Our 9 domains take as a reference the 9 Thematic Areas in which Salvador Rueda classifies his urban ecological objectives in its Guía Metodológica para los Sistemas de Auditoría, Certificación o Acreditación de la Calidad y Sostenibilidad en el Medio Urbano. These, in turn, organize and summarize in a brilliant way all subjects listed in the 3 most popular systems for assessment and certification of sustainability today: LEED, BREEAM and CASBEE.

“Regardless of size, a city, a neighbourhood, a building or a house are ecosystems. A system is a set of physicochemical elements that interact. If there are biological organisms between the elements,the system is called ecosystem.”

(Salvador Rueda, Guía Metodológica, p.131)

For this reason, we understand that the 9 domains -in which we categorize the reality where sustainable (or ecological) design intervenes- refer not only to the city or a neighborhood but also to a building or a house as long as they all are ecosystems. Hence the need to reformulate his 9 thematic areas which refer only to urban planning and extend them towards concepts and definitions applicable to any scale of reality: the 9 domains.



Matters relating to the recognition of the value of existing reality as a whole and in particular, how culture has characterized both the physical –natural and built- and the social environment. The physical environment is the heritage, the built, natural resources, geography, metabolism, biodiversity … The social environment are the lifestyles, ways of living, local knowledge, traditions, symbols, myths and beliefs …

The recognition of context involves a prior scrutiny of their potentialities and limitations turning them into a positive value on which to develop the project, even to the extent of non-intervention. In short, it has to do with using the existing and learning about what has been already learned. This means, first, an economy of means and resources and, second, amplification and consolidation of cultural values: the citizenship recognizes itself in the urban intervention since it uses characteristic features of their identity.

If we understood the “context” only from the identity, this domain would be the one that would develop more completely the exercise of cultural sustainability. However, the “context” can reveal values in the existing reality that are alien to identity. In this case the “context,”  understood from the reappropriation of the existing, operates more clearly in the area of environmental sustainability: minimization of material and energy resources, etc.

Tags (physical environment): reappropiation, reuse, rehabilitation, revalorization, reappreciation, recognition, reconversion, revitalization

(social environment): tradition, identity, local knowledge, symbols, lifestyles, glocal, ambient awareness, food culture


02_Land occupation

Matters relating to the reduction of land consumption and optimization of use, essentially by means of an efficient use of local resources and the densification and diversification of the population fabric.

This domain assumes that the density of people and events, driven by compactness, is a precondition for sustainable development: compact occupations allow to reduce the built footprint, making it less scattered and affecting in a lesser extent the “natural” environment. In the same way, these occupations involve a greater proximity to services, more contact between people (social interaction) as well as they facilitate connectivity, etc. In this sense, the buildings should allow intense usage over time and therefore should be flexible to adapt to the changes that occur inside.

Density and compactness, however, are no guarantee of success per se; an excess of both can lead to serious problems.

Tags: land optimization, density, critical mass, diversity, flexibility, adaptability, use intensification, superposition, seclusion, reappropriation, regeneration,


03_Livability and living space

Matters relating to the quality, both physical and social, of dedicated spaces for the coexistence of different people. The living space ranges from the public space of the city to the common areas of a building. Its physical quality has to do with acoustic, lighting and thermal comfort, air cleanness, accessibility… Its social quality has to do with its ability to attract people and encourage interaction, contact and coexistence.

Increasing physical interactions between people in living spaces not only reduces the consumption of natural and energy resources, etc. (fewer car trips, fewer individual consumption at home…), it also promotes social cohesion (inclusion, justice, solidarity…). For this reason, it is not just a matter of increasing the number of these spaces but also their level of livability (social and physical quality).

Tags (physical quality): acoustic comfort, lighting comfort, thermal comfort, air quality, accessibility, sunlight, insulation, mitigation

(social quality): interaction, contact, coexistence, community space, community, public space, walkable city, pedestrianisation, vibrant, playgrounds, street life, livable places, Third Place


04_Mobility and services

Matters relating to the promotion of public transport systems as well as the pedestrian and bicycle network. Unlike the car, pedestrian traffic incorporates the possibility of stop, drift or occasional walk, allowing social interaction and encouraging urban livability (people attracts more people). Meanwhile, public transport systems not only allow a reduction of the space for private vehicles but, above all, encourage social interaction (as they are collective) and social inclusion (they can be used by all social classes, people of all ages and conditions, etc.). Furthermore, they enable access to remote services while mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.

On the other hand, transport systems involve the appearance of specific infrastructure: bike lanes, reserved platforms, park-bikes, park and ride areas…

Tags: public transportation, pedestrianisation, bike path, infrastructures, facilities, multi-polarized city, Transit Oriented Development (TOD), connectivity



Matters relating to the organization and exchange of information and knowledge through the establishment of patterns of proximity, simultaneity and mixture of different uses and functions. Unlike the city based on specialized districts according to uses (the modern “zoning”) and enabled by giant transport networks, the traditional Mediterranean city represents the concept of urban ecosystem: a compact and versatile model, which hybridizes multiple uses, optimizes its resources, fills the urban space with activity and diverse information and allows very different citizens to live together within a minimum footprint.

While the modern city resulted in a disproportionate increase of the cities’ built footprint, in the creation of monofunctional zones (therefore inhabited by the same people and, thus, excluding the “others”) or in the occurrence of true ghost areas at certain times of day or year, the complex Mediterranean city against this urban segregation, promotes the recovery of the street and the square (abolished by the Modern Movement and turned into parks and the green highway “dream”) as inclusive settings. In these places, human, non-human, nature, activity and resources coexist in the same space like an ecosystem in its own right.

Thus, the coexistence of multiple and different people in the same public or private space within a building or the urban context, not only promotes issues such as inclusion, solidarity, recognition of difference, tolerance, etc. by mere social interaction but also, and especially, encourages the exchange of knowledge and experience which has a positive impact on the development of collective intelligence, interdisciplinary, hybridizations, innovation, networking, etc.

Tags: @, collective intelligence, networking, innovative district, knowledge sharing, access to innovation, interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, hybridization, seclusion, open innovation, collaborative innovation, creative commons, creative synergy, co-vending, informal processes, distributed networks, Smart City, Smart Citizen, adaptive planning, coworking, open infrastructure, open culture, network design,


06_Green spaces and biodiversity

Matters relating to consolidation and increase of green spaces as well as to ensure biodiversity in urban areas.

The traditional city, understood as a physical entity alien to the reality where it is located, although it is compact, varied and diverse, is contrary to the idea of ecosystem in which humans and nonhumans share the same territory. The contemporary city and architecture, therefore, must join the natural system, trying not to alter the existing water systems, creating natural corridors, understanding the food production processes, where possible mitigating CO2 emissions and understanding, at the same time, the aesthetic and recreational function that the urban green incorporates into our cities. For this reason, we must recognize and “protect” all that nonhuman nature. This is a fundamental issue.

Similarly, the idea of green should be as comprehensive and ecosystemic as possible: ranging from beaches, riverbeds or trees in streets, squares and parks to the green roof of any building or pots in our balconies or urban gardens as well as our cities pigeons, our ports seagulls, etc.

Tags: biological connectivity, biodiversity, green roof, green wall, green network, wetland, park, garden, urban forest, urban agriculture, urban gardening, rurban, green space, soil permeability, permaculture



Matters relating to energy, water and waste management efficiency and self-sufficiency.

The city at all scales, as part of the natural systems, gets water, energy and resources from the environment. As a result of its urban metabolism, the city pours back into the system the process residues. Thus, it behaves like any other living organism, but its size, scale and complexity can easily unbalance any ecosystem.

It is studying how certain designs, actions or policies are able to turn our architectures into more efficient entities (achieving the same goals but consuming less resources at the same time), while limiting its negative effects on the system: reducing energy demand and consumption, mitigating the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere, reducing water consumption and promoting its reuse, reducing waste generation and improving its management, etc.

Tags: self-sufficiency, efficiency, mitigation, water, energy, materials, waste management, recycle, reduce, solar thermal, photovoltaic, biomass, geothermal, wind, closed-loop, gas emissions, water cycle, food systems, distribution networks, ecological footprint, monitoring, soil permeability, responsible consumption


08_Social Cohesion

Matters relating to the degree of coexistence between groups of people with different income, gender, cultures, ages and professions. This is promoted through designs, actions and policies that encourage integration, equitable redistribution of urban benefits and resources, social justice, solidarity, equality, inclusion, resilience, acceptance of the dispute or difference as a positive value, access to housing, the consolidation and creation of facilities, etc.

It is important to emphasize again that the promotion of these values must occur at all scales: from domestic space to the city. A more just, solidary and inclusive society builds a stronger, informed, aware, happy and involved society, ultimately more capable to develop itself in a more sustainable (and ecological) way and acting at the same time in a more powerful and effective way in each of the other 8 domains of reality.

Tags: integration, redistribution, social justice, solidarity, equality, inclusion, resilience, access to housing, equipments, facilities, service, dissent, protest, dialogue, reconciliation, co-housing, community, urban social startup, agonism, right to the city, gentrification


09_Management and Governance

Matters relating, on the one hand, to the optimization of urban reality management and, on the other hand, to the integration of all those agents involved in its transformation: from civil society as a whole to private entities.

Firstly, we refer to an improved coordination between public administrations and their organizational structures, centralization of services, efficiency in managing its resources, etc. Secondly, we refer to the necessary involvement of all actors involved in these processes through participation, consultation, etc. Among these agents, citizenship is a major force, so its education should be encouraged through information and awareness campaigns prior to their integration into participatory and decision making processes.

However, it is not only the Administration that can or should promote these processes but civil society itself who can or should seek its own empowerment and, therefore, require institutions the transparentization of all processes related to the urban environment in order to understand and decide on them.

Tags: co-responsibility, citizenship, governance, management of controversies, coordination, centralization, involvement, communication, awareness, participation, education, empowerment, cooperativism, activism, associativism, institutions, co-creation, prosumer, collective action, self-construction, negotiation, social networks, transparency, transparentization, representation, legislation, adhocracy, ATN (Actor-Network Theory), self-organization, citizen science, fourth sector (fourth wave), self-management, DIY, DIT, open education, social entrepreneurship, social emancipation, citizen initiatives, social innovation, mediation, the commons, collaborative social responsibility (CSR), supercycles, placemaking, bottom-up, middle out process, institutions, parliament, tactical urbanism, emergent urbanism, direct democracy, decision-making, TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone), alternative economy, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, BID (Building Improvement Districts), extitution, shareable city, P2P urbanism, P2P culture, open source, shared city, civic engagement, emerging citizenships, open data