Adapting existing social housing to the needs of today's dwellers

School of Architecture La Salle, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain

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Dr. Leandro Madrazo


Dr. Karim Hadjri, Sheffield School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Prof. Flora Samuel, School of Architecture, University of Reading, UK


INCASOL, Barcelona, Spain

Housing Europe, Brussels, Belgium

Research project

The social housing stock in Europe −in its many spatial configurations, from large housing estates to buildings integrated in the urban fabric− must be continuously upgraded to adapt to the changing needs of inhabitants and to current energy efficiency standards. Many social housing projects have been built for family structures which are no longer predominant, in areas far from city centres, and with poor thermal insulation and inefficient heating and cooling. Today, there is a variety of households for which the built housing units may not be suitable, and as more people spend more time working at home, greater spatial flexibility is needed. In addition, the need to reduce traffic requires better connectivity of the housing estates located in the periphery to the public transport network, as well as a reduction in distances between home and workplace. Finally, since most buildings do not meet current energy efficiency standards, there is an urgent need to improve the insulation of the building envelopes and to foster the installation of distributed and interconnected energy systems.

The renovation of social housing must be addressed in a comprehensive and integrated manner, taking into account the multiple dimensions (spatial, social, economic) and actors involved (owners and residents, local authorities and private developers, housing cooperatives and financial investors, energy service providers and construction companies). Deep housing renovation programmes have social and economic implications, insofar as they can promote the participation of citizens and grassroots movements in the planning of renovation projects to support social cohesion, as well as foster professional training and development programmes for small enterprises. Likewise, building renovation can also help to promote the principles of the circular economy by reducing the need for new construction, using resource-efficient renovation techniques, reusing materials and adapting buildings for new uses.

->To conduct individual research project, interlinked to the other ESRs projects, focusing on:
  • Rehabilitation and renovation programmes of social housing building stock, at multiple scales which encompass planning, construction, social, financial and regulatory issues
  • Assessment of resource-efficient renovation techniques
  • Assessment frameworks for an integrated analysis of existing social housing stock
  • Matching dwellers’ needs with housing typologies
  • Flexible housing layouts for new ways of living
  • Energy efficiency measures involving the participation of local communities
->To participate in the network-wide activities (workshops, summer schools, conferences)
->To carry out the training required by the PhD programme of the host university.

As part of the individual research project, ESRs will carry out two secondments, each of 2 to 3 months, in the partner organisations.

ESRs are expected to have completed a doctoral thesis that can be defended at the host institution within or shortly thereafter the project lifetime.

Host university

FUNITEC, a member institution of the Ramon Llull University, governs the La Salle Schools of Architecture, Engineering, Digital Arts and Business. Research in architecture is structured in three lines of work:1. The design and implementation of building and urban development tools, processes, and strategies to achieve a sustainable built environment 2. The rehabilitation of buildings and urban environments to adapt them to current demands, and 3. The improvement of the energy efficiency of buildings through passive design strategies and the application of ICT technologies.

The group ARC Engineering and Architecture La Salle has over 20 years’ experience in the fields of modular housing and building energy efficiency which have been carried out over national and international research projects. Some examples are the BARCODE HOUSING SYSTEM, the EECITIES platform developed in the FP7 SEMANCO project, the BAUKOM product catalogue compatible with BIM technologies and the ENERHAT and ENERPAT applications to assess the state of the residential building stock and implement rehabilitation measures.


Prof. Leandro Madrazo (

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