Green Finance Workshop Explores Sustainable Strategies for Positive Energy Neighbourhoods

Nov 10, 2023

Key takeaways from the workshop on ´How to engage local communities to drive urban regeneration and social innovation´ during #EURegionsWeek 2023!

The engagement of the communities is significantly challenging. It is not just about how the buildings perform but how to give entrance to social activities at the community level and cooperate with different stakeholders, users, and developers.

Aiming to discuss how cities’ providers can reconcile the search for (technical) innovation with the necessity to include residents in the decision-making, how project promoters consider affordability and the importance of how co-benefits of the fair energy transition can be better valued @NTNU had led the workshop during #EURegionsWeek in Brussels with remarkable speakers: Külle Tärnov (FinEst Centre for Smart Cities, Estonia), Maarten De Groote (oPEN Lab project Coordinator, VITO, Belgium) and Niki Gaitani (syn.ikia and ARV projects, NTNU, Norway). The workshop has been organised and coordinated by Sladjana Lazarevic (NTNU, Norway) and moderated by Julien Dijon (Housing Europe, Belgium).

Sustainable plus energy neighbourhoods and

Climate Positive Circular Communities!

Niki Gaitani (NTNU, Norway) presented sustainable practices of integrated energy design at the neighbourhood/community level inspired by two HORIZON projects: ARV Green Deal and syn.ikia.

The two EU-funded Innovation Actions – syn.ikia and Green Deal ARV , aim to support the green fair transition to a climate-neutral society. This transition is at the heart of the European Green Deal and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.

Niki highlighted the importance of social sustainability i.e. social renovation, social beautiful, energy coaching, energy communities, sharing commodities and referred to experiences and practices inspired by the implementation of real-life projects in syn.ikia and ARV.

From Fredrikstad (Norway), the social sustainability with emphasis on shared spaces and IT platform for energy awareness, to Barcelona (Spain), where the regional housing agency engages residents with their new home and supervises building operations. The facilities will be shared at a neighbourhood level with a medical centre. An energy manager will oversee monitoring and optimizing the needs and energy production of both buildings.

In Saltzburg (Austria), the social housing provider offers advice and consulting services about energy use and home renovation and is working together with residents to set up a self-sufficient energy community. In Uden (Netherlands) the housing developers are working on the ‘Social beautiful concept’ – a collaboration model between social housing, social care, and the tenants. A group of tenant ambassadors were identified in the design phase to lead community building activities and create a dynamic social environment.

ARV is aiming at creating climate-positive circular communities in Europe and increasing the building renovation rate in the continent. Both projects deal with urban regeneration and the social context.

The practices for resident engagement in ARV’s demonstration projects are evolving in six LLs Connected to the large-scale urban transformation projects. Pupils are making circular art for Oslo’s first energy plus school based on recycling/redesign as guiding principles.

The partners in ARV have adapted the “S.M.I.L.E” method (Scope, Map, Implement, Learn, Enhance) to guide the process of the community engagement work.

The importance of cultivating trust between tenants and the project administration, was emphasized at the Living lab of Palma de Mallorca. The lab offers workshops, seminars and a variety of other activities that will enable residents to develop solutions together to create sustainable neighbourhoods, for example, using virtual reality.


FinEst Centre for Smart Cities

Külle Tärnov (FinEst Centre for Smart Cities, Estonia) presented projects implemented by @FinEst Centre for Smart Cities, driven by a passion for enhancing the quality of life in urban areas. The FinEst Centre was established at the end of 2019 by the @Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), @Aalto University, @Forum Virium Helsinki and the @Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

FinEst Centre for Smart Cities intends to implement ten new smart solutions in at least 30 cities by 2030. These solutions aim to increase the well-being of their residents and decrease the CO2 emission by the cities!

The example of Green Twins has been presented.  #GreenTwins developed a 3D library of urban greenery and planning tools to allow to handle the dynamics of plants in time and engage needed stakeholders, including citizens in the process. These tools are now in use in the public hub of the city of Tallinn, Estonia.

Having an objective and evidence-based understanding of how people feel in certain places in your city is important. Through the ‘Citizen Well-being Diagnostics’, valuable additional input has been generated for general planning to create a city for its citizens. This tool has been tested in the living regions from the ’70s in the town of Narva in Estonia to understand people’s feelings about the usual space quality assigned with the stress level, which was tested via innovative physiological measurement methodology, psychological questionnaires, and space quality analysis in six different living districts in Narva with 40 citizens from 4 different age groups.

The 3rd round of the @SmartCityChallenge was launched in August where FinEst Center for Smart Cities want to find four new ideas to pilot and implement, each in at least one Estonian city and one city from some other country. In the pilot projects, interdisciplinary scalable solutions for complex urban challenges will be developed to improve cities’ living environments. The solutions that are most likely to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the FinEst Centre will be implemented, combining the knowledge from different fields.


oPEN Lab: revitalisation of urban areas towards Positive Energy Neighbourhoods

Maarten De Groote, Activity Leader Smart Energy & Built Environment (Coordinator oPEN Lab, VITO, Belgium) presented three oPEN Living Labs pilots.

The transition of underprivileged #neighbourhoods is vital for local governments, and small to medium sized cities struggle to transition their urban environment making them future proof.

Energy cities’ organisation calculated that 12 to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants are required to conduct the different actions planned for the buildings’ #decarbonization within city organisation, but this is not the reality. It is very far away from the need.[1]

To make underprivileged neighbourhoods future proof, the oPEN Lab project is build up according three main foundations: positive energy neighbourhoods (PEN) within existing urban context, living lab as an innovation process in real-life test environment co-creating PEN solutions and Open Innovation to enable commercially viable solution packages.

This concept is being tested in three different Living Labs in Tartu (EE), Genk (BE) and Pamplona (ES).

Technological and traditional energy transition towards PEN could result in social inequality, energy injustice and passive involvement. It is crucial to create environments that prioritise people’s needs, health, and comfort while developing the #PEN. In that sense, #social #innovation is seen as an enabler to implement human-centric #urban #regeneration.


Key takeaways

Group discussions around the topic of urban regeneration projects and social innovations and co-benefits of the fair energy transition followed the presentations. The workshop was attended by more than #100 participants from #32 countries, mainly coming from the cities, academia, research organisations, citizen organisations and EU institutions.

Julien Dijon (Housing Europe, Belgium) moderated the discussion, emphasising #affordability and #co-benefits of the fair energy transition and how they can be better valued. Also, it was concluded that cities need help deciding the strategies that lead to #healthier and better open public spaces in terms of data organisation, greening, and biodiversity. Technology can help in these processes. For a long time, smart cities have yet to be something meaningful for people. Technology allows a more #participatory approach in urban regeneration projects. People need to be at the centre of all these processes!

Some of the main quotes by our speakers:

Quote Niki Gaitani: ‘Urban areas are critical in accomplishing a clean and just energy transition and meeting the climate goals. Neighbourhoods give us the place and horizon for rethinking our cities. To meet the goals of transforming the built environment and neighbourhoods into net zero emission cities by 2050, we need to find solutions that can be scaled-up while at the same time meeting societal needs at the local level. ´

 Quote Külle Tärnov:We are here to bridge the gap between science and cities. We create innovative, practical solutions to complex urban challenges. A tool to measure the effect on the well-being of citizens in a concrete city location is just one of our smart solutions offered to cities which want to involve their citizens through the design planning process.’

Quote Maarten de Groote: ‘The transition of underprivileged urban areas to Positive Energy Neighbourhoods faces mismatches between residents and those planning and implementing technology solutions. We need active engagement! We need to monitor the impact of renovation processes to receive the proper data and to analyse the different options offered to the cities. ‘

Quote Julien Dijon:If the EU want to become neutral by 2050, the cities and neighbourhoods must be carefully examined since implications in terms of policies must take different other dimensions apart from the considering renovation of the buildings. To achieve the goal, cities cannot afford to miss this momentum!’

The workshop is organized in collaboration with the EU-projects ARV, syn.ikia, oPEN Lab, and the FinEst Centre for Smart Cities.

For more information about the projects visit the following links:

Visit syn.ikia & ARV: and

Visit FinEst Centre for Smart Cities:

Visit oPENLab: oPEN Lab | Leading the transition to positive energy neighbourhoods

Download the workshops summary slides.