From September 27 to October 1 the REHabilita seminars were held, organised by the Construction Engineers’ Association of Barcelona (CAATEEB) along with the Government of Catalonia, the Barcelona City Council, the Barcelona Provincial Council, the Barcelona Metropolitan Area and other professional associations, entities and companies of the construction industry. These sessions had the aim of disseminating the culture of building maintenance. In this edition, special emphasis was also placed on the impact of the European Union’s Next Generation Funds and the role of rehabilitation in the plans for post-Covid economic recovery.
The activities were addressed especially to a professional public, with technical speeches, workshops and site visits and a virtual fair which had the participation of companies and entities related with the sector. But care was taken to pay attention to the general public, by means of Missió Rehabilita, a programme presented by the journalist Cristina Puig in which personalities from various fields explain the benefits of renovation and professionals of the sector answer queries and offer advice to the citizenry to improve the maintenance of their homes.
“We need renovation to extend all around the city and all around the country”
During the inauguration of REHabilita, the Barcelona City Council’s Second Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Ecology, Urban Planning, Infrastructures and Mobility, Janet Sanz, insisted on the challenge and the opportunity presented to the sector and society in general to tackle questions such as the climate emergency, health and employment. “We have to turn these challenges around and transform them into opportunities to become a point of reference in urban planning and architecture. The 21st century is all about regenerating and renovation. Now is the time, and Barcelona is the city.” In the inaugural ceremony on September 27, Sanz also explained the Council’s commitment in matters of rehabilitation: “We need renovation to extend all around the city and all around the country.” In this respect, the Second Deputy Mayor explained that this intention has been materialised in the 7,000-plus major building permits processed in the city since 2015, 85% of which correspond to renovation works, in the projects in the south-west of the Besòs to reach those who most need it, and in the recent opening of the renovaation office to streamline administrative processes.
The President of the CAATEEB, Celestí Ventura, for his part, announced the opening of a series of meetings focussed especially on the Next Generation Funds. Ventura took advantage of the inaugural ceremony to read a manifesto aimed at reflecting on the benefits offered by renovation and the Next Generation Funds, which “represent an opportunity which, as a society and as an industrial sector, we cannot waste.” In this respect, the Delegate President of the Barcelona Provincial Council’s Infrastructures and Natural Spaces Area, Pere Pons, also highlighted it as “a unique and historic opportunity for improving the housing stock and the quality of life of the citizenry, and for reactivating an economy on a green basis.” And the Government of Catalonia’s Councillor for Social Rights, Violant Cervera, declared that these assistances “have to enable us to face the challenges of renovation oriented to climate change and the dynamisation of a key sector in our economy.” “Catalonia has to take advantage of the expertise of its professionals and the experience of its companies and institutions to exploit this opportunity to the full,” she added.
The Next Generation Funds, an opportunity for a more efficient housing stock
Within the framework of REHABilita, on September 29 a number of professional meetings were held in which representatives of the public administrations and experts in renovation spoke about what and how to renovate and how to manage and fund rehabilitation. A large part of the day focussed on the Next Generation subsidies and the opportunity they represent for moving out of the pandemic and transforming our economy by creating work opportunities and a more resilient society which will stimulate energy efficiency and face the climate emergency head-on.
In the last few legislatures, renovation has been a key element for the Barcelona City Council, and in recent years the Council has worked on a model based on three strategic axes: people and health; energy efficiency and sustainability; and the improvement of the economy. This was explained by the head of the Council’s Rehabilitation Promotion Department, Anna Rigalt, during a round table on ‘How to fund renovation today?’, which also had the participation of the Director of Building Quality and Housing Renovation of the Catalonia Housing Agency, Jordi Sanuy, and the Head of the Constructions Unit of the Catalan Energy Institute, Ainoha Mata.
Rigalt explained the future goals for the city in terms of renovation, saying that the City Council’s plan is to renovate close to 94,000 homes by 2030, which would contribute to reducing the energy demand of buildings by around 30.40%, generating some 20,000 jobs and benefiting around 27,500 persons each year, with a special impact in the city’s most vulnerable zones. In this respect, Anna Rigalt placed special emphasis on the intention to address the subsidies to the most vulnerable individuals and collectives, and she stressed the need not to lose sight of energy efficiency and climate resilience. “We want to reactivate the economy by committing to a renovation of the construction sector and renewable energies to position Barcelona as a referent of energy regeneration in the Mediterranean world.
At the round table, the Next Generation Funds formed one of the central themes. Both the Director of Building Quality and Housing Renovation of the Catalonia Housing Agency, Jordi Sanuy, and the Head of the Constructions Unit of the Catalan Energy Institute, Ainoha Mata, insisted on the opportunity represented by the Funds. “There is a potential for driving the renovation of some 25,000 buildings a year and considerably reducing energy consumption. This represents an energy change but also a cultural change,” Sanuy said. “We have to reduce energy demand and consumption, use renewable energies and contribute to good energy management,” Mata added, going on to review the assistance programmes for the energy rehabilitation of buildings. And the fact is that at the end of November a new announcement will be made, this time addressed to homes in municipalities with demographic challenges.
The day’s seminar was closed by the consultant for the United Nations and the European Commission in themes related with energy resilience and efficiency, Amaya Celaya, with a speech in which she reflected on the role of rehabilitation within the framework of the Global Agendas. Celaya explained that we spend 90% of our time inside buildings and that these contribute to our health and our productivity. She also said that buildings consume 40% of society’s energy and 65% of them are not efficient. Taking these data into account, in Spain we should be renewing between 2% and 3% of the country’s buildings, and only 1% are being renewed.
There is therefore a great deal of work to be done in rehabilitation – work which, as Celaya pointed out, has a more global effect than we might think. From the point of view of the Sustainable Development Goals, the renovation of buildings can have positive effects on factors concerning people’s health and wellbeing, with the circular economy and responsible production, or on job creation and the reduction of inequality. It can also help us reduce risks and attain greater resilience. Celaya recalled that when we think of risks we think not only of natural disasters but also of other disasters like the economic crisis and the pandemic. And in this respect, buildings can play a key role in making us more resilient to climate change by improving energy efficiency and protecting the vulnerable population. In the words of this year’s REHABilita motto, “To change the world, let’s start with our own home.” And by rehabilitating buildings we will also achieve a better planet with greater efficiency and sustainability.