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La Borda

Award category
Buildings renovated in a spirit of circularity
You want to submit
NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS : existing completed examples
Project title
La Borda
Full project title
La Borda housing cooperative
The tallest wood structure in Spain is also the first housing cooperative built in public land to fight speculation and provide affordable and stable housing. The community-led project has 28 units of different sizes and 300m2 of communal spaces. The building has become an example of low environmental impact, both in its construction, during its use and at the end of its life, while keeping affordability and inclusivity.
Where was your project implemented in the EU?
Constitució 85
When was your project implemented?
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Which programme(s) or fund(s)? Provide the name of the programme(s)/fund(s), the strand/action line as relevant and the year.
Please provide a summary of your project
La Borda is the first housing cooperative using the “grant of use” model in Barcelona. Built on public land with a 75-year leasehold, the community-led non-profit cooperative owns the building and cedes the right to use of the dwelling to its members, grouped into units of cohabitation. Construction was financed with future residents making 20% down payments, which are returned to residents when they leave, and loans from the Social Economy entities and microloans by individuals. Users have to pay an affordable monthly fee, less than half of what it would cost in the private market. The involvement of different actors became an opportunity to rethink the production of social housing as a bottom-up experience. The building program includes 28 units (40, 60 and 75m²) and 25% of the surface is dedicated to community spaces that allow stretching the fact of living, from the private space to the public space to enhance the community life. These spaces are: kitchen-dining room, laundry, multipurpose space, space for guests, health and care space, storage in each plant, and exterior and semi-exterior spaces such as the patio and roofs. All of them articulated around a central courtyard. The project seeks the minimal environmental impact both in its construction, its use and beyond. Main strategies to achieve this have been avoiding the construction of an underground car park; the promotion of changes in tenants’ lifestyle; passive bioclimatic solutions (like a patio covered with a greenhouse, good tightness to air, working with the inertia, traditional protections to Sun and an emphasis on the thermal insulation). The building has a centralized biomass boiler and photovoltaic solar panels. The materials were also chosen looking at their environmental impact, so Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) is used for most of its structure. The project has received several national and international awards and has been included in the central exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2021.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability and how these have been met
The cooperative prioritized the development of a building with minimal environmental impact both in its construction and in its use phase. We began avoiding the construction of an underground car park. The direct consequence of this will allow for reductions of between 500 and 800 tons of CO2 over 75 years (the leasehold of the land). In addition, it is a clear boost to sustainable mobility and the reduction of residents' environmental footprint. The project promotes changes in lifestyles. For instance, by the inclusion of shared low-consuming industrial washing machines, sharing the spaces that are underused (like guestrooms), by vegetarian base cooking and eating together community meals every week, having a scheme of object sharing and bulk buying, having a procurement strategy of eco-products in the cleaning self-organised services, or, by keeping a rooftop garden with diverse local plants.  The passive bioclimatic strategies have been developed to the fullest extent possible. Firstly, the patio covered with a greenhouse that allows to capture solar radiation in winter and have a chimney effect designed to force ventilation in the summer. The design also included good tightness to the air of doors and windows, working with the inertia of the materials and an emphasis on the thermal insulation. La Borda has a centralized biomass boiler, improving efficiency using a non-fossil fuel dependent and renewable source. Photovoltaic solar panels have been installed, and currently is leading a 'local energy community' in the area. The result is an almost zero heating energy consumption, and therefore, the comfort in the houses with the least associated cost. The structure of six floors is done using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This is a lightweight, high quality, renewable material in the environment that allows closing cycles. La Borda is currently the tallest building constructed using wood structure in the country.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met
Many of the strategies that follow sustainability criteria offer the main characteristics of the project, like the high ceilings (303 cm), the wide corridors and balconies, the central patio, and extensive communal areas. Another example is the prioritization of high quality construction elements in heating, doors and structural elements, compensated for less structural and yet carefully selected industrially accessible elements such as lighting systems and the like. One of the main values driving the aesthetic and quality experience has been the warmth provided by the exposed wood every time it was possible. Another two key values have been the sense of community and greenery. A community feeling not just provided by the aforementioned common areas, but as well with the outer local neighbourhood; with the creation of a passageway under the building to access the park, wide and transparent openings towards both the passage and the park. The introduction of greenery inside and outside the building is also a key value to provide both an aesthetic and quality experience, self-managed in each corridor by the tenants, and by the ‘green committee’ in the patio and both in the North and South facing terraces. Finally, the living experience have been crafted in regard to the everyday life and conviviality practices, which has been supported together with the architects by service designers. This has ensured that those intangible yet critical part of the quality of dwellings have been crafted too, with design principles such as adaptability, efficiency, inclusivity and design for all and environmental sustainability.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion and how these have been met
One of the indispensable principles is to guarantee access to decent and affordable housing, eliminating the risk of energy poverty among residents. A two-phase construction plan was designed to minimize initial investment. The first phase focusses on the minimum living space needed. In the second, the community expands and improves the space over time. Low‐tech solutions have been incorporated, to accommodate DIY in the completion of building. We have also implemented both, a solidarity fund to help the housing units who could not afford to pay the initial fees within the fixed timeframes, and a permanent collective fund to support in case of emergency for the monthly fee, which has been activated during Covid-19. La Borda seeks to boost community-based housing models that enhance residents' interrelationships, and to establish cooperation ties in the areas of domestic work and care by rendering the private spheres of daily life visible. Almost 25% of the floor area of La Borda is given over to common spaces, in contrast to conventional multifamily buildings, where a ratio of 10% is typically calculated and limited to the spaces required to provide shared facilities and a route from the door of each house to the street. There is an 80 m² communal kitchen-dining room, which serves for large-scale meal preparations or can be used as a meeting space, a 100 m² covered multi-purpose space, two guest rooms, a laundry room and a large central circulation space, bicycle parking and outdoor terraces. These community spaces serve a triple purpose. Firstly, to strengthen the relations between members. Second, improve efficiency, and economic and environmental sustainability. Lastly, they increase the usable floor area. All this opens up the possibility of rethinking collective housing to the life model conceived of by its residents. It breaks with the paradigm of the building as a sum of its individual units, blurring the boundary between private and community spaces.
Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for
After more than 2 years of the building in use we are certain that the results are thanks to the design strategies applied, but specially to the involvement of the community in the use of the building. We monitor and obtain data on the building's electricity and thermal consumption and the comfort parameters of 6 home units, centralized in the platform SmartDataSystem. We partnered with the engineers in Arkenova, the public Barcelona Energy Agency, and the environmental consultancy Societat Orgànica, to analyse and share the most relevant results. The average total consumption of electricity, DHW and heating per m² of homes in La Borda is 20 kWh / m², which is a reduction of 68% compared to a building of similar characteristics in the Mediterranean area (62 kWh/m²). With such low consumption and the low cost of biomass, the total monthly impact of energy for each of the 28 homes is reduced by 20%. Work is still done to lower the values even further. For instance, with the energy review and audit carried out after the first year, it has been possible to establish some strategies that saved 30% of biomass consumption in 2020. The installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof with collective self-consumption, in collaboration with local energy coops, covers up to 30% of electricity consumption and allow a reduction of about 15€ per month per home. Do these consumptions meet the requirements of the almost zero consumption building (NZEB) of the Spanish Technical Building Code 2019? La Borda exceeds all indicators, with a 31% reduction in total primary energy, 92% in non-renewable primary energy, and 76% in C02 emissions. In terms of comfort, the indoor temperature of most homes is kept between 18 and 24ºC in winter without heating, and the accumulation of CO2 inside the homes is kept below 1000ppm constantly minus a few peaks.
Please explain the way citizens benefiting from or affected by the project and civil society have been involved in the project and what has been the impact of this involvement on the project
Participation of future users in the process (design, construction and use) was the most important and differential variable of the project, generating an opportunity to meet and project with them and their specific needs. The cooperative is supported by specialized technical teams where tasks cannot be undertaken by its members, working with organizations from the Social Economy (architects, designers, lawyers, economists, finance,...). Cooperative members and future residents have been involved through an internal structure that encourages their direct participation, with working committees and a monthly general assembly. The residents participated in the collaborative design of the whole building through thematic workshops that harness the collective intelligence of the human group and make the resident an active participant in project decision-making. These processes increase awareness and expertise, and stimulate a sense of community and belonging. Beyond the residents themselves, civil society has been involved in many ways, from massive community meals open to the public every spring, talks, self-construction days and site-visits; to a crowdfunding campaign raising 865K EUR in two weeks to secure seed funding for the project. As a community we take part in several spaces, from the local assembly in the area, to the Catalan network of community-led non-speculative cooperative housing, which we were founding members. The ground floor hosts an organic food coop that was already present in the area, that benefited from the location and pays a reduced rent. Finally, we’ve been hosting in our guest room families who have lost their homes due to evictions, in coordination with anti-eviction groups and tenant’s unions in the neighbourhood.
Please highlight the innovative character of the project
La Borda's community-led model, as an alternative to the more conventional public or private housing developments, made it possible to overcome some major limitations that are imposed on collective housing architectural projects. In the public sector, the fear of future user, which is totally unknown, makes it hardly impossible to introduce changes that may affect the way of living that is currently standard. In the case of the private developers, the market logics impoverish housing and promote an assimilation to a commodity, even if it is a basic human right in most constitutions, known to be a basic leverage point for social reproduction. Thus, La Borda served to pioneer the introduction of a new housing development form, one that is community-led, and in many instances supported by the public, with the lease of public land, thus leading to public-community oriented development housing policies. Another innovative aspect is the formal process of development, with its procedural and architectural dimensions, by the use of CLT and other sustainable strategies. We want to highlight the effort that was made to make sustainable affordable. Relying on low-tech alternatives, active users, economy of materials, and efficiency of spaces and utilities, instead of expensive or high-maintenance solutions. The project is an example in sustainable architecture, taken as case study by universities and research studies all over the world, without compromising affordability. The project is innovative in exemplifying a new typology of conviviality which was barely seen in the south of Europe in urban contemporary times, with common areas and shared services.
Please explain how the project led to results or learnings which could be transferred to other interested parties
With a commitment to social learning and open source ethics, La Borda has been continuously both sharing its own learnings and promoting learning spaces. To start with we share the most basic documents online in our website, and offering site-visits to students, professionals and people interested in the model and the building. A paradigmatic example of the project to replicate the model is the spin-off of La Dinamo Foundation. Both including people part of La Borda and a formal agreement between organizations to transfer knowledge, a great deal of effort has been in distilling the learnings and making them accessible to the rest of society. One example could be the open practical guide to support other communities by promoting peer learning. La Dinamo published several key documents to the advancement of the model, including studies on potential supporting policies (see, financial instruments. It has also lobbied for changes in regulation. The book ‘Habitar en comunidad’, written by Lacol and La Ciutat Invisible, based on their learnings in La Borda, is the first book publish about the topic in Spanish. La Borda takes part the local network of cooperative housing communities, and also of public-cooperative consortiums with the Municipality of Barcelona, where several efforts to spread and enrich learnings among the growing ecosystem occurs.The project has published its results and learnings in different platforms, including the energy performance and the CLT construction, in academic research, growing the formal academic knowledge on the community led housing model which is growing in Europe to secure the right to housing. Also, now we are collaborating with the Barcelona Public Health Agency on a research in the impact of health in tenants of cohousing projects.
Is an evaluation report or any relevant independent evaluation source available?
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed project has not been proposed for the Awards more than once under the same category and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.


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