Bilbao-Boluet: High-Standard, Low-Energy Housing

Bilbao, Spain Construction and Development, Environment and Resource efficiency


The Bilbao-Bolueta urban regeneration project seeks to repurpose unused industrial land on the outskirts of Bilbao for the collective benefit of society. In the process, VISESA has managed to build the highest-certified Passive House building in the world.


Bolueta is well-connected to the city of Bilbao, but in a state of environmental degradation and abandonment. The intervention in Bolueta is a strategic operation of urban regeneration aimed at recovering contaminated industrial land in disuse for the benefit of society. This operation combines the intrinsic value of developing protected housing with the environmental recovery of soil, and it is presented as an opportunity to adapt the residential and productive facilities and the pre-existing economic activities. All this is carried out in a context of promoting citizen participation in decision-making.

Issues tackled

The solution proposes the integration of this territory into the urban, social and environmental fabric of Bilbao by utilising the river as a central element for the rescue and enhancement of the natural landscape. The renovated space supports a social public housing programme, which triples the minimum reserves provided by the regulations (608 out of the total 1100 homes built are social public housing). Furthermore, it answers citizens’ demands for decent and affordable housing and contributes to social cohesion. The public housing building project emphasises four fundamentals: energy-saving, high acoustic and thermal comfort, indoor air quality and the use of natural and healthy building materials.

The economic viability of the project is supported by a private sector contribution responsible for building (40% of the building, which would then go on to the private market). The investment made for the purchase of land, decontamination and urbanisation was split between public and private actors. VISESA contributed 30%, Neinor Barria, S.A. 67% and the Bilbao City Council the remaining 3%.

Actors involved

  • Bilbao City Council
  • Neinor Barria, S.A.


The main positive impact for the community has been the provision of 1100 new homes for citizens. Of these 1100 homes, 608 homes will be social public housing in order to meet the needs of the groups with greater difficulties accessing decent quality housing. The residential development has also generated public space, which is enriched with totally interconnected stay, walk and game elements; 25,386.38m2 of stay and coexistence pedestrian areas have been created along the riverside promenade that gives continuity to the river corridor. The proposed design has significantly improved all accessibility, mobility, comfort and air quality conditions,
flooding risk, urban complexity, social cohesion, the efficiency of urban services, green spaces and biodiversity. The social public housing has been developed to meet the Passive House quality standard, and has been certified to be the highest building in the world to do so, which was recognised at the 22nd International Passive House Conference in 2018. The project has thus generated national and international interest, leading to visits from international delegations from countries like India, Canada and Colombia, and national visits from 800 professionals interested in learning from the Bolueta experience.


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