Co-design process in Bucharest: interview with Venera Pavone, UNICT

e-SAFE partner Venera Pavone from UNICT is leading the co-design process in the two pilots in Timisoara and Bucharest. Last year, she organised a series of co-design workshops with students and teachers of Sports Banatul Highschool in Timisoara, the other e-SAFE pilot. The outcomes of this process was unveiled during a public event in March 2023.  

This year, she set foot in Bucharest, to meet with the residents of a multi-family apartment building, and to discuss renovation plans that will make the building more energy efficient and seismic-proof.

Can you briefly explain the specificity of the pilot building in Bucharest within the e-SAFE project?

The Bucharest pilot is a multi-storey building located in Sector 5, a peripherical area of the city.  The co-design process involved the building residents and officials from AMCCRS, the local Municipal Administration for the Consolidation of Buildings at Seismic Risk that applied for the building as virtual pilot. The context and the type of building are very similar to the Catania pilot.

How are you involving the residents during the decision-making process?

Residents are integral stakeholders in the decision-making process. We engage them in different ways, such as focus groups and community meetings. During the meetings, the facilitators used physical and digital models of the building to assist participants in making informed decisions. Their input helps shape key decisions regarding the design and implementation of energy-saving measures, ensuring that the solutions align with their needs and preferences.

Another co-design process was put in place for the e-SAFE Timisoara pilot. How is the co-design process in Bucharest different? Does working with different end-users (students and residents of a multi-family apartment building) influence the process?

In Timisoara, the co-design process involves engaging with high school students and professors, who have very different levels of knowledge regarding energy-saving solutions and building renovations. Their perspectives are influenced by their age, education level, and personal experiences. On the other hand, in Bucharest, the co-design process includes residents of a multi-family apartment building, consisting of families, individuals, or elderly residents with diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. The stakeholder dynamics in each location differ. In Timisoara, the involvement of high school students necessitates additional support and guidance to ensure their meaningful participation in the co-design process. Conversely, the residents in Bucharest have more direct stakes in the outcomes of the renovation project, as they live in the building and may be more directly impacted by the proposed changes. High school students in Timisoara bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the co-design process, driven by their creativity and enthusiasm. Their priorities revolve around environmental sustainability, technology integration, and creating vibrant communal spaces. Conversely, residents in Bucharest prioritize factors such as comfort, safety, affordability, and considerations related to family dynamics and daily living routines. The level of involvement of stakeholders varies between Timisoara and Bucharest. In Timisoara, high school students participate in workshops, brainstorming sessions, and hands-on activities to co-create solutions for their school environment. In Bucharest, residents engage in community meetings and consultations to provide input on proposed renovations and energy-saving measures for their apartment building. Overall, while both co-design processes share the common goal of fostering collaboration and inclusivity, the differences in demographics, stakeholder dynamics, perspectives, and project scope between Timisoara and Bucharest necessitate tailored approaches to effectively engage and involve stakeholders in the decision-making process.

What were you hoping to achieve after this co-design meeting with the residents? Was there any challenge you encountered during the meeting? 

Our primary objective after the co-design meeting with the residents was to gather valuable insights and feedback that would inform the development of energy-efficient solutions tailored to their needs and preferences. We aimed to foster a collaborative atmosphere where residents felt empowered to voice their opinions and contribute to the decision-making process. During the meeting, one of the challenges we encountered was ensuring effective communication and engagement among all participants. Some residents may have been hesitant to express their views, while others may have had conflicting priorities or concerns. Additionally, facilitating discussions among diverse groups with varying levels of expertise and perspectives required careful navigation to ensure that everyone felt heard and respected. However, through active facilitation and an emphasis on inclusivity, we were able to address these challenges and ultimately foster productive dialogue that contributed to our shared goals.

What are the next steps?

Following the co-design meeting, we hope to collaborate with AMCCRS, residents and other stakeholders throughout the implementation phase to ensure the successful realization of the project objectives.

Any key messages you would like to share about e-SAFE and the importance of using a participatory approach for renovation?

e-SAFE emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and community engagement in the renovation process. By involving residents and stakeholders from the outset, we can harness collective expertise and insights to create solutions that truly respond to local needs and aspirations. This participatory approach not only enhances the effectiveness of renovation initiatives but also fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment within the community.

Learn more about the Bucharest pilot and stay tuned for more updates!

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