Isla de la Cartuja Seville: The technology park that succeeded Expo 92 becomes a laboratory for the city of the future | Technology
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The worst part of a party is the day after. Expo 92 was a celebration and what to do with the venue that hosted it, the Isla de la Cartuja in Seville, was already on the table on days like today 30 years ago, just over a month after its closure: create a park urban technological and scientific. The recession forced the project to be resized every day. “A certain image of pessimism was generated, of the dandelion growing in the plots of the pavilions”, admits the now director of the Cartuja Science and Technology Park (PCT), Luis Pérez. However, despite the difficulties and more slowly than expected, the plan was consolidated and today it is a practically fully occupied complex that receives more than 30,000 people daily and generates 2% of Andalusia’s GDP. Stubborn history insists on repeating itself and, once again, the crisis appears in this space —as well as in the rest of the world— when it insists on being a window to the future. Three decades after the Expo, the Cartuja is the laboratory of the city of the future: self-sufficient in energy, scientific, technological, university, sustainable, restricted to traffic, with autonomous distribution systems and, to top it off, the Q test benchanath, an outdoor air conditioner inspired by the hydrogeological systems of the Middle East 2,000 years ago and capable of lowering the ambient temperature by 10 degrees. It opens next October.
Pérez sums up the last seven decades: “The initial challenge was to transform the island of La Cartuja, which was nothing more than an orchard and a monastery, into Expo 92, which was truly crazy, the great festival of Spain. Then, convert all the assets into a space for innovation and technology to try to change part of the Andalusian economy based on three axes: the university, business and science and technology. We are now in a sweet moment: we are running out of space and new buildings are planned on the few available parcels. Once the park is filled and we see that the ecosystem works, we have to think about where we want to go and there we began to design three years ago the transformation of the island of La Cartuja into the city of the future”. The investment is around 100 million euros.
It is an urban laboratory, baptized as eCity Seville, in a unique technology park because it is a 10-minute walk from the city center, but without homes and surrounded by a river and a dock that make up a perfect test tube. “This scenario avoids the resistance to changes typical of a residential city”, explains the director of the PCT.
The essay, which has an atypical harmony of the administrations involved, of different political signs, has begun. The first challenge is to manage the 27,887 daily trips. “In a flexible and progressive way”, as announced by the municipal delegate of the Interior, Juan Carlos Cabrera, Cartuja will have two low-emission areas next year in which neither gasoline vehicles registered before 2000 nor diesel vehicles prior to 2006 will be allowed to circulate. The mayor, Antonio Muñoz, adds the reinforcement of the public transport system, shuttles and bike lanes. This will have to make up for the absence of a metro line and the frustrated commuter train stop.
The key to this plan is the dissuasive car park with more than 10,000 spaces in the area (the majority reusing the Expo car park) which will also constitute a huge photovoltaic plant with the aim of making the island self-sufficient and free of emissions in 2025, five years before the horizon foreseen by the EU.
The electricity company Endesa will invest 30 million euros so that all the energy consumed in the park comes from local renewable sources. The PCT needs 50 megawatt hours per year. Companies established with self-generation and efficient building formulas will join this project. “We have an active plan, with the support of the Junta de Andalucía and led by the Energy Agency, to reduce the consumption of all the current buildings in the park by at least 35%”, explains Luis Pérez. “And of course”, he adds, “new buildings have to have specific characteristics of sustainability and efficiency”.
One of these examples, as highlighted by the mayor of the city, will be the Seville Joint Research Center [JRC, por sus siglas en inglés], “inspired by the principles of the New European Bauhaus and that seeks to be a benchmark in sustainability, being self-sufficient in energy, and innovation”. “This promotes the presence of the European Commission in our city and, at the same time, the research work that is carried out here,” adds Antonio Muñoz.
The entire network will be monitored through a large digital technology platform that will manage energy in solidarity (delivering surpluses to infrastructures that do not generate) and mobility.
“The objective”, concludes Luis Pérez, “is that eCity be a vivid and clear showcase, where PCT companies can teach this technology to other clients, and that what is achieved in Cartuja as a laboratory is perfectly applicable to the rest of the city of Seville and any other city in the world”.
An outdoor air conditioner
Of all the projects, one of the most unique will start, as planned, this October. It is about the reuse of the bioclimatic systems of the Expo to readapt them in a new plan, called Qanat Charterhouse and financed by the Urban Innovation Action program of the EU (80%) and promoted by the local water company (Emasesa), the Urban Planning Management and the Employment area of the City Council, the CSIC, the University of Seville, the PCT Cartuja and Innovarcilla. This alliance has invested five million euros for the project, of which 3.5 have been allocated to works.
The plan is inspired by the hydrogeological systems of the Middle East and plans to lower the temperature of a multipurpose space of just over 700 square meters in the heart of the island by up to 10 degrees in the height of summer.
Juan Luis López, technical supervisor of Qanat on behalf of Emasesa, explains that the “soul of the project” is a space called Zoco. The system has water tanks, canals (Qanat) and covered and semi-underground spaces to combat the sun.
López makes an effort to simplify the model to explain it: “The tanks store water that we are going to cool to take it to the channels where, through a series of tubes, we circulate air from the outside, which cools in contact with the water and injects a temperature much lower than that of space.
To cool the water, it is sprayed at night and, through this process, loses heat. In addition, the roof of the Souk incorporates a series of photovoltaic panels that provide energy during the day and, at night, provide a flat surface on which water is poured again in a very thin sheet that, by radiation, cools. It is basically the operation of an air conditioner, but the cooling method is natural. There is an additional temperature control system similar to a radiator or underfloor heating, but instead of being located under the feet, it is located in the ceiling.
Other barriers are architectural, such as the orientation towards the prevailing winds for the entry of air, and thermal, which work from water micro-diffusers. The entire system is powered by energy generated in the same space.
The important thing about this project is that it is a test that aspires to be replicated in the rest of the city. “What we want is to combat the temperature increases due to climate change and that the citizen can recover the street a little with solutions adapted to each specific space,” says López.