Ventura Godoy

Architect in AMB (Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona)

Barcelona Metropolitan Area’s Policy Framework & Best Practices for Energy Efficient Buildings

Region : Metropolitan area of Barcelona | Spain

Goal : Goal 7 | Goal 10 | Goal 11 | Goal 13 | Goal 17

Author : Ventura Godoy

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    Barcelona Metropolitan Area’s Policy Framework & Best Practices for Energy Efficient Buildings


    The focus of the joint research project is the energy-efficient public buildings presented by AMB (Barcelona Metropolitan Area) The target cities that the research aims to address are Korean member cities of CityNet, which includes Seoul, Incheon, Busan, Suwon, and Jeju. There are many similarities between the metropolitan area of Barcelona and target cities—such as Seoul—in terms of their area, high building energy consumption, issues of aging buildings, and the use of solar and geothermal energy. Yet, the contextual differences between Spain and Korea have resulted in their varied approaches to address building energy efficiency.

  • CITY

    Metropolitan area of Barcelona




    Western Europe


    -Status: Planned
    -Start: 2020
    -Completion: 2020


    AMB (Barcelona Metropolitan Area) | Citynet


    - Housing
    - Energy


    Goal 7 :
    Affordable and Clean Energy
    Goal 10 :
    Reduced Inequalities
    Goal 11 :
    Sustainable Cities and Communities
    Goal 13 :
    Climate Action
    Goal 17 :
    Partnerships for the Goals


    The focus of the joint research project is the energy-efficient public buildings presented by AMB. Public buildings are accessible and usable by people from different socioeconomic sectors, meaning that improvements made to public buildings would set a visible low-carbon example for the entire community. The condition of the public buildings also reflects the political will of the government, as both AMB as well as target CityNet member cities in Korea are public bodies. The case studies address new and renovated public buildings of various usage with high energy efficiency.



    3.2 million

  • AREA (km2)

    636 km²



  • SITE (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)


    Metropolitan area of Barcelona , Spain


The report consists of background research into current building energy efficiency practices of Korea and Spain from national down to metropolitan level, as well as documentation of various energy efficient case studies presented by AMB via study visit. The background research puts emphasis on the definition and certification of zero-energy buildings (shortened to ZEB or nZEB) whose definition differs according to country. The report aims to not only show the differences in policy frameworks between AMB and Seoul but also provide tangible examples of energy-efficient case studies in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. Various Korean, Catalan and English sources were used throughout the report to include the most up-to-date information. 



Spain has three administrative levels: national (Spain), regional (e.g. Catalonia), and local (e.g. Barcelona City). The AMB is one of the local governments managing the metropolitan area of Barcelona, which is the only metropolitan area ruled by an institution of this kind in Spain. The metropolitan area of Barcelona occupies 636 km², encompasses 36 municipalities with more than 3.2 million inhabitants and provides 52% of Catalan GDP and 10% of Spanish GDP.  

AMB management areas are related to territory and urban planning, mobility, housing, environment, economic development and social cohesion. The AMB Council is integrated by 36 mayors and 54 councilors of the 36 metropolitan municipalities. 

AMB Public Space Department 

AMB’s Public Space Department builds and manages public spaces in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The idea is to make all the public space of the metropolis open, free, fluid and flexible for the general public to utilize. Metropolitan public spaces include Urban Spaces, Open  Spaces (parks), Covered Spaces  (facilities), Coastal Spaces and Fluvial 
More information
AMB Public Space Department


Within the AMB, an organization called IMPSOL acts as a public enterprise which provides social housing for rent and sale. IMPSOL does so by building new housings or renovating existing buildings. IMPSOL is almost financially self-sufficient and does not receive funding from the government. Since the economic crisis of 2007-8, IMPSOL gets funds from the bank and returns them by selling (roughly 50%) or renting (roughly 50%) the social housing units that they build. 
More information

Metropolitan Housing Consortium

The Housing Consortium of the metropolitan area of Barcelona is a public associative organization formed by the Government of Catalonia and the AMB. The Metropolitan Housing Consortium (CMH) operates in the metropolitan area to support housing policies and services in order to improve and speed up the formalities in terms of housing of the metropolitan area citizens.  
More information
Metropolitan Housing Consortium

AMB Sustainability Protocol Implementation 

Through public tender, AMB has requested Estudi Ramon Folch I Associats, S.L., an energy efficiency engineering consultancy, to design a sustainability protocol suited to the way AMB works. The sustainability protocol named AMB² is an integrative & holistic tool made up of three elements:  protocol, education and training, and implementation. 
This protocol to be applied in all the projects developed by both the Public Space Department and IMPSOL.



Between January 20th and 23rd, 2020, CityNet has visited AMB to visit and document the best practices of the institution in the field of building energy efficiency. Throughout the four days, a total of 7 best practices were visited along with presentations about 2 additional projects which are at their early stages of construction. 

Project Location MapFONT AMB


01 AMB Headquarters_photo_Adia Goula© Adrià Goula

1. AMB Headquarters  

Municipality: Barcelona (Sants-Montjuïc)  
Status: under construction (2018- )  
Total surface area: 10,000.00 m² 
Designed by: dataAE  
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Claudi Aguiló Aran, Co-Founder, dataAE  

The AMB headquarters was built in 1973 by catalan architect Francesc Mitjans. In 2018, the AMB opened an architectural competition for renovating the A and B buildings which was won by dataAE.  
The main objective of the renovation is to resolve the existing deficiencies of the building while preserving the iconic existing elements. It has also the aim to act as the reference model for the nearly zero energy buildings. 
Actions and Implementations 
The main focus was on the minimization of the heating energy by reducing the total area that requires mechanical heating and cooling, providing natural ventilation and insulating the façade. 
The current layout of closed office spaces at the perimeter of the building will be changed to open spaces with transparent or translucent walls. Some break rooms with vegetation and without heating will benefit the building with a greenhouse effect.  
The interior façade of the building is made of wood to provide a biophilic atmosphere while the exterior slab façade, so representative of modern Catalan architecture, is made out of recycled aluminum. Insolation control is reinforced by the use of interior screens.  
To conserve and reuse water, black and yellow water flow from the building will be filtered through the vegetation in the outdoor garden.  
The renovated headquarters buildings are expected to use up to four times less energy, and also would be able to generate renewable energy on-site through photovoltaic system. The water use of the buildings is expected to be reduced by 85%. 
More information

02 Sant Feliu IMPSOL

2. Social Housing Units – Carrer el Pla  

Municipality: Sant Feliu de Llobregat  
Status: under construction  
Designed by: Mariona Benedito, Martí Sanz (MIM-A)  
Total surface area: 1,340.45m² 
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Josep Maria Borrell, Head of Construction Department, IMPSOL   

Carrer El Pla is an existing mixed-use building with a supermarket on the ground level, parking space on the first and second floor, and vacant office space on the third and fourth floor. Currently, 35 social housing units are being built in the top two floors. 
The objective was to renovate the top two floors to establish residential areas with communal spaces, and to ensure horizontal communication of the building for passive lighting and ventilation. 
Actions and Implementations 
To enable effective natural light penetration and cross-ventilation by a chimney effect, vertical openings between the third floor and the rooftop are being made. Mechanized skylight windows would be installed on the roof to enable vertical ventilation and weather-sensitive, mechanized windows were installed on either end of the floor for horizontal ventilation.  
Each floor contains communal space for bikes and laundry, as well as a multipurpose room. The rest of the floor is composed of either 1 or 2-bedroom residential units.  
12-inch insulations were added to the walls and floors for effective building envelope and CLT wood was used for walls and doors. 
The building utilized air-to-air heat recuperator, which recovers the outgoing air’s heat and transfers it to the incoming air to minimize the interior heat loss and led lightening.  
According to the projection, the energy balance of the residential area is expected to be nearly zero. 
More information

03_Social_Housing Units H2O Saló Central_photo_Jose Hevia© José Hevia

3.Social Housing Units - H2O Saló Central  

Municipality: Sant Boi de Llobregat 
Status: completed, awaiting occupancy (2018-2020) 
Designed by: Mariona Benedito, Martí Sanz (MIM-A), Juan Herreros (estudio Herreros) 
Total surface area: 9,000.00m²  
Energy certification: B (energy consumption, 30 kWh/m2 year), A (emissions, 5 kg CO2/m2 year) 
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Josep Maria Borrell, Head of Construction Department, IMPSOL   

H2O Saló Central is a social housing building with 79 units (partially for rent, partially for sale), 2 commercial premises on the ground level, and 118 parking spaces. 
The objective was to provide social housing with access to natural ventilation and lighting to every unit. 
Actions and Implementations 
The design strategy was to reduce the vertical core for circulation down to a minimum, leaving more space for the residential and common areas. There are two open courtyards on the third floor which any residents can utilize as a playground or gathering space. Each residential unit (mostly made up of three-bedroom residential units) has a view of the inner courtyard and the outdoor. The building is not fully enclosed as the façade has openings on the side and top to allow effective cross-ventilation. 
The building’s heating and cooling system uses high-efficiency hydrothermal pump, which is identical to that of the Carrer El Pla. Solar panels are installed on the rooftop, mainly used to provide hot water to the building. 
More information
estudio Herreros

04 PISA Social Housing Units - PISA Cornellà_photo_Jose Hevia © José Hevia

4.Social Housing Units - PISA Cornellà  

Municipality: Cornellà de Llobregat 
Status: under construction (January 2019- September 2020) [tentative] 
Designed by: Marta Peris, Jose Toral (peris+toral.arquitectes) 
Total surface area: 12,753.33m²  
Energy certification: A 
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Josep Maria Borrell, Head of Construction Department, IMPSOL 

The site of PISA Cornellà was formerly occupied by a cinema called Cine Pisa which opened its doors in 1965. Cine Pisa was torn down to give space for a social housing consisting of 85 units, 58 parking spaces, 13 storage rooms and 1 commercial premise on the ground floor. 
The building aims to minimize carbon emissions, utilize ecological and lighter materials and reduce the time taken for construction. 
Actions and Implementations 
PISA Cornellà has a flat roof used as a communal gardening space and a communal indoor patio. These features make use of passive solar energy to minimize building energy demands.  
The flats are organized around the indoor patio. Every flat is divided into 6 equal-sized square units that are flexible in use, with the views of the indoor patio and outdoor through balconies. The balconies act as intermediary spaces that buffer against outdoor temperature and drafts. 
The vegetation at the indoor patio, which doubles as a rainwater collector, improves the microclimate by providing oxygen and balancing the air humidity. Pre-heated air through the translucent skylight is naturally circulated and ventilated through the atrium’s chimney effect.  
The building is made up of concrete up to the first floor for structural integrity, but the rest of the building is mostly made out of wood. 
More information

05 ICTA Research Center_photo_dataAE-Harquitectes© Adrià Goula

5. ICTA Research Center 

Municipality: Cerdanyola del Vallès 
Status: completed, occupied 
Designed by: dataAE, H Arquitectes 
Total surface area: 9,400,00m² 
Energy certification: A 
Other certification: LEED Gold (73 points), FAD Opinion Award for Architecture (2015) 
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Claudi Aguiló Aran, Co-Founder, dataAE; Luca Volpi, Environmental consultant, Societat Orgànica 

ICTA Research Center is a facility within the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) devoted to the study of environmental sciences and paleontology and hosts 200 students and faculty researchers. 
The objective was to design a very energy efficient building that would seal during the winter, in order to avoid temperature loss and would open during summer to dissipate heat. 
Actions and Implementations 
The structure of the building is cast concrete, reinforced by post-tensioning the concrete with steel cables. The concrete structure is wrapped by a low-cost bioclimatic skin consisting of automated shutters. The shutters are made up of transparent, corrugated polycarbonate which regulates the temperature of the research center like a greenhouse. Therefore, the building façade is enclosed and compact during the winter, but it could be adjusted to have multiple openings during summer for heat dissipation.  
The majority of the interior structure consisted of CLT wood, but the floor is a concrete slab that acts as a thermal mass. The slab is kept at a constant temperature by geothermal pipes that utilize the thermal inertia of the soil. It is lightened by holes that contain the building’s technical systems such as radiant heating and cooling system.  
The energy demand was reduced significantly by designing 53% of the building interior to be a bioclimatic space, which does not require mechanical climatization.  
The top floor has motorized skylights and holds a greenhouse so the CO2-rich air which aids plant growth is pumped out here through mechanical ventilation to be removed.  
Artificial wetland was formed outside the research center with excavated soil: it has vegetation that filters the building’s grey and yellow water to be reused.
More information

06 Fontsanta Fatjo Library_photo_Jose Hevia
© José Hevia

6. Fontsanta-Fatjo Library 

Municipality: Cornellà de Llobregat 
Status: nearing completion (2013-Present) 
Designed by: Luisa Solsona, Noemi Martinez. 
Total surface area: 1,000.00m² 
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Luisa Solsona, Architect, Public Space Department, AMB. Noemi Martinez, Head of projects and urban design section, Public Space Department, AMB. 

Public Libraries serve an important role in the community as the free source of accessible information and the public area to work and study. Fontsana-Fatjo Library main feature is a reading room that is accessible by the public 24/7. 
The objective was to build an energy-efficient library within the land plot’s height and floor area restrictions. 
Actions and Implementations 
The library is developed in a single floor defined by two concrete slabs that provide thermal mass and are made lighter by putting hollow pipes inside that house the electrical wires. The concrete slabs also contain radiant heating and cooling pipes connected to the geothermal system, which keeps the water inside the pipes at a constant temperature.  
The building is well-insulated through its asymmetric façades. The northeast and southwest façades face out towards the street, so they were designed with brick along with small windows. The remaining two façades face out towards the park and are made out of glass with high thermal performance. An additional geometric metal layer provides the library users with visuals of the park but simultaneously blocks the strong sunlight. 
There is an atrium and an outdoor space in the core of the building that allows for better natural lighting and cross ventilation into the building. A deciduous tree was placed in the central patio to provide natural shade during summer. 
Bioclimatic strategies are active when weather conditions allow it. When conditions are not favorable, a mechanical HVAC system is available. The HVAC system is highly efficient and zoned, so each area is autonomous. The mechanical ventilation system has a variable air flow, capable of reducing the ventilation flow depending on the occupation.  
The library will be monitored post-construction and users and managers will go through an educational program so that the range of comfort temperatures can be expanded, thus also reducing energy consumption. 

07 Turó de la Peira Sports Hall_photo_Enric Duch © Enric Duch

7. Turó de la Peira Sports Hall 

Municipality: Barcelona (Nou Barris) 
Status: completed, occupied 
Designed by: Anna Noguera, Jose Javier Fernandez Ponce 
Total surface area: 4,430.00m² (building) + 3,200.00m² (plaza) 
Energy certification: A 
Other certification: LEED Platinum (85 points), “Premis Ciutat de Barcelona Award” (Category: architecture-urbanism), Mapei Awards for sustainable architecture (2019) 
Relevant study visit/presentation by: Jose Javier Fernandez Ponce, Architect 

Turó de la Peira Sports Hall is located in El Turó de la Peira, a neighborhood with low income. Previously in the plot, there was a concrete sports courtyard and a swimming pool from the 1970s surrounded by a concrete wall. 
The idea was to benefit the general public by making the plot greener through the formation of a public garden and the construction of a new sports center and swimming pool. 
Actions and Implementations 
The outdoor public garden was made available by combining the swimming pool and the sports courtyard into one compact building.  
The garden is sloped to absorb the height difference of 7.4m between the elderly housing and the upper street level. The underground water collection system is embedded into the lower section of the slope, which helps to filter and collect rainwater to be reused in the building.  
The building is partially embedded into the soil, which not only absorbs the height difference but also gives the building better thermal inertia.  
The structure of the building is mainly CLT. It reduces the weight of the structure, the time of construction and has a sustainable life cycle with a low CO² footprint.  
The building is mostly wrapped with a highly durable polycarbonate façade that provides isolation and filters the natural light. The south-facing façade has an additional layer of curtain wall made up of hydroponic plants for seasonal sun control. 
The ground level’s main component is the heated swimming pool, the building element that uses up the most of the building energy. However, it benefits from the soil’s thermal inertia and an efficient MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) system with high COP (coefficient of performance).  
The upper level is a sports courtyard. It is directly ventilated through the skylight connected to light, heat, and CO² sensors, which open up depending on the occupancy and weather. There is no HVAC on the upper level, as the passive design of the building provides enough thermal comfort.  
The rooftop is covered with 600m2 of photovoltaic panels which is used to heat the pool and produce hot water. It has the capacity to supply 90% of the building energy.  
More information
Arquitectura Anna Noguera

08 Sant Andreu Market_render_fnuevestudio
© fnueve studio

8.Sant Andreu Market 

Municipality: Barcelona (Sant Andreu) 
Status: pending remodeling works 
Designed by: Blanca Noguera, Architect, Public Space Department, AMB 
Total surface area: 1,669.00m² (sales area: 882m²) 
Relevant study/presentation by: Blanca Noguera, Architect, Public Space Department, AMB 

The original Sant Andreu market was built in 1914. It consists of a freestanding building that sells fruits and vegetables, and a covered passageway that sells meat and poultry.  
The construction of a new market hall that would be integrated with it’s surrounding and become a landmark for the neighborhood. 
Actions and Implementations 
The new market would preserve some of the characteristic elements of the original building such as its metallic trusses, cast-iron pillars, and zinc roofing. The originally elevated middle section of the building would be reduced in volume, but the building would still maintain the original strong vertical rhythm by glass and steel façade. 
7 different pedestrian entrances would connect the building to it’s surroundings providing continuity to the public space and a transparent façade made of high-performance glass will recreate the feeling of public plaza.  
The technical facilities, waste disposal and refrigeration chamber would be located underground. Wooden blocks containing recycled aggregates and timber slabs would be used as a concrete substitute to reduce the overall structural weight.  
To reduce water consumption in a building that requires high quality water for hygiene reasons, a high-efficiency equipment that save water will be installed. Additionally, the rainwater collection and reuse system would be used for brown water.  
To minimize the energy demand, efficient machinery ensuring effective cross-ventilation and partial climate control of the building would be implemented. One main feature is the heat recovery in industrial refrigeration whereby the surplus energy from refrigeration is recovered and used to heat up the water supplied throughout the market.  
Renewable energy would be supplied through the photovoltaic glass skylight placed in the main building, and 35 photovoltaic panels on top of the passageway. 

09 Sant Just Desvern Waste Classification Center_photo_AMB-Roger Mendez
© Roger Méndez (AMB)

9. Sant Just Desvern Waste Classification Center 

Municipality: Sant Just Desvern 
Status: under construction 
Designed by: Roger Mendez, Architect, Public Space Department, AMB 
Relevant visit/presentation by: Roger Mendez, Architect, Public Space Department, AMB 

Sant Just Desvern waste classification center is located along a green corridor close to the Serra de Collserola Natural Park, but also within an industrial neighborhood with new developments. It aims to serve multiple purposes: as a waste classification center, second-hand store, and environmental education classroom. 
The main objective is to incorporate efficiency and environmental parameters in order to build a low impact and low energy building. 
Actions and Implementations 
The waste classification center will incorporate a large amount of recycled materials, starting with using old shipping containers as its structure. The shipping containers are affordable, durable, and can be converted into a building within a short time. Ecological materials such as recycled cork and cotton would be used to reinforce the floor and roof insulation. OSB (oriented strand board), would be used as wall cladding. Both cork and OSB are low-impact, recycled building materials. For outdoor road pavements, recycled gravel and recycled asphalt were used. Draining pipe is installed underground to collect the used water to be treated and be returned to the aquifer, making up for the impermeability of the site. The treated water would be used to irrigate vegetation surrounding the waste classification center. The building sections that are used as an environmental classroom and a secondhand store have additional containers stacked up for the chimney effect to dissipate the indoor heat, as regular occupancy by people is expected. PV panels (4kWp) would be installed on the rooftop to allow on-site energy production. 


AMB’s case studies span across a variety of use that the general public actively utilizes daily including office building, research center, library, sports center, market, and waste classification center. Therefore, most of the case studies are described as urban interventions whereby the new/renovated buildings are put inside the existing neighborhood.  

Case studies provided or are expected to provide, an improvement of the neighborhood living quality. This is done by means such as the provision of public utilities built out of non-toxic and natural materials, and conversion of aging buildings to energy-efficient ones.  

AMB’s case studies are expected to benefit the general public, particularly the most vulnerable socioeconomic group while buildings serve as visible energy-efficient examples to both the community and private owners. 

Energy-saving strategies are implemented via high public sector motivation although at are yet no legal mandates to do so.


All buildings are designed to suit their immediate environment, but they have many energy-efficient features and techniques that are replicable and scalable. 

  1. Renovation  
    When possible, AMB’s case studies renovate existing buildings instead of constructing a new one as the first strategy of sustainability. 

  2. Layout  
    Building features are strategically placed considering their energy uses. Facades are design depending on the orientation and local environment.  

  3. Cross-ventilation   
    Cross ventilation is mandatory in a Mediterranean weather. Horizontal ventilation can be easily achieved through windows and corridors while vertical ventilation can be included through patios, atriums, or chimneys. 

  4. Sun protection  
    Sun protection can take the form of slabs, shutters, geometric metal layer or green curtains. They can be fixed or mobile, actioned by hand or automated, but sun control in summer is required. 

  5. Materials  
    The building material could have minimal finish to reduce the ecological cost and to create a biophilic atmosphere in the case of ecological materials like wood and cork. Recycled materials with low carbon footprint can be used for both the building energy efficiency and sustainable building material life cycle. Although concrete which has a high carbon footprint is often required for building foundation, its amount is reduced just enough to act as an effective thermal mass and structural support. 

  6. Vegetation 
    Most of the buildings have an atrium or terraces that accommodate vegetation and bring in natural light. Vegetation is also used to control insolation in the form of green curtain façade or strategically planted trees. When there is enough space, ground-level gardens are constructed to filter the wastewater from the building. 

  7. Renewable energy and energy conservation.   
    Most of the buildings have photovoltaic panels installed on the rooftop for hot water production and photovoltaic glasses in special cases. Although the geothermal system does not produce energy, it helps to maintain a constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. Concrete slabs on the floor are often connected to the geothermal system as they are effective thermal masses. Another way in which the energy is conserved is through air-to-air heat recuperator, which transfers the outgoing air’s heat to cooler incoming air. 



  • NAME

    Luisa Solsona


    Architect, Public Space Department 











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