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How to ... build to thrive by ensuring sustainable use and re-use of our buildings

  • environment

Stimulate jobs through boosting renovation, gather co-creation models for renovating with citizens, gather evidence on how market distortion regulations prevent transformative change in cities, collect and analyse the different financing business models used by cities, and foster collaboration with architects to build and re-adapt buildings with nature.

These are the key actions our Eurocities members concluded in our fourth and final workshop in the ‘Healthy, thriving and inclusive cities’ series.

By tackling those challenges highlighted through the pandemic – from affordable housing to energy poverty and inequalities in space – this new workshop series aims to broaden experience among Eurocities members and urban experts, for a new and ‘better normal’.

So how can we rethink the sustainable use and reuse of our buildings for a healthy, thriving city? Here’s what you said.

How to involve citizens, owners, tenants, and the local communities to co-create renovation projects?

Gather co-creation models from cities, ensure renovation projects contribute the city’s overall objectives, and stimulate jobs through the building renovation. These are the key actions our Eurocities members discussed for ensuring our buildings are built to thrive.

To push renovation across the city, we need all stakeholders on board, as described by the city of Ghent. Ghent has developed a central hub for boosting citizen renovation by providing free advice and guidance for every homeowner, landlord or tenant. Energie Centrale provides energy grants and loans as well as information about the suitability of different energy efficient options for each citizens house – it helps determine the cheapest and most viable renovation option for citizens to take to gain the maximum energy efficiency.

Such financing options need to be broadly shared and replicated across Europe. For city renovation projects, we need to share different financing models along with the different city standards; through such knowledge sharing we can see how renovation projects could be scaled up financially.

But crucial to the overall success of renovation as a means to tackle energy poverty will be to ensure that renovation projects contribute to the each city’s objectives, as well as the broader aim for a socially just transition in Europe.

How to readapt and reuse our buildings sustainably?

Identify good practices for temporary reuse, identify regulatory barriers to reuse, gather evidence on how market distortion regulations prevent transformative change in cities, and foster collaboration with architects to build and re-adapt buildings with nature. These are the key actions for boosting the sustainable reuse of our buildings according to our Eurocities members.

Two clear questions come forward when we talk about the sustainable reuse of buildings. Firstly, what will we reuse the building for? Temporary use of buildings can lead to placemaking and a regeneration of the area, explained Marianne from the city of Eindhoven. Collaboration with the arts sector, local NGOs and small businesses can rebuild the community of an area. However, this can, in the long-term, lead to gentrification to an extent that those actors that effected this positive change - as well as local residents - are outpriced. This must be considered as part of the long-term goals and planning of a city. Our cities need to share information on how to best address and consider this in the long-term.

The second question is how can we achieve this? Our cities identified regulation surrounding market distortion as a key barrier to ensuring reuse of buildings is affordable for the city and end users. To be able to build a strategy to tackle this, we first need to gather evidence of how such a regulation acts as a barrier to sustainable transformative change in our cities. In addition, we as cities should identify the other barriers to scaling up re-use of buildings in all senses – as housing, cultural space, offices, for example.

Another way to achieving sustainable reuse, particularly of cultural heritage and protected buildings, is through collaboration with architects. We must build the capacity of our architechts to build and rebuild with nature. It would be helpful here to set up practical workshops but also gather studies of city building charters focused particularly on retraining architects and builders.

This was the last in our healthy, thriving and inclusive cities series. You can read the write up of each of our workshops below:

How to … build a resilient, sustainable, and circular economy for future generations

Capacity building to assess our resource consumption, youth education on healthy diets, and local business partnerships are some of the key actions needed to kick-start the transformative change needed to build a resilient and circular economy for thriving and inclusive cities. Check out the full write-up here

How to ...rethink healthy mobility for all in a thriving city

A SUMP Topic Guide on planning in times of crisis, good practice exchange on tender criteria to allow prioritisation of local companies, research and map out different needs of different stakeholders for teleworking and understand changes to regulations. These are just some of the key actions Eurocities members concluded in our second workshop. Check out the full write-up here.

How to ...rethink urban deisgn for healthy and accessible public space

Mapping accessibility to green space and understanding links to socioeconomic factors, establishing co-management of public space,  a ‘drive slow, go fast’ campaign, and a catalogue of case studies on flexible public space governance. These are the key actions our Eurocities members concluded in our third workshop. Check out the full write-up here!