Scientific Publications

Residents’ Perceptions of a Smart Technology Retrofit Towards Nearly Zero-Energy Performance 


  • Veronika MoosesDepartment of Geography, University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Ingmar PastakDepartment of Geography, University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Pilleriine KamenjukDepartment of Geography, University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Age PoomDepartment of Geography, University of Tartu, Estonia / Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Finland

Published: 28 April 2022

Issue:   Vol 7, No 2 (2022): Zero Energy Renovation: How to Get Users Involved?


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Abstract: Coping with global climate challenges requires changes in both individual practices and the technical infrastructure in which people operate. Retrofitting existing buildings with smart and sustainable technologies shows the potential in reducing the environmental impacts of the housing sector and improving the quality of life for residents. However, the efficiency of these means depends on their individual and societal acceptance. This calls for the need to incorporate social practice theories into the discussion of smart cities and technology adoption. This study aims to understand how smart retrofit intervention in an extensive pioneering smart city project in Estonia is perceived among the residents with different dispositions towards the environment and technology in an early phase of the intervention. We interviewed the residents of 18 Soviet-era apartment buildings which underwent a complete retrofit into nearly zero-energy buildings equipped with smart technologies. The results showed that pro-technology residents expressed high interest and trust towards smart retrofit intervention, while residents with environmentally inclined dispositions conveyed more critical arguments. This indicates that individuals’ underlying dispositions may result in different social practices and that a diverse set of engagement approaches are crucial for the success and social acceptance of large-scale pioneering projects in the housing sector.


A Holistic and Interoperable Approach towards the Implementation of Services for the Digital Transformation of Smart Cities: The Case of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain)

Author(s): Félix Larrinaga(1), Alain Pérez(1), Iñigo Aldalur(1), José L Hernández(2), José Luis Izkara(3), Patxi Sáez de Viteri(4)

(1)Mondragon Unibertsitatea, Goiru kalea 2, E-20500 Arrasate-Mondragon, Gipuzkoa, Spain
(2)Fundación CARTIF, Parque Tecnológico Boecillo 205, E-47151 Boecillo, Valladolid, Spain
(3)TECNALIA Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), Parque Científico y Tecnológico de Bizkaia, Astondo Bidea, Edificio 700, E-48160 Derio, Bizkaia, Spain
(4)Corporación MONDRAGON, Pº J. M. Arizmendiarrieta 5, E-20500 Arrasate-Mondragon, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Sensors 202121(23), 8061;

Published: 2 December 2021

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Abstract: Cities in the 21st century play a major role in the sustainability and climate impact reduction challenges set by the European agenda. As the population of cities grows and their environmental impact becomes more evident, the European strategy aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—the main cause of climate change. Measures to reduce the impact of climate change include reducing energy consumption, improving mobility, harnessing resources and renewable energies, integrating nature-based solutions and efficiently managing infrastructure. The monitoring and control of all this activity is essential for its proper functioning. In this context, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays a key role in the digitisation, monitoring, and managing of these different verticals. Urban data platforms support cities on extracting Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in their efforts to make better decisions. Cities must be transformed by applying efficient urban planning measures and taking into account not only technological aspects, but also by applying a holistic vision in building solutions where citizens are at the centre. In addition, standardisation of platforms where applications are integrated as one is necessary. This requires interoperability between different verticals. This article presents the information platform developed for the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain. The platform is based on the UNE 178104 standard to provide a holistic architecture that integrates information from the different urban planning measures implemented in the city. The platform was constructed in the context of the SmartEnCity project following the urban transformation strategy established by the city. The article presents the value-added solutions implemented in the platform. These solutions have been developed by applying co-creation techniques in which stakeholders have been involved throughout the process. The platform proposes a step forward towards standardization, harmonises the integration of data from multiple vertical, provides interoperability between services, and simplifies scalability and replicability due to its microservice architecture.


Paper in Proceedings of Conference: I Congreso de Innovación y Sostenibilidad en la Vivienda Social. ISViS 2021, 10 - 12 November 2021, Granada, Spain 

SmartEnCity: recuperando el barrio de Coronación en Vitoria Gasteiz. La administración pública como promotora delegada para impulsar la rehabilitación 

Author(s): David Grisaleña; Alberto Ortiz de Elgea, both VISESA 

Published: November 2021 Download here.  

Relevant pages 177 - 182. 

Article in Spanish language

Abstract (translated): The European SmartEnCity Project (SEC) in the Coronación neighbourhood in Vitoria Gasteiz, is a project for innovation in urban rehabilitation and revitalisation on a neighbourhood scale, a public-private collaboration, in which the final beneficiaries of the project are the people who live in the neighbourhood and who also contribute a percentage of the rehabilitation costs. Vitoria-Gasteiz is one of the three "Lighthouse Cities" of the SmartEnCity project, an European project led by Tecnalia, which together with Tartu, in Estonia, and Sønderborg, in Denmark, is looking for new ways of intervening in the cities to  achieve efficient energy use and a reduction in CO2 emissions. 


Towards an Integrated Approach to Urban Decarbonisation in Practice: The Case of Vitoria-Gasteiz

Author(s): Urrutia-Azcona, K.; Molina-Costa, P.; Muñoz, I.; Maya-Drysdale, D.; Garcia-Madruga, C.; Flores-Abascal, I. Towards an Integrated Approach to Urban Decarbonisation in Practice: The Case of Vitoria

Sustainability 2021, 13, 8836.

Published: 7 August 2021

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Abstract: How can local authorities effectively approach the decarbonisation of urban environments? Recent efforts to redirect cities into a less energy-intensive model have been mostly approached from a sectoral perspective, with specific energy policies and plans being issued without deeply considering their ties with other urban aspects. In this sense, well-established urban planning procedures have not been part of those, with the consequence of barriers in the implementation phase of those energy plans. The Cities4ZERO methodology was developed to guide effective integration between urban planning and energy policies, plans, and practices. It provides a holistic approach to strategic municipal processes for urban decarbonisation in the mid-long term, which includes key local stakeholders’ engagement into integrated energy planning processes, as well as tools for effective energy decarbonisation modelling. This paper analyses the application of the Cities4ZERO decarbonisation methodology on its strategic stage in the development of Vitoria-Gasteiz’s Action Plan for an Integrated Energy Transition 2030 (APIET 2030). It suggests that in order to accelerate urban decarbonisation, it is critical to: (a) foster interdepartmental collaboration; (b) allow for flexibility on the land-use planning regulations; (c) back decisions with detailed urban-energy models; and (d) truly engage key local stakeholders in the planning and implementation processes.


ENER-BI: Integrating Energy and Spatial Data for Cities’ Decarbonisation Planning 

Author(s): Koldo Urrutia-Azcona  1,*,Elena Usobiaga-Ferrer  1,Pablo De Agustín-Camacho  1,Patricia Molina-Costa  1,Mauricia Benedito-Bordonau  1 andIván Flores-Abascal  2 

 1 TECNALIA, Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), Building Technologies Unit Parque Tecnológico de Vizcaya, Geldo Street, Edif.700, 48160 Derio, Spain  
2 ENEDI Research Group, University of the Basque Country, Alda. Urquijo s/n, 48013 Bilbao, Spain 
 * Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 383; 

Published: 4 January 2021

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Abstract: Given the current climate emergency, our planet is suffering. Mitigation measures must be
urgently deployed in urban environments, which are responsible for more than 70% of global CO2
emissions. In this sense, a deeper integration between energy and urban planning disciplines is a key
factor for effective decarbonisation in urban environments. This is addressed in the Cities4ZERO
decarbonisation methodology. This method specifically points out the need for technology-based
solutions able to support that integration among both disciplines at a local level, enriching decisionmaking
in urban decarbonisation policy-making, diagnosis, planning, and follow-up tasks, incorporating
the spatial dimension to the whole process (GIS-based), as well as the possibilities of the
digital era. Accordingly, this paper explores the demands of both integrated urban energy planning
and European/Basque energy directives, to set the main requisites and functionalities that
Decision Support Systems (DSSs) must fulfil to effectively support city managers and the urban
decarbonisation process.


Energy Vision Strategies for the EU Green New Deal: A Case Study of European Cities

Author(s): David Maya-Drysdale1, Louise Krog Jensen2 and Brian Vad Mathiesen1

1 Department of Planning, Aalborg University, A. C. Meyers Vænge 15, 2450 Copenhagen, Denmark
Department of Planning, Aalborg University, Rendsburggade 14, 9000 Aalborg, Denmark

Publishing Date: 2 May 2020

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There are three strategic levels for successful energy planning in cities: 1) Integration strategy for integrating energy planning into urban planning institutions; 2) Practice strategy for developing suitable energy planning practices in urban planning institutions, and 3) Vision strategy for the creation and integration of energy visions and scenarios required for long-term decarbonisation. The vision strategy is critical but not well researched and is the focus of this article. Using Strategic Energy Planning (SEP) as an analytical framework, the vision strategy of eight forerunner European cities are analysed. Some critical elements of SEP include the use of long-term targets, holistic energy system thinking, and retention of scenarios. The results indicate that the level of understanding and practice of the vision strategy is still deficient in the cities. Cities often use the practice of urban planning, which does not fit very well with energy planning, particularly with the vision strategy. The energy planning in the cities mostly focuses on shorter-term goals and actions, and they often abandon energy scenarios once extracted. However, through trial and error, some cities are finding ways forward. The article concludes with several recommendations, particularly that cities need to see scenarios as retainable long-term servants providing information desired by the planner, rather than serving as a guide to the planner.


Cities4ZERO Approach to Foresight for Fostering Smart Energy Transition on Municipal Level

Author(s):  Merit Tatar 1  Tarmo Kalvet 1,2   Marek Tiits 1,2

1 Institute of Baltic Studies, research think-tank, Lai 30, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
2 Department of Business Administration, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Ehitajate tee 5, 19086 Tallinn, Estonia

Publishing Date: 04.June 2020

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Smart energy transition efforts at the municipal level are gaining importance and go far beyond implementing single projects. Decarbonising cities involves complex strategic planning and needs system level thinking and changes. This has been increasingly realised at the municipal level, but challenges remain regarding the tools, involvement of stakeholders and on the development of policies. The focus of the research is on the use of participatory foresight for fostering smart energy transition on a municipal level, the key benefits and success factors that participatory foresight brings, and the replicability of this approach. Within the novel Cities4ZERO framework, an overarching methodology for a smart urban decarbonisation transition, guiding cities through the process of developing the most appropriate strategies, plans, projects, as well as looking for the commitment of key local stakeholders for an effective transition–foresight framework, was developed and tested in five pilot cities. Foresight as applied within the Cities4ZERO framework creates a participatory process which brings stakeholders together to achieve unified scenarios, and a common vision for future urban decarbonisation strategies. The methodology is replicable and increases the quality of strategic energy planning by fostering long-term system thinking.


Cities4ZERO: Overcoming Carbon Lock-in in Municipalities through Smart Urban Transformation Processes

Author(s):  Koldo Urrutia-Azcona 1,2,*, Merit Tatar 3, Patricia Molina-Costa 1 and Iván Flores-Abascal 2

1 TECNALIA, Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), Building Technologies Unit. Parque Tecnológico   de Vizcaya. Geldo street, Edif.700 - 48160 Derio, Spain
2 University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), ENEDI Research Group. Alda. Urquijo s/n, 48013 Bilbao, Spain
3 Institute of Baltic Studies, research think-tank, Lai 30, 51005 Tartu, Estonia
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Publishing Date: 28 April 2020

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How can local authorities effectively address the decarbonization of urban environments in the long run? How would their interests and expertise be aligned into an integrated approach towards decarbonization? This paper delves into how strategic processes can help to integrate diverse disciplines and stakeholders when facing urban decarbonization and presents Cities4ZERO, a step-by-step methodology for local authorities, able to guide them through the process of developing the most appropriate plans and projects for an effective urban transition; all from an integrated, participatory and cross-cutting planning approach. For the development of the Cities4ZERO methodology, plans, projects, and strategic processes from five European cities that are part of the Smart Cities and Communities European Commission program have been monitored for 4 years, in close collaboration with local authorities, analyzing ad-hoc local strategic approaches to determine key success factors and barriers to be considered from their transitioning experiences. The study indicates that an iterative strategic approach and a project-oriented vision, combined with a stable institutional commitment, are opening a window of opportunity for cities to achieve effective decarbonization.




Publishing Date: November 2019

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Abstract: Fossil fuels-based human activity over time has generated unacceptable local levels of air pollution and GHG emissions. One of main implications of this activity is Climate Change, which unforeseen consequences are already impacting at local and global scales.
This research is focused on defining an effective framework to shift that trend in the local level through the implementation of the Smart Zero Carbon City concept, which brings together the emerging Smart City paradigm and the 2030/2050 EU goals with the urgent need of decarbonizing our local environments.
In this case, the study applies the Smart Zero Carbon City concept and implementation method into 5 EU cities, focusing on the case of Sonderborg municipality (DK) to extract the Key Factors towards Smart Urban Decarbonization, which are applicable to other cities facing this ambitious transition.


Retrofitting Soviet-Era ApartmentBuildings with ‘Smart City’ Features: The H2020 SmartEnCity Project in Tartu, Estonia

Author(s): Rein Ahas, Veronika Mooses, Pilleriine Kamenjuk and Raimond Tamm

Publishing Date: August 2019

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Abstract: The retrofitting and renewal of modern-era socialist housing estates is a prominent issue throughout the world. There are different political choices to deal with dilapidated socialist housing estates. The transformation of such estates in post-socialist cities has so far focused primarily on improving their physical conditions and increasing the energy efficiency building-by-building. However, an integrated and area-based regeneration approach would have greater potential to influence the entire neighbourhood, as well as the inhabitants’ environmental behaviour. The Smart City is a concept that can achieve environmental sustainability ambitions as well as large housing estate regeneration goals. This chapter describes the implementation of the Smart City concept to the renovation of a Soviet-era apartment buildings area, based on the example of the SmartEnCity project in Tartu, Estonia. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From Carbon Calculators to Energy System Analysis in Cities

Author(s): David Drysdale, Brian Vad Mathiesen and Henrik Lund

Publishing Date: June 2019

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Abstract: Energy systems in cities need to be decarbonized and are becoming more integrated via energy sector coupling. Today, cities often use simple methods to assess their low carbon targets, e.g., carbon calculators, and these methods use annualized carbon reduction potentials. For example, reductions from heat savings in buildings or fuel demand in transport. This is done because it is simple and fast. This paper describes a methodology that goes beyond carbon calculators and assesses highly renewable energy systems. The methodology is carried out for a case city—Sønderborg, Denmark. Using a national 100% renewable energy study and a suitable energy system analysis tool (EnergyPLAN), the method accounts for inter-sector coupling and energy system dynamics. The energy system is assessed by comparing the results from the analysis tool against numerous key sustainability factors for a Smart Energy System. The paper illustrates how the method delivers a sustainable 100% renewable Smart Energy System for Sønderborg, which can be part of the Danish energy system in 2050 based on local resources. The paper discusses the broader applicability of the method within strategic energy planning.


European Union Horizon 2020 Smart City Approach and Its Application in the Bulgarian Context

Author(s): Ivanka Pandelieva-Dimova

Publishing Date: July 2018

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Abstract: Urban sustainability is a major pillar in the European Union policy towards reaching Paris Agreement targets. In order to support cities and local communities around EU in their effort to implement innovative solutions and integrated approaches to increase their resource efficiency and climate resilience, European Commission funds the instrument "Smart Cities and Communities" (SCC) as part of its Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020 (H2020). The overall approach is to define and implement sets of innovative integrated sustainable actions in three main domains: energy, urban mobility and information and communication technologies at city/municipal level. The most innovative solutions are implemented by a number of lighthouse cities while follower cities closely observe the actions being performed in the lighthouse cities, and commit to select and put into practice the most promising and adaptable ones depending on their local conditions. Since 2015 four Bulgarian cities have been part of SCC projects, namely Sofia, Bourgas, Varna and Asenovgrad, participating as followers and working together with local communities from all across Europe leading the way towards urban sustainability and carbon emission reductions. Asenovgrad is supported by Sofia Energy Centre as partner in Horizon 2020 SmartEnCity Project where it cooperates with the lighthouse examples of Victoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country, Span), Tartu (Estonia) and Sonderborg (Denmark) on their path to achieve carbon neutrality in the long-term perspective. The article presents the overall H2020 SCC approach based on the implementation of most advanced processes, materials and products applicable to different areas of urban sustainability. Taking the experience of SmartEnCity lighthouse cities as a starting point, it is focused on the ways to successfully adapt the most promising solutions matching the specific Bulgarian conditions. In addition, on-going cooperation among Bulgarian follower cities has been initiated which helps in broadening the scope of possible measures and utilization of available knowledge beyond the project boundaries.


Smart Zero Carbon City Readiness Level: Indicators System for City Diagnosis Towards Decarbonisation and Its Aplication in the Basque Country

Author(s): Koldo Urrutia-Azcona, Luis Fontan-Agorreta, Francisco Javier Diez-Trinidad,et al.

Publishing Date: May 2018

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Nowadays, urban environments concentrate over half of the global population and will, it is estimated, surpass 70% by 2050. This concentration implies that many of the future challenges and opportunities emerging from their possible solutions will be in cities. One of the principal urban challenges is the carbon footprint of our cities and its reduction, by trying to exploit the potential of technological solutions. This ambitious transition, guided by the Smart Zero Carbon City (SZCC) concept, needs a flexible system of indicators, adaptable to different sizes of city, bearing in mind the main singularities of each one, so as to offer the most suitable interventions and to prioritize them. The principal objective of this study is centred on the characterization of cities in terms of the innovative SZCC concept, by applying the Smart Zero Carbon City Readiness Level (SZCC Readiness Level). A selection of indicators in the SZCC concept for analysing a set of key aspects of the main thematic areas of the city (Characteristics of the city; City plans and strategies; Energy; Mobility; ICT Infrastructures and services; Public Participation). This characterization informs the development of the SZCC concept in the city, detecting its strengths and weaknesses, in order to facilitate the selection of alternatives to move towards decarbonization. It is at the same time a manageable way of assisting decision-making in small and medium-size municipal councils that are so common in the European context and that usually have fewer resources than large capital cities. With a view to validating the selection of indicators, the SZCC Readiness Level was applied to 5 Basque cities that are representative of different urban typologies, analyzing their current situation in the light of the SZCC concept.


How does the environmental load of household consumption depend on residential location?

Author(s): Age Poom and Rein Ahas (University of Tartu, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences)

Publishing Date: 26. August 2016

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Spatial planning aims to improve the socioeconomic and environmental sustainability of a region, yet, in the spatial planning framework, it is difficult to capture the environmental impacts of the lifestyle of residents as a whole. We use carbon load as an indicator for environmental pressure and explore the spatial variations in carbon load from transport, domestic energy use, and the consumption of goods based on data obtained from the Household Budget Survey in Estonia, in an attempt to understand how residential location is related to the environmental load of household consumption. We use environmentally extended input-output computing for carbon accounting, multiple regression models for statistical analysis, and settlement hierarchy as an analytic tool for characterizing residential location. The results show that the capital region and other higher-level settlements provide favorable conditions for the consumption of leisure-related goods and services even when other socioeconomic variables are taken into account. Industrial cities dominated by apartment block housing are characterized by conservative consumption patterns of residents. For rural residents, a lower carbon load imposed from other consumption categories compensates for their higher dependency on cars. We conclude that there is a need for an integrated and balanced spatial planning policy that considers the entire consumption pattern of populations in different settlement types.