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Residential Renovation towards nearly zero energy CITIES

Greening our cities

Solutions to halving energy consumption, costs and greenhouse emissions in cities may be on the horizon, as long as partners find suitable ways to cooperate.

Greening our cities

Imagine a city could halve its energy consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions. This would get closer to levels that would ensure sustainability of resources. In a planet under constant threat of environmental and energy crises, this would be a welcome change. Suppose also that this city finds a strategy to upgrade its household energy system with a budget of as little as €100 per square metre. This too would be a tremendous change. 

Now, the EU funded project R2Cities, just launched, and due to be completed in 2017, is testing solutions to achieve this ambitious goal in Istanbul, Turkey, Valladolid, Spain, and Genoa, Italy. “We are now at the stage of designing potential solutions,” says Margherita Scotto, a civil engineer at D’Appolonia, an engineering and consulting company based in Genoa, Italy and one of the leading project partners. However, “we do have not results yet at this stage,” she adds. 

The Italian port city, Genoa, is a good example of a city facing challenges in addressing its target sustainable growth strategies. One of the project test site is located in city’s Lavatrici social housing district, which was developed during the 1980s’. “In Genoa, we intend to operate large residential district renovation, such as applying green energy applications like, for example, active construction elements,” Scotto tells us. She adds: “We also intend to design and install new tailored photovoltaic elements. Solutions will also consider the distribution of thermal energy in the district of Lavatrici.

Scotto also explains that the team is working on finding technical solutions that may cut consumption to 50% on about 160 households. This spans a total of about 18,000 square metres. “We chiefly need to find ways to improve thermal insulation through introduction of green building materials, optimising heating storage and distribution systems,” she explains.

One of the main challenges is coordinating many stakeholders with different backgrounds, interests, and schedules. “We need to coordinate with the local municipality, which owns the houses, the University, which takes care of the experimental studies on the sites, and other industry partners,” says Scotto. 

The first step is prioritising operations, and here is where the local university comes in. “We have been asked to assess key energy issues that need to be addressed and support the municipality with investigation on current energy consumption and quality of buildings,” explains Renata Morbiducci, professor of building technology at the University of Genoa, in Italy, and scientific principal coordinator within the project. “Trying to reach the target of a 50% energy cut at just €100 per square metre, this is the key challenge we will face. Achieving this goal, this is the innovation the EU is expecting from this project,” adds Morbiducci.

Another project partner from industry comments that dialoguing with so many different stakeholders is proving to be exciting, constructive but also challenging. “This project is a real challenge,” says Andrea Melis, engineer at the Italian branch, based in Genoa, of  a large automation technologies multinational company based in Switzerland called ABB.  

Our expertise is in industrial automation. We will have to develop technological tools to operate and coordinate all apparatus that will regulate energy flow in the refurbished buildings,” he tells us. “Cooperating with municipalities and the academic sector at the same time is rather new to us. But as our company is willing to explore the civil energy efficiency sector, this is the way to follow, and we are keen on investing in this project.



Article by: Jacopo Pasotti