Smart Post-Industrial Regenerative Ecosystem

Edited on 09/01/2024

Project proposal by

  • Institution : Municipality of Baia Mare
  • City : Baia Mare
  • Country : Romania
  • Type of region : Less developed
  • Population : 123 738

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SPIRE proposed a revolutionary approach for reusing heavy metal-polluted land, which was demonstrated in the city of Baia Mare (Romania), using plants and returning the land to the community. The project team tested and implemented nature-based solutions, involving several successive plantings to find the optimal formula for using plants. The resulting biomass was used to improve the energy performance of an educational institution.


SPIRE stimulated the evolution of the local economy by means of new companies using bio-based materials for innovative construction products and materials; and initiated ‘living laboratories’, co-designed with the community, through workshops in the Innovation Hub in Casa Schreiber.


Citizens were also involved in vitalised sustainable local entrepreneurship through iLEU - a virtual system of rewards intended to encourage behaviours oriented towards sustainable development in the city and to support citizen commitment to the project and, further, for various benefits and discounts at the level local. The wider aim was to change peoples’ behaviour against pollution. Finally, the project team developed a long-term master plan for the Baia Mare Metropolitan Area aimed at recovering polluted lands, reusing them, and expanding the bioeconomy of the city.



What SOLUTIONS did the Urban Innovative Action project offer?


The project applied phytoremediation techniques to contaminated land (to remove heavy metal pollution from urban soil), generated inclusive land-use participatory management (e.g. co-design participatory processes with students), changing behaviours by increasing awareness, knowledge and capacity building towards an eco-friendly culture, helping to recover the city's health and trust in authorities, and created new local bio-based value chains developed on new green business models (a master plan to create a new 2050 urban reality).


The project’s approaches were mapped and monitored through a GIS smart system to show the benefits of the process to the city’s inhabitants. Based on the results of the measurements of the soil contamination, the project team developed a phytoremediation calculator to estimate when the soils reach normal levels for contaminants.


What DIFFERENCE has it made at local level?


SPIRE introduced a pioneering approach encompassing three core elements: i) phytoremediation to combat heavy metal pollution, ii) an environmental token system that rewards pro-environmental actions and supports eco-initiatives, and iii) biomass upscaling to address energy challenges through sustainable utilisation of green waste. These solutions were collaboratively designed, developed, and rigorously tested. The project's primary objective was to demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of eco-solutions within post-industrial regions grappling with heavy metal contamination and the imperative for economic revitalisation. 


Two key project achievements were planting 7 hectares of land to assess the phytoremediation potential of a specialised plant selection, together with citizens’ environmental behaviour shifts, such as through the “Donate your Christmas Tree” initiative (citizens taking fir trees to established collection points for them to be transformed into biomass).  

What PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES have been put in place for the project?


Youth and creative citizens were mobilised and empowered through the SPIRE Makerspace, which served as a creative hub designed to provide citizens with tools, knowledge, and support for engaging in eco-initiatives. The school gym was retrofitted to include a biomass heating installation during the winter, with biomass sourced from municipal green waste and, soon, with biomass harvested from the 7 ha of planted land used for phytoremediation. 



SPIRE combines cross-sectoral spheres with Baia Mare Municipality as the lead partner. Six more change agents share responsibilities, from academicians such as the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj-Napoca (USAMV), which deals with contamination and remediation plants, or public authorities such as the Baia Mare Metropolitan Area, which secures the long-term 2050 project strategy; to private enterprises, such as Green Energy or ARIES Transylvania, who deal with the SPIRE mentoring programme, bio-based models, and the communication activities of the project. SMEs such as Urbasofia (Urban policy, planning and design), and Indeco Soft (IT) underpin the knowledge of participatory urban planning and software development to create and implement the iGIS, iLEU, and Maker Space platforms. Doctors, experts in environmental health and international urban advisors provided by the European Commission, accompany the project process. 

How does the project tackle different aspects with an INTEGRATED APPROACH?


The SPIRE project followed the triple bottom line at the nexus of environmental, societal and economic matters.  


Society: i) urban health improvement due to soil remediation; ii) awareness, knowledge and capacity building related to sustainability; iii) citizens' environmental behaviour shifts towards an eco-friendly culture.  


Environment: i) 7.15 ha of polluted land reclaimed for public use; ii) urban landscape co-design and co-production through phytoremediation techniques; iii) urban system re-naturalisation and re-connection strategy. 


Economy: i) underused local resources stimulation; ii) bio-based products and business models; iii) bio-based energy supply to reduce the overall GHG emissions in Baia Mare.

Why should other European cities use the solution the project explored?


Pollution is one of the most significant environmental challenges worldwide and SPIRE phytoremediation techniques tested in Baia Mare have great potential for scalability and marketability. In particular: 



- A GIS Dynamic Atlas platform developed to track phytoremediation progress and the status of plants at the pilot sites. 



- A Conceptual Adaptive Site Management Application (CASMA) designed to score the proposed remediation options according to different measurements: local fit, phytoremediation capacity, life-cycle duration, the timing of the first harvest, time horizons, biomass produced and applications; value chains / cascading use, landscaping qualities and cost.  



- A remediation toolkit guided by CASMA that provides a specialist catalogue based on soil remediation capacity per planting cycle, biomass harvest cycle, the cost-effectiveness of soil preparation and plantation, primary and secondary potential applications, and cascading uses, as well as a set of design options.