When a property is nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site, automatically, it becomes in an attractive point for the touristic sector. The great challenge is to create a balance between the conservation of the property and the exploitation-management of the same, with the goal to respect and to improve the social, economic and cultural status of the communities that are “the owner” of these outstanding properties (sustainable development).

The three pillars of Sustainability are: Environment, Economic and Equity.​ Consequentially, an efficient sustainable management plan must present strategies focused in these three points. 



First a clarification: the visitor facilities in this project are intended as the site itself, the Interpretation Center with shop and the surrounding (buffer) zones, but also a full gastro-point and a hospitality facility of 30 hostel rooms and a small camping area.

Nevertheless the most interesting part of the project is an “unusual” part: a modern bath-spa, intended as a prolongation of the Thermae Romanae (= beginning of the experience) passing through the Baths’ Interpretation Center (intermediate phase of the experience), finishing eventually with a session in the modern bath (completion of the experience). The idea is to offer a full space-temporal experience to the visitors using the modern baths as an original attraction to give “life” to a small archeological site that otherwise will struggle to “survive” on its own. Indeed the whole project considers and applies the concepts of sustainability from different perspectives: culture, energy, environment, leisure, sustainable tourism, corporate responsibility and wellness. 

The property considered by this project is an archeological site from II a.c century located in the province of Tarragona (Spain) very close the Archeological Ensemble of Tarraco (nominated WH in 2000 under the criteria (ii) and (iii) because this site was one of the principal administrative and mercantile cities in the roman province called Hispania Citerior)

The site is composed by the rest of an important Roman bath declared National Monument by the Ministry of Culture of the Spanish Government. This ancient site has an area of 450m², divided in: atrium, palestra (gym), tabernae (shops), caldarium (hot water), frigidarium (cold water), tepidarium (warm water), apodyterium (locker room), sudatorium (moist steam bath) and laconium (dry steam bath). 

The property is sited about 5 km from the city, in an outstanding natural area of Mediterranean forest, in the middle of a valley, reachable in the last tract by unpaved road and surrounded by traditional crops and mountains. In the compound, there is a pond where an important number of migratory birds. All these features transform this place in a great example of cultural landscape, where natural and cultural aspects are connected.

The project: to revitalize the economic sector of this area, the local government, (owner of the property), joins with privates enterprises dedicated to touristic services, and dedicated NGOs have developed a reduced and regulated touristic complex divided in diverse areas: the monument area itself, an interpretation center about the transformation and importance of baths in history, a modern roman bath, a rock-o-drome with view-point, an hostel with ancient roman decoration, a resting area, an ancient Rome-inspired thematic restaurant, a local handicraft shop, and two parking areas (one with camping facilities).

The main goal is that the complex will be self-sustaining, for this reason, they have developed different strategies to create energy using green energy sources (solar panels, wind turbines, biomass and biogas from compost). They use diverse construction techniques and a mix of traditional and modern materials to take advantage of the energy saving techniques: glass building, double glazing in windows and doors, glass-building, ecological wood, local stone, natural ventilation and heating methods.

All buildings of this touristic complex are certified  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) a green building certification program develops by US Green Building Council that includes a set of rating system for the design, construction, operation and maintenance. 



One asphalted road connects the touristic complex with the nearby city. On both sides of the road there are two large (one covered) parking areas. The parking is divided in two spaces, on the left is prepared for electric cars, campers, motorbikes, bikes and rest area for tents. In this area there are 20 chargers for electric cars (maximum 10) and supplies facilities for the RVs and campers (maximum 10). In this parking there is a garden area with a small “forest” that is prepared to allow camping for 20 tents. The trees and flowers of the nearby space are native of the region (fir tree, larix, yew, hedge maple, maidenhair fern, agrimony alkanet and rosy garlic). The parking located on the right on the road is used only for visitors’ vehicles (cars, touristic buses and city bus service).

The electricity is provided by 8 concentric revolving double helices wind turbines that are installed in the complex. These have small dimensions in order to avoid visual contamination and are silent to avoid noise pollution.

The parking has capacity for 100 cars, 4 touristic buses, 30 motorbikes; the camping area has capacity for 20 tents, 10 RVs and 30 bikes. Up to 10 electric cars and bikes at the same time can recharge at the connected pods. There is 1 stop-area for public buses and taxis.

To facilitate transportation and to reduce traffic in this natural area, the city council offers a bus with 4 trips a day (2 round trips); this bus uses biogas (low emission vehicles). 

Sustainable strategies applied in this area: 

-for staff this is the harshest job (due to weather) so shifts are only 4 hours long

-there are no paper-tickets, only blue-led stamps readable by light on the windshield

-recycling bins at entrance with points redeemable in the restaurant

-gravel and sand revitalized in the nearby creek once a month



The arboretum is a space of five hectares; an example of Mediterranean forest with deciduous, typical of the region of Catalonia, with principal species as poplars, ashes and elms, in addition, there are species introduced by man as banana tree and robinia.  In the undergrowth there are vinca, rosemary and heather and flowers as Orchis Spitzelli and Micronemum Coralloide (protected species).


In the adjacent valley there are local traditional crops such as olives trees, pear trees, apple trees orange trees, vines, almonds, figs, garbanzos, asparagus, etc, and in the nearby low-mountains range is possible to find a great variety of autochthonous fauna, for example:

-Birds: pigeon, turtledove, stork, heron, different ducks and predatory birds like owl

-Mammals: fox, wild boar and deer

-Rodents: squirrels, rats and hares

In the left side of the area, there is the pond. It has an area of 600 m² and a maximum depth of 10 meters (an average of 5 meters). This space is a small ecosystem where an important number of birds live and nest, especially the white-headed duck. Besides, this small pond is a rest point for the migratory birds such as herons, ducks and gooses. The aquatic fauna is composed of carps, red carps, saboga and goat fishes. In this pond, live amphibian (frogs, salamanders), rodents (squirrels, rats, rabbits), many species of reptiles, insects and small birds. 

The arboretum and the pond, can be visited using the footpath and the observation desks and they can realize different activities as routes, trekking, bird watching, falconry (in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO) and kites flying. These activities are directed by guides specialized (postgraduate level) in Biology and Zoology, a part of this duty, the guides are in charge of the conservation and the protection of the natural area of the complex. 



The climbing wall has places to attach the ropes, but it may also be used to practice free climbing or bouldering. Each of the holes contains a specially formed t-nut piece to allow modular climbing holds to be screwed directly onto the wall. 

The rock-o-drome, with 30 meters of height, presents three different levels of climbing differentiated by colors (orange=low; green=medium and purple=high). The responsible person experience is a sport instructor with license to teach climbing (is also in charge of the trekking, mountain bikes, falconry and kites flying experiences).


The Viewpoint reachable by stairs is located in top of the rock and from here is possible to watch the archeological site, the far away mountains, the valley’s crops plantation and the city opposite. It is a fantastic place to take photographs and videos (also other cultural activities such as landscape painting). 



The roman baths or Thermae were a public bath built around three principal rooms: caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium. These were used by men and by women. Most roman cities had at least one or many such buildings, which were centers for bathing, but also meeting-places to socialize. The thermae were supplied with water from an adjacent river by an aqueduct. The thermae had many facilities in addition to the baths; there were barber shop, palestra (gym), libraries, rooms for poetry readings, and places to buy and to eat food and wines.

The water was heated by a log fire before being channeled into the hot bathing rooms.The system used to heat the site was called hypocaustum. It was a system of central heating in a building that produced and circulated hot air below the floor of a room, and may also warm the walls with a series of pipes through which the hot air passes. 

This archeological site is divided in the following rooms:

-Atrium, an open court

-Apodyterium, a room for undressing in which clothing were taken in charge by slaves.

-Frigidarium,apool and a host of smaller baths connected to the main room. The frigidarium was used mainly as a swimming pool or a cold-water bath. 

-Caldarium, the hottest room in the regular sequence of bathing. 

-Tepidarium was the warm bathroom with constant radiant heat from the walls and floor.

-Sudatorium was a vaulted humid sweating-room.

-Laconicum was the dry sweating room.

-Palestra was the area to practice physical exercises

-Tabernae was the space dedicated to buy food and wines

A part of these there were other spaces as library, sitting rooms, etc. This thermae was richly decorated, with paintings in the walls, mosaics that represented legend in the floor, columns of marble, sculptures, and all kind of amenities.

An example of the structure of a roman thermae is the following:









This area could be visited for maximum 30 visitors in each “shift” to not overexploit the ruins. The visit is directed by footpaths, small bridges and banisters to protect the mosaics and the archeological rests. Each group is accompanied by a multi-language speaking guide. 

In order to avoid undue noise, the guide tour communicates with the visitors through wireless headphones.  During the visit cell phone use is prohibited. The visiting hours would be during the “solar time” (from 10 am to 17 pm).

The sustainable Strategies applied are:

-periodically on-site courses and master-class are held with the IC in partnership with academic institutions, offering education opportunities for local and visitors.

-the entrance ticket is made by a “translucent stamp” readable by laser machine.

-the entrance station is heated and cooled by natural system and has internet

-the footpaths inside the ruins are made of gravel or stones.


This center, created with the goal to research and to disseminate “thermae” cultural heritage, allows the visitor to have a global idea of the history of bath’s evolution throughout Spain’s history, principally during the Roman and Arab period. 

The building that harbors this interpretation center is built in local and natural stone and double glazing glass panels to make a greater use of the natural light, of the warm air in winter and of the cold air in summer. The inside of the building is divided in 5 thematic areas:

-Entrance. “A brief introduction to the world of the bath”. Information panels with depicting motifs and texts that introduce visitors to the thermal culture, explaining how it works, the heat and cold systems, the rules of conduct, etc.

-Archeological remains. Expositions of the remains, sculptures, coins, utensils, ceramics, etc. founded in the site during excavation.

-Interactive game room with different games (jigsaw puzzle, trivial, reconstruction of mosaics) mostly digital ones, dedicated to entertain younger audience.

-Reconstruction of the original thermae in 3D (scale 1:350) accessible by each “corner”. The used material in the construction of the mockup was the silicon with different methods and process of construction, for example, mixed with sand, sawdust, graphene (extracted from used tires) and other material of the recycling sector.

-Multifunction rooms: for the visitors there is a “Screening room”for watching documentaries about the thermae, and a library with articles and books written about the roman culture, bath, therapies, etc. For the researches there are the research desks, a small laboratory and warehouse. A small shop sells quality souvenirs.

As sustainable strategies applied to this building are:

-Electricity: it is generated by the solar roof of the hostel-restaurant complex. The roof of this building is covered by Solar Roof system (created by Tesla Company) with integrated charger (Powerwall) that allows accumulating the energy, transforming the building in a part of a network-supply system. 

-Ventilation system: this building uses natural ventilation method. It is a process of supplying air to and removing air from an indoor space without using mechanical systems. It refers to the flow of external air to an indoor space as a result of pressure differences arising from natural (internal-external) forces.The guideline used for the installation of this system is selected from the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences. The guideline offers a series of recommendation about the following topics: building location and orientation; building form and dimensions; indoor partitions and layout; window typologies, operation, location, and shapes; other vent types (door, chemistries); construction methods and detailing (infiltration, dampness); external elements (walls, screens).

-Acclimatization, the system used is the geothermal heat pump (GSHP). It is a central heating and/or cooling system that transfers heat to or from the ground.

It uses the earth as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). This design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems, and may be combined with solar heating to form a geo solar system with even greater efficiency.

-Furniture (tables, chairs, closets, structure of the information panels, etc) are made with recyclable cardboard. This material is strong and durable and it is itself recyclable when it is unusable. The coating is a bio-fire retardant paint.

-In the office the paper used is recycled. The majority of administration tasks are realized in digital format, for example: e-mails, video, etc.

-Cleaning machines and products. The products used to clean the installations are ecological and biodegradables. Machines and products must have the carbon emission label, and in consequence, will be selected according to which one have the lowest carbon emission. The machine must be classified as AAA (energy saving).

-Recyclable waste. In the installation there are different dumpsters that the municipal services collets month by (paper, plastic, glass, aluminum cans, etc). The organic waste is collect in the IC to make compost.


 The complex has a real but modern roman bath, that follow the model of the original one. The “thermae” are shared by women and men, only the dressing room are separated. 

This building follows the rules of construction of the ancient Roma, use the same natural materials, the same decoration techniques, and the same working system, recovering and giving value to the traditional knowledge developed in the Roman period.

This building follow the same structure of the original thermae (atrium, apodyterium, frigidarium, caldarium, sudatorium and laconicum) but in this installations are offered other services in the annexed rooms, because this space works as a modern “wellness center”, so the visitor can enjoy massages and physical therapies, nutrition consultation, body  wraps with mud, washing and scrub with natural salts, infusion therapies and meditation sessions and exercise room for Pilates and gymnastic reminiscent of the ancient palestra.

Focus in the sustainable strategies.

-Electricity, the same system of the interpretation center 

-Ventilation, the same system of the interpretation center

-Acclimation, the same system of the interpretation center

-Furniture, in this case it is made of certified wood coming from sustainable forest management, to safeguard local livelihoods to protect the biodiversity and ecosystems provided by forests, reducing rural poverty and mitigating some of the effects of climate change. Is important to note that Catalunya is the second Spanish region with largest surface of sustainable forest (43.000 ha).-Hot water system. To obtain hot water for the pools and showers the system used is a “wood-pellet boiler system”.  This system has been selected because is very economical especially in Spain, it produces a clean form of energy, it produces few remains, reduces the energy dependence from the “grid” and the pellets any way comes from olives from local olives plantation (=Km0) during the production of olive oil and patés. 

-Office material creates a bit of recycled paper out puts that recycled again internally (for other uses) or externally (in bins)

-Cleaning machines and cleaning products (see IC)

-Recyclable waste, the same system of interpretation center: a bit of recycled paper and same packaging that is reduced to  the  minimum by the strategy of buying in bulk all of the products used here, and they are stored in a specific warehouse (so,  to minimize transportation cost and pollution).

 -All products used in the wellness therapies are 100% natural and they are not tested in animals, besides they have the  carbon  emission label. Some of the products are made in-house or locally using local natural products and traditional  methods of production.

-Water of every area is recycled (with the Ozonation system) internally for the day, and at the end of day is released in the        arboretum and the surrounding cultivated areas especially the organic ones, and these purified water are offered to the local    farmers in  exchange a discounted price on food items produced by them.

 -The purification prices is guaranteed by the ozonation in the modern baths, but also by filtering the waters through a 3  phases process:

-“dropping” through gravel

-“dripping” through clay

-“sweating” through natural carbon filter

            And in the end it is applied a UV light treatments, making the water 99% free of “everything”. With this complete treatment the water are re-used over and over locally with a saving ratio of 1:7 (same liter used so much that is equivalent to a 7 liter’s usage) and recycling in the natural environment allowing the natural aquifers in the area to replenish.



The gastro-point recreates an ancient Roman dining room. The walls and the floor are decorated with painting and mosaic that represent mythological scenes. The furniture, follows the Roman canons (although are locally produced).

This area enable 50 tables of 2 pax each, so, there is a capacity for 100 pax seated at the same time. The restaurant everyday serves breakfasts, lunches, afternoon snacks, aperitives and dinners. The philosophy of the restaurant is to offer a “buffet-based gastronomy experience” using ecological local products (vegetables, fruit, cereal, wine, oil, some fish and meat) to make delicious dished based on ancient recipes based in the principal cultures that have been inhabiting in the area historically: Celtiberians, Roman, Goths, Arabs and Jews. A part of this, other activities are organized with events such as wine testing, oil testing, coffee testing, beer testing.

Focus in the sustainable strategies that are used in this building:

-Electricity, the same system of the interpretato center.

-Ventilation, the same system of the interpretato center.

-Acclimation, the same system of the interpretato center.

-Furniture, the decoration of the restaurant is based in the use of natural and local material, so the furniture are made wood coming from sustainable forest management. To promote local handicraft, the crockery and the cutlery are made by local artisans that use the traditional handicraft methods. The carpet and roller blind are made of a local plant, esparto grass, and they are handicraft. This material is very durable and recyclable. Napkin and other utensils are ecological and recyclable.

-Cleaning machines and products, the same system of interpretato center.

-Recyclable waste: organic waste goes to in-house composting; packaging is sent to special artisans to create original craft  especially for children; cocked left-overs destined to social-kitchen in the area; inorganic is recollected by regional services;  liquid waste are filtrated by a 3 stages system and released in the parking.


The hostel is simple and multifunctional, it has:: reception, souvenir shops, library and 30 rooms. The building follows the construction system, and decorative style of ancient Roma (including the furniture). 

The sustainable strategies applied to this facility are:

-Electricity, the same system of the interpretation center

-Ventilation, the same system of the interpretation center

-Acclimation, the same system of the interpretation center

-Furniture, the decoration of the hostel are based in the use of natural and local material, so the furniture are made with bamboo from controlled-growth plantation. Then, tables, chairs, closets, lamps, etc. are made locally by local artisans using traditional methods to promote the local handicraft sector, same goes for the carpets and the roller-blinds made of local esparto grass. Napkin and other stuff are from ecological sources.

Office material, the same system of the interpretation center

-Cleaning machines and products, the same system of interpretation center

-Recyclable waste, the same system of interpretation center

-The souvenir shop is dedicated to the local craftsmanship, and the local products as wine and oil, jams, juices, pastries to help promote the local food producers and in consequence to develop the local economy and to help the diffusion of local gastronomic products. Also for sale are the books by local writers, poets, etc.

Sustainable strategies applied:

-The reception’s walls works as art gallery for local painters and sculptors whose pieces are for sale (the hostel receive free artistic decoration and the local artist a free gallery).

-The shelves, the counter and decoration item are made with recyclable cardboard

-Books are made with recyclable paper

-Handicraft made with local material (clay, esparto grass, wood, etc.)

-Packaging residues from all areas are transformed in affordable but creative items. 


-All workers of the complex are local residents with different levels of education.

-The total numbers of workers is 45 (22 women and 23 men). The 10% of the workers have some kind of disability (physical or sensory) or they are in risk of social exclusion. Other 10% of the workers are above 56 years old and (minimum 3 years) unemployed and other 10% are post-graduated that are offered a paid supervised internship.

[Important to note: in the modern bath (and also in other sections of the complex) there are at least a minimum of 15 autonomous professionals that works in different activities issuing invoices for the services rendered].


It is important to explain that it is an economic projection that tries to be the most realistic possible, so, to realize the calculation the most important numerical variable is to consider that the indicated numbers work with a projection of only 200 day/year, in other words, it supposes that the other 165 days in the year the incomes will be assumedly zero.   











































This complex is an example of sustainability and development, maybe the reader thinks that an archeological site must be conserved for its inherent value, as an example of other cultures, of other societies, etc, without need of “gimmicks”.  In the case of Spain, the economic situation does not allow for the Ministry of Culture to finance the conservation and the preservation of the numerous sites and monuments that are under its responsibility. Spain is the second nation with most UNESCO WH properties in the world. So, to maintain the site open with personal and to guarantee its conservation there is need for collaboration between public system and private enterprises (and even help from NGOs).

For what concern resilience, in case of natural hazards as flood, earthquake, blizzards, tree infestation, pond’s putrid smells, how to be prepared? It is fundamental to design risk management plan. How to face of manmade hazards as: fire, attack (vs. security), accidents, in this case it must be operative a plan in connection with the police, civil protection, firefighters, local departments. In case of economic hazards as: strikes, double accounting, etc; so, in this case is fundamental to continue monitoring, meeting with the employees and control of all departments.



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