Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Barcelona: sustainable city management

Aim: to create an urban environment that provides the best quality of life possible for present and future citizens.

Noise and Air Pollution
 Causes of pollution Sustainable Strategies
• Traffic noise and air pollution

Pedestrianisation schemes

Pedestrian Priority Areas in Central Barcelona - click to enlarge

Selective vehicle access control reduces traffic entering central shopping zones. Access is provided for delivery services only.

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Vehicle management signs (VMS) reduce the amount of search-parking


Street loading/unloading improvements reduce illegal and double parking by delivery services

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Cycle lanes and cycle parking

The covering of the Ronda de Mig Ring road. This is the longest urban tunnel in Europe (2.2 kilometres of new covered ring road), constructed to protect nearby residents from air and noise pollution.

Bus lanes, with junction priority


• Modern metro system. There are five mainly radial lines, with a further line (Line 9) proposed to cross the northern suburbs.


• Modern intercity and inter-regional rail services. A new High-Speed Train (AVE) line is also being constructed.

• New tramway: 16 km Diagonal-Baix Llobregat tramway, linking the city centre with the north-western suburbs

• Park and ride schemes at outlying rail stations.

• Integrated fares and ticketing: structure based on zones and sectors covering the whole of the metropolitan area, provide an average discount of 17% per journey.

• New noise-reducing road surfaces

• Ronda de Dalt and Ronda Littoral outer ring roads provide a bypass for through-traffic and reduce cross-city journeys


• Gas-fired heating systems also cause air pollution




• Solar panels. All new buildings are obliged by law to include solar panels for the production of domestic hot water. Solar panels will also be added to new schools, hospitals, sports halls and other buildings that use more than 2,000 litres of water per day. Although these additions on average increase the price of buildings by 1%, this additional cost would be paid off within five years as a result of reduced energy demands

• Tourism

Tourists frequently stay late into the night playing music in the squares. the Old Town (Ciutat Vella) is particularly badly affected


• Police take responsibility for controlling anti social behaviour - from litter and noise to dog excreta.
Land-based Pollution
 Causes Sustainable Strategies
• Factory closures 

• Soil pollution from toxic waste

Reuse of brownfield sites with mixed developments: new parks (Diagonal Mar), residential areas (Olympic Village), service industries (22@ High-Tech zone) etc..

Development of parks on old industrial river-side land sites (Besòs riverside park)


• Domestic waste

Street waste storage bins are a characteristic of Barcelona streets. The most densely populated districts often have refuse spilling from the bins onto the streets. The inhabitants of Barcelona are producing larger and larger amounts of waste materials


Pneumatic refuse collection system. New street developments are equipped with modern service galleries which include a pneumatic refuse collection system. This eliminates all the inconvenience associated with the classical systems, as well as the encumbrance of bins and skips on the public thoroughfare and the impact of night time collection.

Along the same lines new dwellings and commercial premises are fitted with a pneumatic refuse collection system that enables residents to dispose of their refuse on the landings of their apartment blocks.

Recycling. A rubbish selective collection system has been running in Barcelona for some time: a system based on the existence of specific rubbish dumps to be used by the citizens on a voluntary basis - also known as "Punts Brossa Neta" (Clean Rubbish Spots), -each of which is comprised of three igloo-shaped rubbish containers in three different colours : green for glass, blue for paper and cardboard, and yellow for lightweight packaging


• Sewer system's capacity can be surpassed when there is torrential rain Flood impact prevention: retention tanks

Barcelona has a series of underground retention tanks built to prevent discharges of untreated wastewater from the sewers.

These include:

  • The Viladomat tank (35,000 m³ capacity)
  • The Zona Universitària tank (145,000 m³ capacity)
  • The Bori i Fontestà tank (93,000 m3 capacity m³)

Location of regulating tanks