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Zoe Tzika


Zoe is a PhD candidate at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), looking at collective and community-led forms of housing. In her thesis, she investigates the potential and the challenges of cooperative housing models to achieve sustainability and affordability. She completed her studies in architectural engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh). In her research thesis, she focused on the results of the financial crisis in the urban space of the greek cities. Her final diploma project used the theoretical framework of the urban commons, to investigate alternatives for a deprived neighborhood through local and bottom-up practices, to rehabilitate and re-appropriate an abandoned marketplace into a common space. She also studied at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Lyon, and has a Master's degree from the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC).


She practiced architecture in Copenhagen, working in architetcural offices on urban and housing projects. She was part of the Atelier d'architecture autogérée in Paris working on self-managed architecture and research concerning urban mutations and participatory architecture. She has worked as a freelance architect on buildings' rehabilitation and as a research assistant for the FabCity research initiative, focusing on sustainable urban development and circular local production. Her research is following a transdisciplinary, participatory action research methodology to investigate current processes of collective and alternative models of housing provision that aim at inclusive and sustainable urban environments.


‘From crisis-scapes to common space: spatial transformations and practices in the post-political city’ (A. Pantelidis & Z. Tzika, 2016)

 ‘Urban Factory: a micro-production model for the commons’ (A. Pantelidis, M. Papamitrou & Z. Tzika, 2017)

Research topic

Updated sumaries

February, 23, 2022

September, 17, 2021

An analysis of community participation for the provision of affordable and sustainable housing: The case of Barcelona


Housing is becoming unaffordable for an increasing part of the population, due to the rising real-estate values, financialization, and commodification of the housing market, leading to exclusion and dislocations. Particularly, in the countries of the European south, the model of private ownership traditionally prevailed, provided through the open market, and social housing provision appeared limited. At the same time, the existing built stock is often inadequate as it doesn’t cover the current dwellers' needs, values, or desires. The research aims to investigate processes of community participation in housing provision, as an emerging practice, that seeks solutions to the housing crisis and more sustainable practices. The focus will be on the case of Barcelona, where during the last fifteen years, local groups are exploring alternative paths of housing co-creation as a response to the housing crisis. We will be focusing on cooperative housing that uses the legal form of ‘grant of use’, and that is following a transdisciplinary co-creation process. The first step of the research will be to map the cases of housing co-creation that appear in Barcelona, using GIS, to understand and analyse their characteristics. The characteristics will follow three categories; spatial/technical, demographic/social, and tenure/legal. Through this mapping we will be able to categorise and understand, what are these projects, who participate and in what tenure forms. In the next step, three cases will be further researched through participatory action research, using interviews, focus groups and participatory observation. Through this investigation, we will be able to analyse the processes that are being followed, the objectives and the outcomes. The cases will be in different stages of their development: initiation, in-process, or already occupied, allowing us to understand critical factors throughout the development of these projects. The emerging practices of community participation in the provision of housing are considered ways to address on the one hand the challenges of long-term affordability of housing, and on the other hand, to pursue the environmental and social sustainability of the communities. Social and environmental sustainability is understood as the entanglement of the two concepts, that need to be defined by each community, encompassing their habits, practices, and modes of living and aiming in pursuing their collective wellbeing. The research aims to provide a better understanding of the emerging model of housing, analyse its critical limits and success factors, and suggest ways of pursuing such a direction. This analysis has the potential of diffusing this knowledge to other countries of the European south, as a way to pursue models of affordable and sustainable housing through community participation.

Reference documents

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Retrofit of existing buildings and cohousing: Co-creation of sustainable living environments


The aim of the research is to investigate processes and practices of collective co-creation of housing and neighborhoods in order to give solutions to the current housing crisis in the context of the european south. The research takes its departure from the need for a critical exploration of what defines a sustainable urban environment, that promotes socially inclusive, environmentally aware and affordable modes of living, that is co-produced by the local population, according to their needs. The research seeks to connect the act of inhabiting with the active involvement in shaping the built environment and creating sustainable communities with respect to their identity and socio-cultural characteristics. 


Housing is becoming unaffordable for a big part of society, because of the rising real-estate values, financialisation and deregulation of the housing market and a permanent housing crisis. At the same time, the right to affordable housing should not be separated from the right to decent housing and to access resources, infrastructures and services. Often, urban areas are being (re)developed following centralised decision-making, which leads to dislocation of the local populations, gentrification or exclusion. In addition, the climate crisis strengthens the importance of re-considering the dominant paradigm of urban development, suggesting more ecological approaches and energy efficiency. Bottom-up practices of collective retrofit and cohousing are creating alternatives that challenge the commodification and precarization of housing and the atomization and isolation of people, offering opportunities for collaboration, appropriation, self-management and empowerment of the residents. 


The research will investigate collaborative practices of housing with the adaptive reuse and retrofit of existing built environments, understanding the socio-political context in which they emerge to create perspectives that go beyond a normative approach. I will use case study research with a mixed method of quantitative and qualitative data, to investigate the process and the characteristics of retrofit cohousing. The post-occupancy evaluation will be followed by participatory action research. Also, the field surveys will be combined with interviews and ethnographic methodologies to develop a comprehensive analysis of the existing conditions. The aim is to arrive at analysis and methodologies for sustainable retrofit of existing buildings considering the social implications and exploring the potential of collaborative housing.  


Recent activity

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The discussion for the right to housing. ENHR, Barcelona 2022

Posted on 12-09-2022

The annual conference of the European Network of Housing Research took place in Barcelona this year, under the title “The struggle for the right to housing. The pressures of globalization and affordability in cities today”. At the epicenter was the issue of the unaffordability of housing and its increasing financialization. As cities become part of a global arena, urban space is increasingly subjected to the flows of capital and market forces, leaving behind the needs and the voices of the local populations. This is what Raquel Rolnik referred to, during the conference, as the colonization of the built space by finance and the processes of dispossession that it implies. In these conditions, housing is being used as an exchange value, as the preferred asset for investment by funds, or for rental exploitation and speculation, by short-term rental corporations. This understanding of housing as an exchange value, demotes its use value, as the right for a shelter, for security, and as a place that is intertwined with people's lives and well-being.   At the same time, we observe how dominant paradigms of urban organization and planning, are spreading over the world, reconfiguring cities and territories. The urban mutations that are caused, for example, by the processes of touristification and gentrification, having a more profound impact on territories at the periphery (or semi-periphery) of capitalism, create unhostile cities for its residents, breaking the social fabric and disturbing social cohesion. As a consequence, these urban reconfigurations, lead to a restructuring of the housing regimes in terms of tenure forms. The rentierization of many housing markets, for example, leads to tenure and intergenerational inequalities between homeowners and renters, creating more precarious conditions for those at rent. On a policy level, important actions were discussed such as the regulation of short-term rentals and rent-control policies together with more supply of social housing, or public support of community-led housing initiatives.    As a counter-act to the ongoing processes of financialization and speculation, there are many bottom-up responses, from groups that are claiming housing as a right and are pushing for decommodified and affordable housing. The emergence of cooperative housing and community land trusts, is such a case, intending to create alternative forms of collective and non-speculative housing, separating the use-value from the exchange value. Through participatory processes and democratic decision-making, the initiatives are creating new forms of ownership, based on collective management. The objectives are plural, as apart from the demand for access to decent and affordable housing, the groups are creating more communal ways of living, in terms of spatial and social configurations and are reconsidering the meaning of sustainability in housing.   Aspects that were discussed in relation to cooperative housing were the affordability of the model and the opportunities for access by social groups in need of affordable, decent, and secure housing, such as low-income, single-parent or immigrant households. Also, the use of policy instruments to facilitate their production and regulate their access to them, as well as the long-term affordability of the model and the prevention of future privatization and speculation. Often the discussion on the inclusion of the model and the accessibility by different social groups is related to the question of governance, in all the phases of production, management, and administration of the housing cooperative, looking at the differences between more self-managed cases, and at others that are being developed in collaboration with associations and umbrella cooperative promoters.     Co-operative housing initiatives are framed by many researchers within the literature of the commons, and thus understood and analyzed by their capacity to create spaces and practices of commoning, embedded in the everyday lives of the inhabitants. This can be analyzed in the internal structure of the housing (spatially and socially), but also in relation to the neighborhood scale, and the impact it can have on the area. In close relation is found the research of cooperative housing through the lens of the ethics of care. The collectivization of the domestic sphere is creating opportunities for different forms of social reproduction that question the dominant ways of dwelling. There are current research projects that attempt to evaluate the contribution of cooperative housing, as a way of dwelling, in the life of its inhabitants, looking at the health and well-being of the communities or the potential to tackle the social rupture created by the individualization of housing, thus looking at the social impact it can generate.   As the model is expanding, and cases of collective, shared, and cooperative housing appear in different contexts from the global north to the south, it is important for the research community to keep shedding light on the potential, but also on the contradictions of these practices. The analysis and the comparison of different cases, help us to learn from the experiences of the groups and work to strengthen the idea of housing as a right, and as a space and a practice that can be meaningful for the communities.

Conferences, Reflections

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Community participation in the provision of affordable and sustainable housing | discussing inclusion/exclusion

Posted on 05-04-2022

The third RE-DWELL network-wide activity took place in Budapest, at the Centre for Social Sciences. Each one of the network activities falls under a specific thematic, indicating where the focus of each of our common activities would be. The first two - the Lisbon workshop and the Nicosia summer school-, were revolving around the area of ‘design, planning, and building’ while the next two - Budapest's workshop and the upcoming Valencia summer school- will focus on ‘community participation’.   Community participation in housing provision is pursued by communities eager to build housing that fits their needs, values, and desires. This can manifest itself in material terms, understanding housing as a physical space that should meet economic demands, long-term affordability, or spatial configurations that address the needs of their dwellers. Parallelly, through the active participation of the communities, broader concepts are also being addressed, such as environmental and social sustainability. The entanglement of those two concepts has to be defined by each community, encompassing their habits, practices, and modes of living and having as a final aim their individual and collective wellbeing.   We participated in a roundtable about “Community participation in the provision of affordable and sustainable housing” with experts from the field, Jenny Pickerill, professor of environmental geography and head of the department of geography at the University of Sheffield, and Richard Lang, professor of social enterprise and innovative regions at Bertha von Suttner University in Austria. The discussion revolved around cooperative housing in  UK and Austria. Both countries are considered to be at the forefront in the provision of cooperative housing in Europe. However, they are different contexts of study, in terms of socio-cultural, political, and legal frameworks. Austria appears to have a more supportive institutional environment compared to the UK, coming from a long tradition of accommodating different groups, such as immigrants, into the cooperative housing schemes.   A central issue within this field is the question of the inclusion of cooperative housing schemes and their institutionalisation. Are these models accessible for people with fewer resources (economic, social, cultural) or are they reproducing the existing power configurations (economic and social status), silencing inequalities, and excluding certain social groups? To arrive at conclusions, it is important to understand how cooperative housing emerges in different contexts, which are the objectives and motivations behind it? Who ends up living in these places? and most importantly, do they finally provide an affordable alternative to housing for the local population of a specific area?   We encounter two broad categories for the creation of cooperative housing; the first refers to self-initiated groups that make decisions based on consensus, adopting often self-built approaches. The initial group could either have a ‘closed’ composition, maintaining its homogeneity, or reach out to the local population for joining the cooperative. However, a recurring question is: does anyone have the same right to access these groups of housing co-creation? Another question is if different groups receive the same recognition, institutional support, and security regarding their housing conditions, or if when entering the institutional framework certain groups are being favoured at the expense of others.   The second category refers to the promotion of cooperative housing that is being intermediated by organisations, such as housing or non-profit associations. These foster and facilitate communities to actively participate in forming and self-managing their housing. The intermediate organisations facilitate the processes by supporting the groups in diverse ways, such as finding potential members, providing legal and managerial support, etc. Thus, understanding whose voices are been heard each time in both trajectories of cooperative housing provision is a way to assess how inclusive they are.   Typically, members of the cooperative groups often appear to have a certain social, cultural, and economic status; groups of white, well-educated people with social capital and skills. Many groups struggle with that as they are socially conscious and want to reconfigure the power dynamics and inequalities in accessing housing. However, as the challenges of social justice are more complex to address, many cooperative projects end up focusing on environmental goals that are easier to meet than the social and economic inequalities. Therefore, it is important to realize: Who is excluded from cooperative housing processes? Who has been excluded intentionally or unintentionally?   The term reflexivity was often mentioned in the discussion, referring to collective practices of self-reflection about the participants' positionalities, authorities, verbalisation skills, experience, and values. As people often come with different resources in the process of co-creating cooperative housing, a way to take this into account is to create various levels of participation, making it less demanding for people that do not have the same time or economic capacity. In this way, the collaboration factor would be present, being aware of the importance of redistributing knowledge and resources.

Workshops, Reflections


Case studies

Contributions to the case study library


Contributions to the vocabulary

Community empowerment

Housing Retrofit

Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances.  Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016). A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment. Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989). Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities. The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)


Area: Design, planning and building

Environmental Retrofit Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and 36% of carbon emissions in the EU (European Commission, 2021). Environmental retrofit, green retrofit or low carbon retrofits of existing homes ais to upgrade housing infrastructure, increase energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, tackle fuel poverty, and improve comfort, convenience and aesthetics (Karvonen, 2013). It is widely acknowledged that environmental retrofit should result in a reduction of carbon emissions by at least 60% in order to stabilise atmospheric carbon concentration and mitigate climate change (Fawcett, 2014; Johnston et al., 2005). Worldwide retrofit schemes such as RetrofitWorks, EnerPHit and the EU’s Renovation Wave, use varying metrics to define low carbon retrofit, but their universally adopted focus has been on end-point performance targets (Fawcett, 2014). This fabric-first approach to retrofit prioritises improvements to the building fabric through: increased thermal insulation and airtightness; improving the efficiency of systems such as heating, lighting and electrical appliances; and the installation of renewables such as photovoltaics (Institute for Sustainability & UCL Energy Institute, 2012). The whole-house systems approach to retrofit further considers the interaction between the occupant, the building site, climate, and other elements or components of a building (Institute for Sustainability & UCL Energy Institute, 2012). In this way, the building becomes an energy system with interdependent parts that strongly affect one another, and energy performance is considered a result of the whole system activity. Economic Retrofit From an economic perspective, retrofit costs are one-off expenses that negatively impact homeowners and landlords, but reduce energy costs for occupants over the long run. Investment in housing retrofit, ultimately a form of asset enhancing, produces an energy premium attached to the property. In the case of the rental market, retrofit expenses create a split incentive whereby the landlord incurs the costs but the energy savings are enjoyed by the tenant (Fuerst et al., 2020). The existence of energy premiums has been widely researched across various housing markets following Rosen’s hedonic pricing model. In the UK, the findings of Fuerst et al. (2015) showed the positive effect of energy efficiency over price among home-buyers, with a price increase of about 5% for dwellings rated A/B compared to those rated D. Cerin et al. (2014) offered similar results for Sweden. In the Netherlands, Brounen and Kok (2011), also identified a 3.7% premium for dwellings with A, B or C ratings using a similar technique. Property premiums offer landlords and owners the possibility to capitalise on their  retrofit investment through rent increases or the sale of the property. While property premiums are a way to reconcile          split incentives between landlord and renter, value increases pose questions about long-term affordability of retrofitted units, particularly, as real an expected energy savings post-retrofit have been challenging to reconcile (van den Brom et al., 2019). Social Retrofit A socio-technical approach to retrofit elaborates on the importance of the occupant. To meet the current needs of inhabitants, retrofit must be socially contextualized and comprehended as a result of cultural practices, collective evolution of know-how, regulations, institutionalized procedures, social norms, technologies and products (Bartiaux et al., 2014). This perspective argues that housing is not a technical construction that can be improved in an economically profitable manner without acknowledging that it’s an entity intertwined in people’s lives, in which social and personal meaning are embedded. Consequently, energy efficiency and carbon reduction cannot be seen as a merely technical issue. We should understand and consider the relationship that people have developed in their dwellings, through their everyday routines and habits and their long-term domestic activities (Tjørring & Gausset, 2018). Retrofit strategies and initiatives tend to adhere to a ‘rational choice’ consultation model that encourages individuals to reduce their energy consumption by focusing on the economic savings and environmental benefits through incentive programs, voluntary action and market mechanisms (Karvonen, 2013). This is often criticized as an insufficient and individualist approach, which fails to achieve more widespread systemic changes needed to address the environmental and social challenges of our times (Maller et al., 2012). However, it is important to acknowledge the housing stock as a cultural asset that is embedded in the fabric of everyday lifestyles, communities, and livelihoods (Ravetz, 2008). The rational choice perspective does not consider the different ways that occupants inhabit their homes, how they perceive their consumption, in what ways they interact with the built environment, for what reasons they want to retrofit their houses and which ways make more sense for them, concerning the local context. A community-based approach to domestic retrofit emphasizes the importance of a recursive learning process among experts and occupants to facilitate the co-evolution of the built environment and the communities (Karvonen, 2013). Involving the occupants in the retrofit process and understanding them as “carriers” of social norms, of established routines and know-how, new forms of intervention  can emerge that are experimental, flexible and customized to particular locales (Bartiaux et al., 2014). There is an understanding that reconfiguring socio-technical systems on a broad scale will require the participation of occupants to foment empowerment, ownership, and the collective control of the domestic retrofit (Moloney et al., 2010).

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: S.Furman (ESR2), Z.Tzika (ESR10), A.Fernandez (ESR12)