Bilbao’s major urban regeneration project will turn a formerly industrial and contaminated peninsula into a carbon-neutral island, safe from flooding.

Zorrotzaurre is an artificial peninsula in the city of Bilbao that sits between the Nervión river and a man-made canal. By extending the canal to rejoin the river, the city will create an island complete with affordable housing, environmentally friendly industry, and carbon-neutral transportation. Regional climate models forecast a 10% increase in precipitation for Bilbao, so developers had to consider flood prevention for the new island. This will be achieved by elevating the ground by 1.5 meters, creating flood protection barriers, and providing stormwater tanks. The act of opening the Deusto Canal to create the island will also form a natural flood defense by allowing more space for the river during heavy precipitation events. The planned flood-protection measures for the future 15,000 residents are thought to be able to withstand a 1-in-500 year flood event.

Plans call for Zorrotzaurre to become a carbon-neutral island with 100% electric public transportation, infrastructure prioritizing pedestrians and bicycles, zero building emissions enabled by geothermal heating and cooling, and a goal to obtain all electricity from renewable resources. Any emissions stemming from transportation to and from the island and from water management will be neutralized with afforestation elsewhere.

839,000 m2 of land recovered for the city, creating a new district

The challenge

Having experienced both social and industrial decline since the 1970s, Bilbao’s former industrial port, Zorrotzaurre, has become a depleted area abandoned by industry, with contaminated soil, and scarcely 500 residents left. Due to the area’s low-lying topography surrounded by the Bilbao River and the Deusto Canal, Zorrotzaurre is at risk from rising sea levels.


Economic Construction of the island will create approximately 5,000 jobs, and the planned Urban Technology Park will create up to 6,000 jobs.

Environmental As a result of the industrial activity, some of the peninsula’s soils are contaminated. To avoid any risk to residents’ health and to prevent landscape degradation, 300,000 m2 of polluted land will be cleaned.

Social The island will have major walkways on both sides of the bank and a 40,000 m2 central park for the island’s residents.

About Bilbao

Bilbao is a city in northern Spain, the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the Basque Country as a whole. Bilbao is the tenth largest city in Spain. Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain, some 16 kilometres (10 mi) south of the Bay of Biscay, where the economic social development is located, where the estuary of Bilbao is formed. Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalisation process, started by the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum.

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