Santiago Jiménez, sustainable cities: “The future of the planet depends on how we face urban life”

Santiago Jiménez (Madrid, 1993) is an architect and entrepreneur. He learned percussion at the conservatory and played drums in a group. He is fascinated by the design and architecture of smart cities. He has won several international awards -such as the Talentum scholarship- with his project Liight, with double i. Two partners and the same ideal: reduce the carbon footprint.

You say that your biography is marked by travel paths, why?

I studied at a nun’s school and in high school I had to come to Madrid every day. Then I was one tenth of entering the Polytechnic University (UPM), so I started in Alcalá.

My idea was to change, but I could no longer. I met my girlfriend there – ten years later we got married – so I got used to always going far, with a lot of public transport.

Santiago Jiménez (SDG 11): “We must motivate people to be more sustainable in their homes and in cities”

Quique Falcon

And there you had time to think.

Yes, to devise and do things [sonríe].

Now you are in Valencia in a business accelerator, but Madrid is your city.

I love Madrid, on a cultural level it is very welcoming, and all the people feel from here. But you will give me the reason that you have that feeling of stress, hustle or rush. In Copenhagen people ride bikes, they work a lot and are very productive, but they are kinder.

Madrid and Valencia are more similar, what has been the most extreme contrast you have experienced?

Winning awards has taken me to New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At the other extreme, I would mention the town of my wife’s grandparents, in Poland, where there are only a few houses in a natural environment. There I remember that I went fishing in the morning, we ate trout and worked in the afternoon.

People must be motivated to be sustainable in their homes and in their cities

Do you consider yourself a digital nomad?

Yes. In the year 2021 we have the possibility to work from anywhere.

Why do you consider that studying architecture is a good training?

I think it is a very complete training in the sciences and humanities. I am very restless, since I was little, very active and self-taught. I have always been oriented more by the branch of mathematics, but I love culture.

What are your favorite architects?

Mies van der Rohe, Rafael Moneo and Norman Foster. But I would highlight Bjarke Ingels, whose side I like best as a visionary or innovator. Ingels is the creator of the motto yes is more and right now he’s building the Google campus in Silicon Valley.

Did your project, Liight, come about when you were studying at university?

Yes, Liight It arose when I was studying the race. It was linked to the world of innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability, because we had previously created a university project to train other students in digital and 3D design.

Thanks to our interest in sustainability, through an infographic project, we were able to go to Paris to build plans for a Passive house self-sufficient with solar panels, green wall, air conditioning, etc.

How did you get started with Liight?

I applied to a hackathon from a company that was looking for staff, but when they asked for the motivation letter they agreed with my proposal and our idea was the winner. The challenge we posed was how to make people aware of the CO₂ footprint that we produce on a day-to-day basis.

The first idea was closely linked to the consumption we have at home. The first months remained in a drawer until my colleague, the Director of Technology (CTO) of the startup. Now we are co-founding partners, we evolved the idea and the project took a stronger shape.

My ideas come from the thoughts I have had while traveling on public transport

So what is Liight’s mission?

The mission would be to motivate people to be more sustainable in their day to day, but not only in homes, but in cities. In the future we will have sensors in the houses, but in the meantime, in the streets, with all of us carrying our mobile phone we can cross data in real time.

According to the routes that people make and their mobility habits, recycling points can be mapped, and thus be able to trackearlo with systems smart city. Se can indicate where, for example, someone can take an electric motorcycle or a scooter.

Now you have two lines of business: community and corporate.

Yes, recently we decided to bet on a more scalable model, that’s when the line emerged Corporate. We work on the line Community, focused on city users.

We have many collaborations with different sustainable brands to be able to gamify and reward these good actions through the application. People trackean activities, the reduced CO₂ footprint is calculated and redeemable points are earned.

And then how do you collaborate with companies?

The model Corporate It consists of offering this same technology to large companies so that they make it available to their employees. Right now we are working with Estrella Galicia, Acciona and Capital Energy.

We are also in talks with very large companies that routinely mobilize people who travel from their homes to offices or campuses – which are small cities.

And how do you help them to be more sustainable on those corporate campuses?

From Liight we help them not only in the mobility part, but within the office itself. We attend to details such as the use of glass bottles to fill, recycle any snack, avoid impressions, reduce the carbon footprint in transport, travel only for the meetings that are really necessary …

Based on your experience, would you say that it is difficult to undertake?

Entrepreneurship is complicated. It is very beautiful and inspiring, but it is very hard because it requires a lot of work.

In 2050 more than 80% of the population will live in cities and 80% of the resources will be produced in them

Any advice or something you have learned?

Go little by little, without neglecting the part of health, rest, sports or spending time with family and friends. For us it has been an apprenticeship.

We are now a team of nine people and we work with large clients. We are very excited and proud of the path we have followed. All the learning is paying off.

In SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) we talk about safe, resilient and sustainable cities, what do you think of this goal?

I believe that all the objectives chosen by the United Nations are super important, but this one more specifically. We, through our training and concerns, is the one in which we can have the most impact.

By 2050 more than 80% of the population will live in cities. And not only this, but in that 80-20 rule, more than 80% of the resources, both in terms of consumption and emissions, will be produced in them.

How we face life and day to day within cities is key to the future of the planet and of society.

Santiago Jiménez, architect and entrepreneur.

Santiago Jiménez, architect and entrepreneur.

Quique Falcon

In the image that opens this interview, Santiago Jiménez holds the poster corresponding to SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities). He cannot avoid defining himself without referring to the four cities that have marked his life so far: Móstoles, Alghero, Copenhagen and Valencia.

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