Urumea Riverside; Nearly zero emissions district: branding in sustainability
Organisation : Fomento San Sebastián , Spain

The European REPLICATE project aims to develop and validate a sustainable city business model in the lighthouse cities (pilot) of San Sebastian, Florence and Bristol, to improve the transition process towards a SmartCity in the fields of energy efficiency, sustainable mobility and ICTs/Infrastructures, accelerating the deployment of innovative technologies, increasing the quality of life of the citizens, and influencing the replication process.  In the case of San Sebastián, Urumea Riverside has been selected to be turned into a smart district with nearly zero emissions and is set to become a sustainability brand.

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationUrban mobilityWater resources and air quality
Climate changePublic spaceHousing
Social inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Support open data standards

The district covers three sites, with a surface area of around 200 hectares: residential area (Txomin neighbourhood), Industrial Park (Polígono 27, which has a capacity for 350 companies with 4,500 people) and a natural park (Ametzagaina, carbon reserve). The River Urumea crosses the district acting as the main axis of the district, which also represents a barrier, as well as being the cause of the area’s flooding problems. This area was urbanised during the first half of the 20th century, with low energy efficiency buildings, whereby it has connection problems with the city centre and is at risk of social exclusion.  

To address those problems, San Sebastian City Council defined a special Urban Plan for the regeneration of the district in 2008 and a Smart City Plan with a strategic line with shared targets, which has resulted in an Action Plan, 2016-2020, coordinated through Fomento de San Sebastián.

In Action

The project began on 1 February 2016 and has a duration of five years divided into two phases: the first phase, corresponding to the implementations, covers the first three years of the project, whilst the second phase corresponds to the monitoring of the actions implemented, which will last a further two years.  

The transition process of the district is enhanced in three areas:
Energy Efficiency -  156 homes and 34 commercial establishments are being retroffited. The scope of the intervention covers the rehabilitation of the façades, windows and roofs. These homes are also connected to the neighbourhood’s centralised heating and hot water system (District Heating). The new District Heating power station, which is owned by Fomento de San Sebastian, will supply over 1,500 new homes in the neighbourhood. Also a demand management platform is being developed which will enable users (residents of the monitored homes) to find out their energy consumption in real time, in order to increase their efficiency and foster citizen awareness in energy sustainability.  

Sustainable mobility - Two electric buses have been acquired which, along with a further two hybrid buses already in operation, cover the bus line that links the Vega del Urumea district with the city centre. The city has a new fleet of four 100% electric vehicles for the city’s municipal service and 6 electric motorbikes have been acquired for traffic agents, which are being monitored in order to improve their management and evaluate the impact on the city at an environmental level. In the private sector, the acquisition of electric vehicles is being promoted for taxi drivers and distribution fleets as well as for private individuals.  A mobility platform is being developed, allowing municipal management to be improved and integrating different services deployed, such as traffic light management, information on car parks, deployment of municipal bicycles, etc. enabling the visualisation of graphs and indicators.

ICTS and Infrastructures – District´s (and city’s) high-speed mobile wireless network has been improved, hence optimising the service. In the industrial area, diverse IP services and smart public lighting have been deployed and are being monitored.
A Smart City Platform has been developed, integrating the different systems that are being deployed. This platform will enable part of this information to be published in Open Data, fostering transparency in municipal management.  Also, an online Citizen Participation platform is  deployed that improves the management of the participative processes for the citizens.


San Sebastian Smart Plan has involved close to 200 agents and has established a strategic line with shared targets for the period 2016-2020 whereby the city can effectively and in a planned way implement its development projects within the urban environment using an integrative and Smart approach. Furthermore, the implementations under REPLICATE project, are helping in the transition process of the district to a smart district. Specifically:

- Energy efficiency actions will contribute to several environmental benefits as the reduction of 35% in primary energy consumption, being over 90% of this energy renewable and it is expected to reduce by 85% CO2 emissions. On top of that, the Demand Side Platform will monitor the residents consumption fostering sustainable behaviour.

- Actions directed towards the promotion of electric mobility in the private and public sector aims to have a substantial change in overall, from the combustion vehicles to clean vehicles. The electric buses are pioneers worldwide, making an intensive use of them. In overall and up to this month, 193,22 t C02  emissions have been avoided.

- The actions related to the improvement of ICTs and Infrastructures, will contribute to the improvement of the overall city council management and foster transparency in municipal management. Also, the improvements done in public smart lighting and connectivity network, will help to the overall improvement of the quality of life of the citizens.  

All the solutions implemented and the business models generated are being analysed and monitored for their scalability potential within the city, as well as their replicability in the fellow cities and other European cities.
Finally, all these initiatives and results are being handled by local private and public  companies, hence the projects permits to foster local economic development and promotion of innovation within the city. 


The development of a planned integrated strategy is helping to turn Urumea Riverside into a smart district with nearly zero emissions, becoming a sustainability district brand.  
Furthermore, other initiatives have also been carried out in the district, pursuing the neighbourhood positioning strategy.  For example, Fomento de San Sebastián built a nearly zero emmision building, called Enertic  on the Industrial Park, as an icon of the transformation of the economic activity. The bioclimatic building was constructed as a business and innovation concentrator for the sectorial promotion of companies in the smart field. These actions are enabling the district to position itself as a smart district with nearly zero emissions and are considered as a baseline for future actions.
Future actions will be handled taken into account the neighbourhoods and commercial businesses needs and a participative process will be launch, seeking a major integration with the real needs of the citizens. All those actions will be directed to the improvement of the neighbourhood and the industrial area and will enable a sustainable transformation of Urumea Riverside into a Smart district, serving as a reference for scalability in other areas of the city. 

Challenges and lessons learned

The establishment and following up of integrated strategy plan is essential for the adequate development of the SmartCity and the project itself, addressing efficiently all the stages to achieve the pursued transformation.
At the same time, local public and private sectors, different stakeholders and citizens involvement and encouragement from the beginning to the end of the transformative action also is crucial to guarantee a successful and a sustainable output. This sustainable output goes beyond the project and will serve as a validated model for scalability.



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
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