Italy is famous all over the world for its historical cities, but their beauty is not enough anymore. They want to be smart. Two of the experimental forerunners developing energy efficiency measures are Udine and Salerno.
They may be located at opposite ends of the country and have contrasting social and environmental characteristics, but these cities do have something in common: a “smart factor”.
Overlooking one of Italy’s most picturesque gulfs, Salerno exemplifies how a smart city can develop quite soundly despite the economic woes of its southern location. It is the first Italian city for the amount of generated renewable energy per capita - 160kWh per inhabitant - relates Giancarlo Savino, energy manager at Salerno municipality.
The target of its Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) is to cut CO2 emissions 23% by 2020. The actions include improving waste collection, ensuring a smarter street lighting and mobility, involving citizens in retrofitting activities in some districts. One of them is Arbostella, a residential area of 1,600 inhabitants.
It was built into a park away from the main centre as a self-contained town within Salerno, with its own schools, theatre and leisure centres. With its repetitive structure featuring three-floor buildings, the area has been chosen as a replication district among a selected number of “cluster cities” under the European project CITyFIED.
The aim of this project is to develop replicable energy efficiency strategies through a series of replicable interventions starting from a given neighbourhood.
“One of the key issues is the need to find new financial models beyond public funding also relying on private-public partnership as well as private funding and at the same time to convince the citizens that the interventions proposed are sustainable. Even if return on investment is only four to eight years, public awareness about energy savings is not an easy goal to achieve”, says Savino,
“Cultural aspects or lack of knowledge are not to blame for putting people off”, he adds, “But rather the negative economic situation. Even if expenditure is to be divided between private and public".
About 600 kilometres to the north-east, Udine is participating as a potential replicator in the same project with its multi-ethnic Aurora district. In this context, energy requalification can represent a way to improve the quality of life in this peripheral area.
The district is mainly composed of blocks of public housing with very similar characteristics. It is therefore more straightforward to collect data that are consistent, and to replicate a set of sustainable regeneration interventions.
“To date, about one third of the Aurora district’s buildings have been undergone energy efficiency measures - insulation of ceilings, floors and of the external perimeter walls”, explains Agnese Presotto, architect at Udine municipality, "Overall, heating consumption has come down by 37% and living comfort has considerably improved too”.
Over two-thirds of the 1,500 buildings included in the interventions are social housing, thus the residents have not been asked to invest their own money. They welcomed the interventions despite the initial disruption caused by works and the difficulty in understanding how the hi-tech devices operate.
Citizens were also involved in a participative creation process where they could, for example, chose the colour of the building façades. Explaining the benefits to the residents and asking for their feedback has - in some cases - led to alternative solutions being adopted or to compromises which have fulfilled everyone’s expectations. Moreover, these goals have been achieved without increasing rents.
In addition to the municipal energy regulations, the cogeneration system and the district heating network (which includes the city hospital), Udine is set to benefit from sustainable mobility plans, including, for example, new charging stations for electric vehicles located near the city parks.
By Gianluca Dotti
21 September 2016