This section presents Cities4ZERO—the urban transformation methodology for cities’ decarbonization—a step-by-step methodology for a smart urban decarbonization transition, guiding cities through the process of developing the most appropriate strategies, plans and projects, as well as looking for the commitment of key local stakeholders for an effective transition; all from an integrated planning approach.
3.1. A. Strategic Stage at City Level – CITY STRATEGY
The main objective of the strategic stage is to provide a framework that enables the city to perform an effective transition towards the SZCC (Figure 4
). In later stages, the strategy delves into concrete projects’ definition (B. Design Stage) and implementation (C. Intervention and Assessment Stage), landing on specific projects identified in this strategic stage at the city level.
The framework of this strategic stage consists of six steps, focusing on the main activities to be performed at the city-planning level. The first step (1. ENGAGE) describes the foundation of a permanent local steering group (local partnership towards the SZCC) lead by the local authority for this transition towards the SZCC, suggesting an alternative governance model with key local stakeholders on board. With this group in place, the city needs to perform a thorough city characterization (2. ANALYSE) and a strategic city diagnosis (3. DIAGNOSE), to understand what the point of departure for the city transition is. This comprehensive background analysis allows one to perform a strategic planning process, starting with the co-development of a city vision (4. ENVISION), based on potential decarbonization scenarios for the city. That resulting vision will provide an umbrella to develop a strategic plan, which will steer the city towards the achievement of that agreed vision, also defining an action plan to perform specific actions with that purpose (5. PLANCity level— key step of Stage A). The last step of the strategic stage (6. INTEGRATE) fosters the integration of strategic plan contents into municipal planning instruments, ensuring the alignment and official approval of all processes to avoid legal, administrative and land-use barriers, while leveraging synergies among municipal departments and competences, all carefully steered by the local partnership towards the SZCC.
Before facing this strategic stage with Step 1, it is highly recommended for cities to use the City Check-up Assessment tool (Supplementary Materials
), so that the reader has an overview of the process, contextualized to his/her specific local environment.
STEP 1. ENGAGE. Foundation of a local partnership towards the SZCC
The first cornerstone in this journey requires the foundation of a local group headed by the local authority (local partnership towards the SZCC), which will steer the urban transformation towards the SZCC, providing stability to the process in the mid-long term. This local steering group must map and engage key local stakeholders, including representatives from all quadruple helix branches (government, industry, academia, and citizenship), as well as defining the governance model for this urban transformation process. This local group can eventually be supported by external consultancy if some competences are missed within the municipality.
Before starting with the urban transformation strategy, preplanning tasks of this group must reflect on the overall strategy requirements and approvals such as timeline, coordination with other partners and municipal departments, potential institutional adaptations [27
], budgetary needs, inventories and data repositories, (…); determining the needs for the shaping, regulating, stimulating and capacity building of potential projects or initiatives framed within this urban transformation process. A wide commitment of the local authority is key to a potential city decarbonization.
STEP 2. ANALYSE. City information gathering: the city background information package
When facing a strategic urban transformation process, a thorough analysis gathering comprehensive information on the current state of the city is crucial for successful regeneration.
A pre-analysis must perform a literature review at the city level, delving on existing policies, regulations, strategies, and plans, complemented by semi-structured interviews with experts and surveys on citizens’ perception. On that basis, a city characterization provides a deeper understanding on the socioeconomic and sectorial features (energy, building stock, mobility, public space, ICTs—Information and Communication Technologies—engagement, waste, water, etc.) and the status of the city, where city indicators (SZCC readiness level in [26
]) can provide a desirable quantitative approach to this characterization. Here, a carbon emissions baseline is key to perform further strategies and projects towards energy transition. In line with this, a comprehensive model of the local energy system is key to draw the carbon emissions baseline, to be performed by tools like EnergyPLAN [28
] or Energy Balance [29
All gathered information within this step can be bundled into a city background information package (CBIP), as a solid reference for further steps in this methodology (e.g.: Steps 3, 8).
STEP 3. DIAGNOSE. Strategic city diagnosis and visioning taskforces set-up
Once key stakeholders are initially engaged within the local partnership towards the SZCC (Step 1) and city information is gathered on the CBIP (Step 2), it is time to organize those stakeholders in working groups, to provide valuable input for the strategic planning tasks; namely: strategic city diagnosis (Step 3); scenarios and city vision generation (Step 4); strategic plan and action plan (Step 5). In the SmartEnCity project, the flow of these three strategic planning tasks has been supported by a participatory foresight exercise, which consists of gathering future insights and building common visions for making present-day decisions and mobilizing joint actions in the city.
This foresight exercise starts with the strategic city diagnosis (method in [17
]), which consists of a thorough SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analysis of the city, supported by CBIP (Step 2; internal drivers of SWOT including GIS data—geographic information systems), and a city-trends analysis (external drivers of SWOT), exploring relevant connections to regional/national/international targets, policies, and institutions in the field of SZCC. Within this SWOT, after identifying the main "external opportunities and threats", and "internal strengths and weaknesses" of the city, they can both be combined to assess the probability (likelihood to become a reality) and relevance of each element. The logic is that the "highly relevant, but uncertain drivers of change" should lead to defining the main strategic actions to be taken in the next steps (Step 4. ENVISION/ Step 5. PLAN). Furthermore, a PESTLE analysis (political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental) can be useful for performing an in-depth analysis of external factors.
This strategic city diagnosis must be supported by the collaboration and contribution of local stakeholders organized in thematic working groups by the local partnership towards the SZCC, and it will provide critical topics and main input for scenarios and city vision generation (Step 4).
STEP 4. ENVISION. Scenarios generation and preferred vision
Building upon main outputs from the strategic city diagnosis (Step 3), local working groups will face a city visioning workshop with the assistance of a moderator expert in prospective, co-developing an agreed vision for the future of the city.
Assuming the role of city managers, the working groups will generate different future scenarios for the city based on the SWOT analysis of Step 3, while facing the formulated strategic question within the agreed timeframe; e.g.: How are we transforming our city to become carbon neutral by 2040? What can we do by 2030 as a mid-way milestone? The stakeholders will contrast the analysis on probability and relevance of the trends performed in the strategic city diagnosis, before generating the different future scenarios.
The local steering group must gather all those inputs and further develop each of the scenarios suggested by each of the working groups. Once all this input is structured, those final scenarios are presented to the local stakeholders, starting a discussion to select a preferred “master scenario”, which can be one or a combination of those final scenarios. According to that master scenario, the group will develop a city vision, ideally as a result of reaching consensus among all stakes, being the basis of developing the strategic plan for the city (Step 5). After all these processes, the stakeholders in Vitoria-Gasteiz agreed on a master scenario for 2030, summarized in the following city vision, which guided the content of their strategic plan and action plan (Step 5):
Vitoria-Gasteiz 2030; a resilient, safe, healthy, metabolic efficient, circular and high-quality environmental municipality; a benchmark for distributed energy production from renewable sources, for an effective energy-retrofitting model of the built environment, for its determined commitment to the active mobility modes, complemented by a high-quality electrified public transport system. A municipality with institutions that exercise powerful leadership and act in an exemplary way together with a co-responsible citizenship with a high level of awareness, reinforced by a model of community cooperation capable of facing the challenges of the energy transition at the local level. All this within a prosperous, innovative, and competitive economic environment, which ensures a collaborative social model in which no one is left behind.
STEP 5. PLAN CITY LEVEL. Strategic plan and action plan
All materials and activities performed in Steps 1-4 provide a comprehensive background to develop a strategic plan and an action plan for the city, whose main goal is to pave the way, with specific actions towards the city vision achievement within the agreed timeframe.
The strategic plan of the city will transform the city vision (Step 4) into specific goals. From those goals, strategic axes and lines will structure the strategic plan, which will be further landed into an action plan. The action plan is the document in which specific actions and key projects are identified, appointing stakeholders, budget, impact indicators such as emissions reduction, and timeframe for their development. The desirable implementation timeframe of those key projects is less than five years, when the action plan must be updated, to readjust the focus to the evolving urban situation. Regarding the format of a strategic plan and action plan, the following summarized and generic example can be followed, based on the experiences of the SmartEnCity project [30
City vision: carbon neutrality for 2030, based on green economic growth
Strategic axis 1 (1 out of 3 axes): sustainable energy
Strategic line 1.3 (out of 5 lines): positive energy districts
Action 1.3.1 (out of 3 main actions): city diagnosis for vulnerable energy districts identification, promoting the “retrofitting pack” based on local businesses
Key project from action 1.3.1: Integrated retrofitting of 350 dwellings in old town district, including connections to district heating network, powered by local renewable energy sources
For the identification of key projects, it is recommended to involve the thematic working groups engaged in Steps 3 and 4, as those stakeholders, besides being experts in each field, will be more committed in the future implementation of those projects. In case there are conflicting interests, the local partnership towards SZCC will have to make decisions, which may imply a political component. In terms of the development of key projects within Cities4ZERO methodology, the DESIGN STAGE delves on them from Step 7 on.
Regarding the approach local authorities have to this kind of strategic actions, they usually tend to focus on isolated energy actions, whilst the complexity of urban decarbonization challenge requires an integrated and participatory approach, where urban planning and all city systems converge into one single path, and local stakeholders can influence the generation process, as they will later be protagonists in the implementation stage. In line with this, the integrated energy planning concept can be valuable to steer this process:
Integrated energy planning (IEP) is an approach to find environmentally friendly, institutionally sound, socially acceptable, and cost-effective solutions of the best mix of energy supply and demand options for a defined area to support long-term regional sustainable development. It is a transparent and participatory planning process, an opportunity for planners to present complex, uncertain issues in structured, holistic, and transparent ways, for interested parties to review, understand and support the planning decisions. Furthermore, Integrated planning entails defining the goals and the problems to implement the appropriate solutions. [31
Finally, it is strongly recommended to define an indicator system at the city level that monitors the progress towards the city vision and objectives fulfilment, trying to match the impact each of those key projects has on the overall city scale and decarbonization goals. Here, the model of the local energy system developed in Step 2 can show the potential carbon emissions reduction of each of those key projects, being able to quantify and prioritize each of those actions depending on their impact.
STEP 6. INTEGRATE. Integration of strategic plan and action plan into municipal planning and strategies
The local authority needs to guarantee the legal, administrative, and physical conditions to deploy the actions and key projects identified in the strategic plan and its action plan (Step 5), ensuring full integration in the municipal planning instruments. In the city of Sonderborg, the commitment of the local authority with the process allowed to review each of the 50 key projects identified in the action plan to analyze how to engage on them or support them from the public administration side to maximize their impact, releasing an internal steering booklet for politicians and municipal employees. Regardless of the internal steering booklet, this process should be a standard for any municipality producing a strategic document, but unfortunately, it is not.
In this regard, an update or modification of the land-use city masterplan it is essential, ensuring legal viability and land-use provision for identified actions. Furthermore, a review and acknowledgment of the strategic plan and action plan contents by local legislation and municipal competences is crucial, avoiding foreseen barriers. This acknowledgment by all municipal departments and strategies will enhance cross-cutting collaboration among disciplines, fostering synergies and breaking sectorial silos at the same time.
This integration process must be carefully steered by the local partnership towards the SZCC (Step 1), ensuring the alignment among existing and foreseen initiatives for a soft transition, as well as a more integrated approach to traditional land-use planning.
A wrap-up diagram of the Cities4ZERO strategic stage is presented in Figure 5
3.2. Design Stage—DEVELOPMENT OF KEY PROJECTS
This stage aims to take a step beyond the strategic plans of the city (Step 5. PLAN CITY LEVEL
; strategic plan and action plan), through the development of key projects identified as enablers for those strategic plans (Figure 6
). This stage (B. Design Stage) will prioritize, frame, carefully co-design, and plan those projects, while the last stage (C. Intervention and Assessment Stage) will bring them to reality, monitoring and evaluating their performance and impact for further research and plans. Through the iterative development of all key projects identified, the transition towards the SZCC will become a closer reality.
The framework of this Design Stage consists of five steps that fall into the specificities of the project level, always bearing in mind all main lines previously agreed upon at the city level (A. strategic stage). The stage will start with a prioritization based on city needs, choosing the most relevant projects and city areas (7. PRIORITIZE), defining the objectives and a rough draft for a district integrated intervention. In parallel to Step 7, it is crucial to build a city transformation framework (8. FRAME), analyzing the local context for implementation regarding the city-systems entailed in the intervention, including potential financing mechanisms and business models for all solutions. Once the project is framed, key agreements are needed (local partnership towards the SZCC, industry, academia, citizens), according to our governance model developed in Step 1 (9. AGREE), to hence carefully co-design and co-define the project and all solutions entailed, making use of a suitable design toolbox (10. DESIGN—key step of Stage B). Finally, in this stage (11. PLAN PROJECT LEVEL), the result will be transformed into an implementation plan, which, assisted by an indicator system, will ensure the effective deployment, quality, and evaluation of the project to be implemented in its final stage (C. Intervention and Assessment Stage).
STEP 7. PRIORITIZE. Area prioritization and key projects selection based on city needs
In this second stage, from those key projects identified in the strategic plan and action plan (Step 5), a project prioritization performed by the local authority (local partnership towards SZCC) will select and combine the most promising initiatives for the city, focusing on those city areas where the benefits of those initiatives will have the most impact for the citizens. This prioritization will build upon the strategic city diagnosis performed in Steps 2 and 3, using GIS tools for spatial analysis and reduction emissions potential, identifying priority areas and bottlenecks, as well as demarking the area of intervention of the project. In this process, the local partnership towards SZCC will work as a coordination node among municipal departments, agencies, and external stakeholders, to reach a wider consensus on the decisions to be made. In case conflicting interests do not allow one to reach a consensus, the local partnership will decide the most beneficial intervention for the municipality, according to the strategic and action plan developed in Step 5, considering all stakes in the table.
For this choice, it is recommended to focus on social, economic, or environmental vulnerable urban areas, those that experience a lower quality of life in comparison to other urban areas, with a specific look at emissions reduction potential. Both area and projects’ selection would be ideally chosen in a parallel process, feeding one another. In the case of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the energy-efficiency, energy supply, age, and accessibility of the building stock, the socio-economic and demographic characteristics, and the quality of the public space connected to mobility and access to green areas were the key reasons to choose the Coronación district as the area of intervention with the highest potential of emissions reduction and upgrade of the quality of life standards.
Finally, a rough draft for a district integrated intervention project at this stage (pre-definition) will provide a good overview to enrich the following steps (8, 9 and 10), allowing more accurate analyses in this Design Stage (funding, regulation, standards, engagement, communication, etc.). In return, analyses on funding/ financing mechanisms and a city transformation framework (Step 8) will support this process.
STEP 8. FRAME. Project framework definition
The main objective of this step, together with step 7, is to ensure project viability in institutional, legal, and economic terms, leveraging potential opportunities, whilst tackling foreseen barriers in the development process.
In parallel to the pre-definition of the project in Step 7, Step 8 will support the process with the development of a city transformation framework, building upon city background information package developed in Step 2. This framework will consist of an analysis of local plans, policies, regulations, standards, barriers, good practices, and potential risks regarding city transformation processes and how they affect the city-systems entailed in the future intervention. This analysis will allow the identification of synergies, boundaries, and barriers for the selected interventions in the project.
As part of the city transformation framework, potential funding and financing mechanisms will explore how to cope with the required investments for the project. With that purpose, an overall budget will be estimated, fostering public-private partnerships and sources (European, national, regional, local, multilateral, NGOs, etc.). In line with this, business models will be drafted for each solution to be implemented, fostering the economic sustainability of the overall intervention.
STEP 9. AGREE. Decision-making procedures along the project
The success of planned interventions will depend very much on the level of agreement achieved among all parts at stake in the city (and district). That’s why it is important to carefully engage all key stakeholders to ensure their alignment during and after the project.
The city governance model already defined in Step 1 will now be transferred into the project level, defining decision-making procedures along all steps of the project. An integrated management Plan will be accordingly defined, including decision-making roles for all stakeholders:
Strategic, tactical: local partnership towards SZCC,
Operational: technical committee (with main experts, including industry and academia),
Collaborative: citizens committee, representing their interests and insights.
Special attention must be paid to an effective citizen engagement strategy, defining a model able to incorporate an interesting and well-communicated value proposition for the citizens, allowing social innovation practices and collaborative approaches. There is no unique recipe to develop a citizen engagement strategy; the design process must be adapted to each local reality. It is about developing proposals following the required project specifications, while creating tangible touchpoints that can be reshaped by the citizens.
STEP 10. DESIGN. Project design, definition and solutions to be implemented
Once the project and the city-area have been selected (Step 7), the contextual framework—including financial requirements—has been met (Step 8), and consensus about the integrated intervention is as wide as possible among all parts at stake (Step 9), it is time to carefully co-define and co-design project solutions to be finally implemented. This process will be built upon the pre-definition of the interventions developed in Step 7.
Firstly (A), the optimal solutions and technologies must be selected for each sector of the district integrated intervention. As an inspiration, EC funded projects (SCC-1 Smart Cities and Communities) have been developing more than 500 innovative city solutions in 93 European cities since 2014, all gathered and sustained in the EC Smart Cities Information System [32
]. The main categories gathering these city solutions are (Table 4
Secondly (B), the intervention area will probably require a public space reconfiguration through a detailed project definition. A design team will include experts on the fields regarding solutions to be implemented, fostering collaborative design while defining the project. This project will fulfil all requirements of the integrated management plan developed in Step 9.
Both definition processes, (A) and (B), should be supported by the positive energy district’s concept [33
] and a comprehensive design toolbox able to integrate GIS, BIM (Building Information Modeling), system-illustrative tools and simulation models. These tools will significantly optimize the effectiveness of interventions as well as maintenance, operation, and monitoring of all solutions during their lifespan (e.g.,: models, building and city digital twins). Project design and solutions from this step will define key issues related to Step 11 (implementation plan) and Step 12 (intervention works and solutions deployment).
STEP 11. PLAN PROJECT LEVEL. Implementation plan and indicator system
The project design developed in Step 10 will be included in an implementation plan, which will provide measures to control the outcome and development of interventions, such as a quality management plan, a risk management plan, a description of the sequence of activities, and an execution plan for all solutions.
Concerning procurement and contracting, both local and national contexts of each city will have specificities that need to be met. In some cases, public procurement for innovation (PPI) processes can be helpful, as some problems might need deeper reflections, avoiding straightforward market solutions that may not meet the expectations for the problem at focus.
As aforementioned in Step 5 for the city level, it is recommended to implement an indicator system at the project level, connected to an evaluation plan, a data collection plan and a monitoring Program (Step 13), defining a baseline for the interventions and the expected performance of those, hence, it is possible to assess the results and impacts towards decarbonization after processing all the data (Step 14). All that data will be also valuable in case the city develops a city information open platform (CIOP), to analyze and visualize all the data for better decision-making. This online platform can also improve transparency with citizens, setting different levels of access depending on the user (decision-maker/technician/citizen).
A wrap-up diagram of the Cities4ZERO Design Stage is presented in Figure 7
Intervention and Assessment Stage—IMPLEMENTATION OF KEY PROJECTS
The last stage of Cities4ZERO methodology (C. Intervention and Assessment Stage, Figure 8
) deploys the integrated intervention, through the implementation of key projects previously identified in the first stage (A. Strategic Stage) and designed in the second stage (B. Design Stage).
The Intervention and Assessment Stage consists of five final steps, focusing on implementing, assessing, and upscaling the solutions, all of them aligned with the strategic plans of the city (Step 5. PLAN). The first step of this stage implements all solutions (12. INTERVENE—key step of Stage C), including construction works. The intervention will leverage potential synergies among city systems and include strong engagement activities, while works are appropriately commissioned by experts. Step 13 will take care of the operation and in-use period (13. ENSURE), ensuring a healthy lifespan of interventions, mainly through on-going commissioning, monitoring, users’ training, and community-based initiatives. Once all data and performance results have been collected and analysed, it is time to assess the project and its impacts (14. ASSESS), according to performance indicators generated in Step 11. All data generated during the project can feed the city information open platform mentioned in Step 11, where the city can perform analyses for better decision-making as well as visualize data to inform the citizens. Step 15 will perform a project review (15. VALIDATE), checking the fulfilment of the project objectives and asking for feedback to key stakeholders, including citizens and end-users, industry, and academia. Through this review and the assessment of Step 14, the steering group (local partnership towards the SZCC) will be able to check if the interventions were aligned with the strategic plan and action plan at the city level (Step 5), and to what extent they have been successful and replicable. The final step of this third stage explores the replication potential of the process and implemented SZCC solutions, through local up-scaling strategies for the city (16. UP-SCALE), considering urban labs for replication and exploitation paths for local partners. The connection to European sources such as the SCC-1 solutions portfolio and SCIS (Smart Cities Information System, mentioned in Step 10), or initiatives such as C40 Cities [34
] will always be helpful for further inspiration.
This methodology will end with a final workshop steered by the local taskforce (LP towards the SZCC), reflecting on the next steps and future interventions. This workshop ensures the iteration of the whole process depending on city needs:
If the strategic plan and action plan are still considered valid after this process, and if an update is not yet necessary, the city can pick and develop new key projects coming back to Step 7 (7. PRIORITIZE), selected from the project list published in the action plan (Step 5).
In case the strategic plan and/or action plan are considered as partially obsolete, where an update is appropriate for a better project focus, the city can come back to Step 4 (4. ENVISION) and update its strategic planning process for a reconsidered planning umbrella (strategic plan and action plan).
This continuous iteration will readjust the focus of city projects and strategies towards the final SZCC goal.
STEP 12. INTERVENE. Intervention works and solutions deployment
After the strategic planning process and design of interventions, Stage 3 starts with the district integrated intervention, entailing execution works and the implementation of solutions according to planned schedules and requisites. Both for design, implementation, and assessment stages, BIM principles are highly recommended, fostering an integrated and effective deployment.
This intervention step, where the implementation plans become reality, involves a large variety of experts and technicians. Additionally, the coordination team at the city level will have to guard the correct deployment of the works and the overall economic control. At this stage, those experts appointed to follow-up the interventions will also take care of the adequate installation of the monitoring equipment and the data acquisition systems, to be able to measure performance and hence, appropriately assess interventions in the following steps. Regarding implementation expertise, the more prepared and skilled the workers and technicians taking the actions are, the bigger will be the guarantee of attaining the envisaged objectives. As in previous Step 11, suitable experts should be selected, internal or external, with the competences to address each action (energy, mobility, LCA—life cycle assessment, etc.).
Management aspects in this step are crucial. Works must be deployed on time and they need to comply with the requirements defined in previous steps to achieve the energy and emissions targets. Furthermore, the schedule and cost aspects must be guarded. Those are parallel aspects that have mutual implications, since delays on some works usually go hand in hand with cost increases. Delays in this step as well as in the tendering process are likely to happen—permits, potential industry/social resistance, saturation of the local market, etc., where predefined mitigation and contingency plans will be of considerable support.
In parallel to intervention works, intensive engagement and communication activities are highly recommended, according to the citizen engagement strategy developed in Step 9. This is identified as a key success factor, or even as an enabler, as in some cases, projects and solutions might not be feasible without the agreement of potentially affected citizens.
STEP 13. ENSURE. Operation and in-use; users’ behaviour
Right after interventions are in place, the operation and in-use period starts. Here, ensuring a healthy lifespan of interventions is the main priority.
An ongoing commissioning will determine roles and responsibilities for each intervention. In this task, BIM models (digital twins) can significantly improve the operation and maintenance works, if we appropriately deploy sensors on buildings, infrastructures, vehicles, etc., as technicians will have a virtual update of all elements, simulating improvements or corrections, and finally implementing them in reality if considered beneficial. Furthermore, facilities management plans will provide protocols, key maintenance information, and end-user manuals, for an effective performance of all buildings and infrastructures deployed.
In line with this, the effectiveness of interventions may depend on end-user behaviour, which must be tackled by engaging them through training and communication activities. Here, community-based initiatives, economic incentives (or disincentives), and regulation modifications considering exemptions, agreements, pricing, etc., can be good tools for the correct use of interventions.
At this step, just right after the interventions, it is important to run performance tests and to start the monitoring period, which will allow data availability for assessment in Step 14. This will also allow one to certify the quality assurance of interventions.
STEP 14. ASSESS. Project evaluation and impact assessment
At this point, all interventions are finished and the data from each of them have been gathered for a significant period. Now it is time to find out if the actions have reached the expected results and the project goals in terms of energy performance or emissions savings; to calculate the LCA and the economic impacts; and to evaluate the social acceptance, among other parameters.
The process of assessing implemented actions needs the involvement of different experts on the different fields of evaluation for correct reporting and comparison. It is useful that, for some calculations, the experts are certified on an evaluation methodology (such as the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol—IPMVP, for example), to assure the quality of the work.
This assessment must go back to the set of key performance indicators (KPIs) already defined in Step 11, and using the data collected on the data-gathering period to calculate their values. These results can support an evaluation report, focusing on all key aspects, comparing the KPIs values before and after the intervention. At the city level, the obtained data can be contrasted with the indicators defined in Step 5. This comparison between before and after the interventions (PRE vs. POST interventions) will provide a good evaluation measure. It is important to stress that not all indicators are based on data gathered by technical equipment, but also from the citizens, tenants and the services’ users. Data has been gathered, for example, through surveys, and needs to be analysed accordingly.
As a result of this process, a positive assessment supports the interventions developed, in case they have been correctly finished and good evaluation results obtained. But even if the results are not as expected, a correct assessment is still valuable, as it is the way to ensure better results in future interventions and corrective actions, if possible. The main challenge at this step is to have a complete and good quality set of data. This means a significant workload in previous stages.
All generated data in this step can feed the city information open platform (CIOP) described in Step 11. Through this new city tool, a CIOP catalogue of potential services can explore the applicability of the integrated data generated in the project.
STEP 15. VALIDATE. Project review; main learnings and reflections
Finally, after planning a healthy lifespan for interventions as well as assessing them, the project has come to its end. It is time to reflect and perform a project review. This review will check if the project objectives stated in Steps 7 and 10 have been fulfilled. For instance, the SmartEnCity project objectives were split into four main categories: technical, environmental, social, and economic objectives.
For a comprehensive review, general and specific feedback from key stakeholders can reveal critical factors; successful ones as well as barriers. The main groups to be asked are citizens and end-users; practitioners and experts; city administration; private sector; and academia.
With all this information, after assessment on Step 14 and project review, the local partnership towards SZCC will be able to check and validate if the interventions were aligned with the strategic plan and action plan at the city level (Step 5), and to what extent they are successful and replicable. What was successful? What might have been done better? From this reflection, key barriers, success factors, regulatory inputs, and potentially exploitable results can be extracted for future projects in the city.
STEP 16. SCALE-UP. Up-scaling in the city and next steps
The final step of this third stage and Cities4ZERO methodology explores the replication potential of the process and its implemented SZCC solutions. This is done through local up-scaling strategies for the city, considering urban labs for replication in other areas of the city (prioritization in Step 7/citizen engagement strategy in Step 9), and through exploitation paths for local partners (business models, incubators, accelerators, public-private partnerships, etc.).
As mentioned in the introduction of this third stage, Cities4ZERO methodology will end with a final workshop steered by the local partnership towards SZCC, reflecting on the next steps and future interventions. The thematic working groups set in Stage A for city diagnosis and envisioning processes (Steps 3 and 4) can provide valuable sectorial input. This workshop ensures the continuous iteration of the whole Cities4ZERO strategic process depending on city needs, readjusting the focus of city strategies and projects towards the final decarbonization goal and the evolving urban context:
If the strategic plan and action plan are still considered valid after this process, and if an update is not necessary, the city can pick and develop new key projects, coming back to Step 7 (7. PRIORITIZE), selected from the project list published in the action plan (Step 5).
In case the strategic plan and/or action plan are considered to be partially obsolete, where an update is appropriate for a project’s improved focus, the city can come back to Step 4 (4. ENVISION) and update its strategic planning process for a reconsidered planning umbrella (strategic plan and action plan).
A wrap-up diagram of the Cities4ZERO Intervention and Assessment Stage is presented in Figure 9