Urban Futures – Cultural Pasts Conference


Urban Intervention – Reducing Vulnerability


A track led by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Track Call

The concept of ‘energy poverty’ has emerged as a significant issue today. Subject of public debate, reports and research, it is related to both the economic crisis of recent times and major increases in domestic energy bills. Characterised by scenarios in which households spend large amounts of their family income to cover minimum comfort conditions at home, it is not only an economic problem, but one that can have serious health and social consequences for the most disadvantaged.

However, studies have repeatedly shown that energy poverty cannot be separated from broader and more complex concepts such as vulnerability. As a result, when thinking about vulnerability we are forced to move beyond the standard energy poverty ‘triad’ of household socioeconomics; increases in energy prices; and the basic quality of housing that determines its general habitability. It is necessary to have a more ‘metabolic vision’.

This metabolic vision needs to address the integral dimension of all resource management; the impact we have on the natural environment; and the various benefits and service that the public needs. From an interdisciplinary perspective, this means finding the appropriate balance between the study of the objects (buildings and cities etc.) and the study of subjects (users and various social groups).

In addressing these questions, this track encourages contributions from specialists and teams who examine vulnerability in the context of urban planning, building design, neighborhoods and land management. We seek multi-factorial and multi-scalar perspectives that allow us to share interdisciplinary experiences, approaches and methodologies and aim to stimulate synergies that help address this complex issue.

Example projects conducted here in Barcelona in relation to this include: i) the European RELS project (2012-2016) that developed an intervention methodology in the rehabilitation of social housing that addresses the issues of vulnerability to energy poverty, ii) Diagnosis of Vulnerability and Energy Poverty – a project analyzing energy poverty and building adaptation strategies for the municipality of Granollers, iii) Metabolic Approaches for Refurbishment in the Can Peguera neighborhood – a project analysing 350 homes in the neighborhood. Images 1-3.

Key Words:

Vulnerability, energy poverty, resilience, urban metabolism, neighbourhood and regional refurbishment and regeneration.

Key People:

Fabian López, PhD Architect (2006), Serra Hunter Fellow in the Technology Department of the ETSAV UPC since February 2022. Between 2004 and 2021 founding member of the Societat Orgànica cooperative. Senior consultant in energy efficiency, closure of material cycles, energy simulation for institutions and offices of recognized prestige. Since 2013, Lecturer in the University Classroom of the University of Cádiz and the Official Chamber of Architects of Cádiz, in postgraduate, Master’s and continuing education.


Part of the Urban Futures – Cultural Pasts Conference


This track develops themes central to the Master’s degree in Sustainable Intervention in the Built Environment. MISMeC at UPC.

The programme is taught in two tracks. In English, open to students from all over the world, with a language competence equivalent to European B2. In Spanish/Catalan, as part of the double degree with the Master’s programme in Architecture, MArq,


Programme Rationale:

The city plays a fundamental role in a social strategy of progressive transformation of the social metabolism towards a carbon-neutral model to maintain or restore the productive capacity and ecosystem services of the territory and natural systems. On the one hand, because the city is a place of high-density material flows that define the social metabolism. On the other hand, because the city is a place of strong social perception to express public mechanisms of political participation. These two conditions make the city a key place of intervention to implement and develop social strategies for transforming the social metabolism towards sustainability.

The one-year MSc programme focuses on the city in order to identify, criticise and diagnose its metabolism – with specific tools for conceptualisation, measurement, and evaluation – and to propose sustainable transformative interventions. This process involves recognising material flows, spaces on which they act and conditions in which they operate to generate a critical discourse. The aim is to develop the capacity to intervene strategically in the city, to propose new socially acceptable models through responsible intervention in its spaces. This work is specific to the field of architecture, at the different scales of buildings, neighbourhoods, urban spaces, and territorial relations.

The programme focuses on a cutting-edge area of specialisation for disciplines dealing with the built environment in order to strategically transform the vision of professionals and guide future researchers in transforming our society towards sustainability. The MSc is practice-oriented and addresses real projects in urban contexts, through processes of social metabolism diagnosis and carbon-neutral interventions for climate change.


Urban Futures – Cultural Pasts Conference

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Other Tracks:  Community Design & User Autonomy >>  Governing the Ecosystem Commons >>  |  Material Circularity >>  |  Urban Intervention – Reducing Vulnerability >> | Sustainable Lifestyles – Impact & Reduction Scenarios >> 

Main Image: Adolf Sotoca