strengths of ‘opengela’ is the fact of having a team that combines different profiles. This multidisciplinary nature has been covered in Otxarkoaga due to the role played in large part by Bilbao Municipal Housing, but in Txonta it was not possible due to various circumstances; in fact, there was only one person working in the office. For this reason, it is necessary for the new offices to have four clearly identified profiles: technical, legal, administrative and social.

What about weaknesses?

I wanted to emphasise this last profile (the social one) through the need to have social workers, who are figures that all inclusion systems have and who are fundamental to work as neural connectors between the demands of rehabilitation and the realities of the people affected. In fact, it could be said that social workers are the ones who activate and develop the most human sensitivity of the rest of the necessary profiles.

In the end, we are talking about a sum of owners and tenants and, even if all possible mechanisms are put in place, there will always be at least one cohabitation unit in a dwelling with a problem that makes it difficult or impossible for it to fit into this complex chain. As soon as one link fails, the chain is completely damaged. This is why the figure of the social worker is essential, as he or she not only accompanies and detects what is there, but is also particularly sensitive to those episodes that can break the chain.

There is also another aspect related to this, and that is that exclusion involves many aspects of personal life, and just as a situation of personal disadvantage can become chronic or complex, in some populations it can even become ‘zoned’. It is therefore necessary to understand what happens in these places, because it is not a question of providing solutions to the physical conditions of some dwellings, but of contributing to the solution of the reality of people in very critical situations.

What do you think have been the main lessons you have learned during these months of work?

All the groups and people interviewed agreed on the need for the Opengela service to cover the different technical, social, legal and administrative areas, but also to address relational skills. This has been extremely important, the fact of ‘personalisation’, since in the end, at the end of each intervention, there is a group of people who are going to receive that impact, whether good or bad.

Another issue that was also addressed was that of financial aid. Two problems arose with regard to financial aid. On the one hand, the concurrence of different lines of funding and their lack of coordination in terms of both timing and management, which continues to be a challenge for the service. On the other hand, from the point of view of the owners, the time of payment of the subsidies does not coincide with the deadline for payment of the works, which requires the payment of large sums of money in advance. This adds to the challenge of providing financing mechanisms to communities and, above all, to the most vulnerable people.

Which proposals for improvement were most frequently mentioned?

There is one issue that should not be forgotten, which is the maintenance of the staff (or subrogation) of the ‘opengela’, at least for the duration of the rehabilitation works, including post-rehabilitation. The idea that we must keep in mind is that the neighbours, during the sensitive period of the works, should have the same reference people in the office, given that the greatest difficulty, as in any human process, is the generation of trust, which all the agents point out as the ‘key’ of the service. Once this trust has been created, it would be senseless to interrupt continuity and even change the people in charge of the office for a purely administrative requirement, as this would distort the service and cause enormous unease among users. In short, it is a question of adjusting all deadlines or administrative mechanisms to respect and care for this trust, which, I insist, is the most precious value of the ‘opengela’.

EDE Fundazioa, as a social partner of Opengela, what conclusions have you drawn from this study?

Opengela, whether public or public-private, is still a service. As such, it is established in the face of citizens and, therefore, its fundamental value is the generation of trust. In fact, although it is conceived as a ‘one-stop shop’, it is rather an open room – as we have witnessed – where the neighbourhood can express itself and be assisted. This model of attention differs from the classic counter where we are often dismissed as if we were a problem. Opengela operates the other way around: understanding people as part of the solution. Another associated characteristic is that it acts as a small office, more than ‘of inclusion’, but at least ‘of attention’, since it is a space that is aware of the different levels and impacts that affect the realities of building rehabilitation and urban regeneration and addresses these levels consequently through a multi-profile service.


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Co-funded by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the funding authority can be held responsible for them.

Opengela Vista Alegre in Sestao (Biscay) receives an award in Madrid for its integrated urban regeneration project

  • The distinction comes from the Spanish Association of Public Housing and Land Managers (AVS). The jury has highlighted the promotion of the community initiative, seeking the necessary collaboration of the residents; the Proximity Office, which provides a comprehensive service to the neighbourhood, as well as the public-private financing of the initiative.

In the 10th edition of the awards given by the Spanish Association of Public Housing and Land Managers (AVS), Sestao Berri has been awarded for its project of integrated urban regeneration of Vista Alegre neighbourhood and structural and energetic rehabilitation, improvement of accessibility and habitability of Grupo Vista Alegre, specifically of doorways 1 to 11.

This complex, built in 1914, with a closed block typology and consisting of 93 dwellings, is currently undergoing structural consolidation work, improving energy efficiency, installing lifts and improving the habitability of the dwellings, where terraces are being built facing the inner courtyard. The urban environment is also being improved through actions such as the renovation of water, electricity, gas and telecommunications infrastructures, the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, the creation of a WIFI network for the neighbourhood and the monitoring of the energy performance of the homes.

As Sestao Berri explains, ‘as well as improving the appearance of the built-up area and the neighbourhood, the final objective of these works is to achieve a positive impact on the residents, identifying the socio-economic reality and developing actions that improve and promote the social cohesion of the neighbourhood from an all-inclusive perspective, which eliminates the barriers to access to all the city’s services’.

The award was collected in Madrid by Iñigo Bonet and Luiskar Delgado, technical architect and managing director of Sestao Berri and head of Opengela Vista Alegre in Sestao, respectively.

Congrats! 👏


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Opengela relies on an expert advisory board to enhance the project

  • The second meeting with the group, consisting of 11 entities representing the entire value chain of urban regeneration, was held on the 24th of May.

The Opengela model is moving forward with innovative solutions related to urban regeneration which are being implemented through the European BIRTUOSS project, financed by the European Commission‘s LIFE programme. In addition to the 14 partners of the consortium in this project, an advisory board made up of experts representing the entire value chain of urban regeneration has been set up.

On 24 May, this advisory board, composed of 11 entities that contribute their knowledge to contrast and enrich the results of the project, met for the second time. Their representatives helped to focus on some key issues in urban regeneration. They also expressed their satisfaction with the progress made and their perception of Opengela as ‘a very well-received project’ in the various European bodies, which are committed to reproducing the Opengela model throughout the EU.

Entities from both the Basque Country and European organisations are represented on the advisory board. It includes the group of architecture professionals, through the Official Association of Basque-Navarrese Architects (COAVN), the Official Association of Quantity Surveyors and Technical Architects of Biscay (COAATBI) and the employers’ associations of construction and development companies such as ASCOBI (Biscay), ASCONGI (Gipuzkoa) and SEA Uneca (Alava). They provide technical knowledge and advice in their respective areas.

The Association of Basque Municipalities (Eudel) is also a member of the advisory board, providing its knowledge and vision of public administration and helping to accelerate the market implementation of the solutions developed at Opengela. The State Administration is represented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Agenda (MIVAU).

The European perspective

The presence of international organisations on the advisory board is noteworthy. One example is Renovate Europe, an initiative of Efficient Buildings Europe focused on reducing the energy demand of the building stock by 80% by 2050.

And another is Housing Europe, the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing, which manages around 25 million homes, around 11% of the existing dwellings in Europe. It brings the social dimension and was already involved in the Opengela consortium during the previous European project (HIROSS4all) developed between 2019 and 2023 with funding from the Horizon 2020 programme. Housing Europe helps to keep the focus of this people-centred project on accessibility and sustainability.

In addition, the European and climate change-related perspective is provided by Climate-KIC, one of the communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) that coordinates the European platform of the Cities Mission and leads, together with the UPM University, the citiES 2030 initiative in Spain.

The point of view of homeowners is guaranteed by the presence of the International Union of Property Owners (UIPI), an association that includes 31 organisations from 28 countries and with representation in the Basque Country.

This panel of experts advises the BIRTUOSS consortium in the development and improvement of the Opengela project by contributing with the point of view of other relevant agents within the value chain in the field of urban regeneration. Its participation is expected throughout the duration of the European project. It is a contribution that BIRTUOSS considers essential to achieve the development of a quality management model with an integrated perspective based on urban regeneration at neighbourhood scale.



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Basque companies propose ten innovative solutions for urban regeneration 

  • The aim is to be able to apply them in the TorreUrizar neighbourhood of Bilbao as a test bench.
  • Ignacio de la Puerta, director of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government and coordinator of the BIRTUOSS project, spoke of turning Opengela into ‘a brand that builds trust among the population’.

On 24 May, the Plaza Bizkaia Building in Bilbao hosted a workshop organised by Opengela in which several Basque companies related to the construction, environment and digitalisation sectors presented different innovative solutions to be applied in the TorreUrizar neighbourhood in Bilbao, which is being used as a ‘living lab’ or test bench for the European BIRTUOSS project that began in September of 2023.

The current objectives at TorreUrizar are to improve accessibility by installing lifts in the entrances that do not have them, reducing energy demand and improving efficiency, for example, by intervening in the building envelope, installing photovoltaic panels on the roof, replacing water heaters with gas boilers or installing radiators in the homes. This was explained by Txari Vallejo, architect of Bilbao Municipal Housing, who also mentioned the provision of an electric petrol station in the building’s car park. ‘With these proposals we achieve savings of around 63%, which, in this way, allows us to reach 80% financing’, explained Vallejo.

In addition, the architect pointed out that ‘consensus, enthusiasm and economic capacity’ are key. ‘We are empowering homeowners’ associations to carry out these interventions. We have achieved the will to rehabilitate’, she said.

In order to implement the innovative solutions presented, public-private partnerships, communication and awareness raising are needed. This is one of the main conclusions drawn from the workshop. Thus, from the Basque Energy Agency (EVE), Sagrario Eneriz spoke of the need to deploy renewable energies, but emphasised that each one must be adapted to the spaces and conditions of the urban environment where they have to be used.

She also raised the idea of self-consumption of energy in public spaces and presented several cases of self-consumption energy communities in the Basque Country, such as the shared self-consumption energy communities in Otxarkoaga (Bilbao) or Lasarte-Oria (Gipuzkoa), or the one in the Txabarri-El Sol neighbourhood in Sestao (Biscay) through the installation of a municipally-owned biomass heat network. What these cases have in common is that they are renewable, local and collective energies. Finally, Eneriz indicated that communication with citizens and open participation is essential in order to involve the whole neighbourhood.

The three Basque clusters participating in Opengela also took part. Build:Inn, which brings together the construction sector, presented some industrialised and energy-efficient solutions with the application of passive and active measures. Marta Epelde began by admitting that ‘renovation works are annoying works for the user’. Therefore, the cluster (formerly Eraikune) presented some active and passive solutions designed to generate the least possible impact on the neighbours.

The most important of the passive ones, and ‘the critical component of energy renovation’, is façade insulation, specifically ETICS, but ‘it is only the beginning’. In fact, at present, the various published directives call for deep and comprehensive renovations, with significant energy savings and, therefore, it is necessary to think about the globality of the buildings when intervening. ‘Let’s not forget about carpentry, thermal bridges, the losses that can be caused by uncontrolled ventilation, poor airtightness, a window that fits poorly into the façade or an old ventilation system,’ she warned.

Active solutions would include, among others, the installation of solar thermal panels or shared photovoltaic systems.

Epelde also spoke of the importance of prefabricated materials and elements in order to carry out the works more quickly and, at the same time, to disturb the neighbourhood as little as possible. She also referred to the people involved in the works, indicating that they must have ‘all that technical sensitivity’, but also know that they are dealing with people.

ACLIMA, and specifically Juan Antonio Gascón, gave the vision of nature-based urban solutions, which as he explained, bring multiple benefits for cities and inhabitants such as mitigation and adaptation to climate change; the creation of bioretention areas for rainfall; human and urban comfort; the improvement of biodiversity, urban agriculture, air and water quality, and the contribution to low-carbon solutions. They also help human and urban health and psychology. ‘This is about re-humanising cities, as the natural habitat of human beings is nature, not asphalt,’ said Gascón.

On a building scale, there are, for example, green roofs or façades, and on an urban scale, green shading or permeable paving. There are already several places in the Basque Country where these solutions have been put into practice, such as the Europa Conference Centre (Vitoria-Gasteiz), Legazpi, Igeldo or Idiazabal. At the national level, Barcelona is one of the pioneers and several actions of this type have been carried out there.

Even so, Gascón indicated that, although it is true that there are already companies that apply this type of nature-based solutions, they do not do so because there are other factors that affect them, such as a lack of public awareness.

Finally, Itziar Vidorreta, from GAIA, gave the point of view of solutions based on knowledge technologies. Vidorreta insisted that, in a model such as Opengela’s, ‘collaboration between clusters is fundamental’. She also presented a technological mapping with existing solutions that are currently on the market.

Vidorreta highlighted the so-called GoroldioTEK (‘goroldio’ is Basque for moss), carried out in collaboration with the Autonomous University of Madrid. ‘It is an application of the use of a solution based on nature, which is moss, but with monitoring technologies behind it that serve to control consumption and with a practical application that could be through information panels or even at bus stops,’ she explained.

‘Raising the scale of the building to the neighbourhood’

The day began with a talk by Ignacio de la Puerta, director of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government, who leads this project. He made a diagnosis of Opengela since its birth in 2019 as a project funded through the European framework programme Horizon 2020, and which, at present, continues thanks to the trust granted by the European Commission through the LIFE programme with a project called BIRTUOSS. This urban regeneration service through neighbourhood offices that began four years ago in Txonta (Eibar) and Otxarkoaga (Bilbao) has already been extended to 23 other towns in the Basque Country and is an example for other municipalities in Spain and the European Union.

This success encourages further improvement and one of the main objectives of this new stage is to raise the scale of action from the building to the neighbourhood through a model that is flexible, inclusive and simple, including key aspects such as energy efficiency; affordable financing; a legal framework for the simplified provision of services; ICT tools and digitalisation of homes; the Building Passport; nature-based solutions or training and advice on energy use. In addition, the aim is to integrate the social dimension, making it possible to tackle energy poverty, health and improve communication and co-design strategies to involve the user in decision-making. In short, the neighbourhood will be at the centre of the regeneration process.

The project coordinator underlined the need for the creation of a management entity through collaboration between the various public-private project partners to generate a brand that will build trust among the population.


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Opengela challenges Basque companies to identify innovative solutions for urban regeneration

  • On Friday, May 24, the Plaza Bizkaia building will host a conference with the participation of some of the European project partners, such as the Basque Government, the Build Inn, Aclima and Gaia clusters, the EVE, Bilbao Municipal Housing and Cíclica.

Is there room for innovation and new solutions in the field of urban regeneration? This Friday, May 24, at the Plaza Bizkaia building, companies from sectors such as construction, environment and digitalization are called to a challenge posed by Opengela, the Basque model of urban regeneration.

On that day, a workshop will be held with the objective of identifying innovative and viable solutions for implementation in integrated urban regeneration processes. These solutions can come from different fields. Therefore, agents from different sectors will be present at the workshop. All of them have in common that they participate as partners in the European project BIRTUOSS, funded by the LIFE program and that is expanding and perfecting the Opengela model, initiated in Euskadi in 2019.

The sesion will show the perspective of the Administration, through Ignacio de la Puerta, director of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government, who leads the project. He will start the seminar, at 11 am, to establish the framework of BIRTUOSS-Opengela.

After his speech, the case of the Bilbao neighborhood of TorreUrizar, which is being used as a ‘living lab’ or test bed for these innovations, will be presented. Bilbao Municipal Housing (VVMM), which has a proximity office there (called ‘opengela’), will explain the current status of the project.

In addition, Cíclica‘s managers will present their work on the characterization of the building stock in the Basque Country and the integration of three elements such as architecture, community and environment, as well as explain the tools developed for the transposition of the recently approved revision of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). This tool helps to define the roadmaps that allow interaction with the industrial sector, the Building Passport and the Digital Building Register.

The challenges that Opengela’s partners will pose to Basque companies are mainly focused on aspects such as energy efficiency, industrialized solutions, as well as nature-based solutions and the integration of ICTs.

For this purpose, representatives of the Basque Energy Agency (EVE) and three clusters will participate: Build Inn (formerly Eraikune), Aclima and Gaia. All of them are part of the European project.

These interventions will give way to a contrast with the attending companies to validate possible solutions to the challenges posed. Aspects such as economic feasibility, technical difficulty, the availability of a nearby market, or its real implementation in rehabilitation processes, among others, will be taken into account. After the sharing of possible solutions, the conclusions of the day will be drawn.

The meeting will take place from 11:00 to 14:00 and is aimed especially at companies associated with these clusters. The complete program can be consulted here. 


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Co-funded by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the funding authority can be held responsible for them.

Opengela programme showcased in Brussels as a benchmark for integrated urban regeneration

Opengela programme showcased in Brussels as a benchmark for integrated urban regeneration

  • The Basque Government organised an event bringing together leading members of the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as representatives from the financial sector, industry, research and the third sector. 

On 15 February, the Basque Government held a conference at the Delegation of the Basque Country in Brussels with a twofold objective. On the one hand, to present to the various European stakeholders the progress of urban regeneration in the Basque Country, and how it is being developed through the Opengela programme and the new European project BIRTUOSS. On the other hand, to gather the contributions of the various stakeholders at European level and to discuss how to develop effective models to facilitate the implementation of EU legislation in this area.

During the conference, comprehensive urban regeneration was addressed from a Basque and European perspective, focusing on four key aspects: social integration, promotion of employability and lifelong learning, involvement of companies and SMEs from various sectors, inclusive financing and tools to facilitate the monitoring of rehabilitation through the Building Passport and the Digital Logbook.

The event was attended by a number of Opengela – BIRTUOSS partners: Ignacio de la Puerta, director of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government and coordinator of the project; Jon Ansoleaga, general director of Build:inn; Olga Martín, general director of Aclima; Alex Carrascosa, member of EDE Fundazioa; Jokin Garatea, from the executive team of GAIA; Andoni Hidalgo, in-house consultant of Gabineteseis; José Ramón López, from the Basque Energy Agency (EVE) and Marta Lupatelli, project manager of Fedarene.

In this way, the OSS model was discussed as a tool for social integration. Experts from the Basque social sphere presented the example of the intersectoral integration and employability roundtables that are currently underway in more than 15 Basque municipalities, and which address the urban regeneration of the most vulnerable part of the population. In relation to this point, it was also stated that one of the conclusions reached by Opengela is the existence of a failure in the financial market that leaves a significant part of the population on the margins of building rehabilitation projects. Thus, there is a need for a broad debate on how to establish financial mechanisms that respond to this reality, and to discuss the role of public authorities in meeting the needs of this large sector of the population.

On the other hand, representatives from the research world such as the University of the Basque Country and the Brussels-based think-tank Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) highlighted the need for a «shift in focus» in urban regeneration from the perspective of the individual building to the neighbourhood scale. This was illustrated by the presentation of the results of a recently published BPIE research on ‘positive energy neighbourhoods‘.

Basque companies were also present at the conference and spoke about their experience in a project such as BIRTUOSS, in which the private sector is actively integrated with construction, environmental and technological companies. Experience has shown them that there are serious shortages of skilled labour in the different professional profiles required, which hinder the successful deployment of the so-called ‘European Renovation Wave’. Also, the OSS model has so far been developed with a certain scepticism towards and from the business sector, and it is believed that it is time to involve industry in robust and long-lasting public-private cooperation schemes actively. From the European perspective, a representative of Saint-Gobain underlined that the challenges of companies in the Basque Region are shared by the European industry in general, and praised the vision of multidisciplinary alliance that is being followed in BIRTUOSS.

Finally, the Basque Government emphasised that even with a participative citizenry, effective financial mechanisms and companies with a well-trained workforce, the transformation of cities through large-scale comprehensive urban regeneration faces a huge operational challenge. In this way, the Basque executive presented two innovative initiatives such as a Building Passport (BP) that incorporates a digital registration system that can represent a reference on the way forward in the near future, and a Digital Building Logbook (DBL) tool developed by the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in collaboration with Cíclica Arquitectura SCCL and funded by Opengela, which consists of interactive and customisable maps that can help organisers plan renovations and identify synergies to increase the energy efficiency of neighbourhoods.

Thus, the conclusion drawn from the talk was that the European Union’s Renovation Wave is entering a crucial moment and that, therefore, it is now the national and regional governments that must implement it effectively.


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Co-funded by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the funding authority can be held responsible for them.

Opengela’s new website is now available 

Opengela’s new website is now available 

On Friday, February 16, the new Opengela website was launched. This will be the main source of information of the European project BIRTUOSS.

Thus, interested people will be able to find out what Opengela is, who it is for, and where their nearest Opengela office is located in case they want to go to get information about the available grants.

In addition, a ‘Neighbourhoods’ section has been added to the website where all the places where this urban regeneration programme is being implemented in the Basque Country are listed. Here you will find the main information on each one of them, divided by region. In total, there are 25 neighbourhoods and more than 3,200 families are being assisted. In many of them, in addition to the comprehensive renovation of buildings, work is being carried out on the refurbishment of their surroundings, and specific employment plans are being developed for the population of these neighbourhoods.

Likewise, in the ‘Contact’ section, with the aim of making it more visual, a map has been added where you can see all the Opengelas currently operating in the Basque Country, as well as using drop-downs that make the information more accessible, with the main contact details of each Opengela and the opening hours for the public.


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Co-funded by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the funding authority can be held responsible for them.

Do you know the EU Building Stock Observatory? 

EU Building Stock Observatory

Do you know the EU Building Stock Observatory? 

EU Building Stock Observatory

The European Commission’s EU Building Stock Observatory (BSO) is a tool designed to enhance the monitoring of the EU’s existing energy policies and initiatives, to give transparent information on the EU building stock, and to help shape future policy making.

A data base, mapper, and fact sheet with interactive graphics and tables containing information about the stock of EU buildings and energy usage are all included in the design of the BSO. These can be downloaded and viewed on screen for later use.

The tool will ultimately cover a wide range of energy-related topics and include information of energy consumption, building stock, energy performance certificates, installed building elements and technical building systems, zero energy buildings, renovation rates, as well as topics like energy poverty and financing.

The tool’s present iteration just addresses three areas and is the initial stage of a significant overhaul:

  • Building stock
  • Renovation rates
  • Energy consumption

In the Basque Country, the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government, as part of the Opengela project, launched a tool to track the energy performance of buildings and homes. Thus, each user can exclusively consult the energy performance monitoring data through the following link: https://www.stechome.net/monitorizacion/GV/


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Co-funded by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EU or CINEA. Neither the European Union nor the funding authority can be held responsible for them.


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