Interview with Francesco Gori on the dream of a better city

In Italy "there is still a lot to do but we are learning from the neighbors and the momentum of the last 10 years is positive", as for the dream of a zero-emission city, it is "utopian, at least for now". It is a portrait of the world in chiaroscuro tones that painted by Francesco Gori, CEO of ESA Engineering who, very concretely, told how to transform cities and above all the life of those who live or work there. Traffic and heating, therefore, but not only: it is a question of alternative energy, of alternative mentality and also of silence. Yes, that too is pollution.

1) Five tips to improve the energy efficiency of a city?

Saving means first of all consuming less. The first step towards a green city is certainly based on raising awareness among users by transmitting the message that the action of the individual can become significant at the community level. But good intentions certainly cannot do everything, and it is here that technological progress comes to our attention, as in the case, for example, of heat pumps which, based on the principle of energy displacement, allow unthinkable yields compared to combustion systems. And then the renewable resources. We are immersed in a huge "free" potential and we do not exploit it! Earth, sun, water, resources that exchange and store energy daily, can be exploited to satisfy, free or almost, the needs. However, even the most efficient of systems has limitations: often energy waste is generated which is lost or which can even be harmful. Think, for example, of traditional air conditioners, to cool the rooms, hot air is expelled outside. So .. why not recover this heat? Energy efficiency certainly also involves the recovery of these waste heat, avoiding waste as much as possible. A sort of energy recycling!

2) What is earned and how much is spent at the community and administrative level? Economically and otherwise ...

Community-wide consumption is truly impressive. A recent statistic by Cestec indicates that the average of properties in Milan corresponds to a class G and that the civil sector alone consumes 18,000 GWh annually. Taking into account that a class G consumes about 5-10 times compared to new energy-saving buildings, the potential for improvement in a metropolis like Milan is really important.

3) How are Italian cities positioned, on average, compared to European ones? Are there any best practices to import?

Italy has started lagging behind many other nations as regards the containment of consumption: in fact, while in Italy concepts such as energy efficiency, certification, class A, are a bit of a novelty in recent years, in other more virtuous countries these are concepts that have been assimilated for decades. In these countries, advanced protocols are now being tested that embrace sustainability by including additional parameters with respect to annual consumption, such as the exploitation of rainwater or monitoring plans for the progressive optimization of plants. In London, for example, the English BREEM protocol born in the 90s, is also compulsorily used for building renovations within the "city". In America, however, LEED certification is gaining ground with some spontaneous application in our country as well. At the Italian level, there is therefore still a lot to do by learning from neighbors. However, the momentum of the last 10 years to significantly improve the civil sector is positive.

4) What tools can be put in place at city level to reduce CO2 emissions?

CO2 emissions go hand in hand with consumption. Consuming less simply means producing less CO2! Energy efficiency strategies therefore have the double advantage of reducing costs and consumption, but also of having significant repercussions from an environmental point of view. In Milan we have done a lot of work by exploiting a very precious resource, groundwater. With these interventions we have estimated a reduction of CO2 emissions of about 35-45% on an annual basis, a certainly significant result. If only 20% of the civil sector used similar generation systems, we would have a reduction of emissions equal to 60% of what is foreseen by the “Plan for a Sustainable Lombardy”.

5) To reduce the pm10-pm2.5 you have to act only on traffic or is there something else?

In Lombardy, the ARPA is responsible for monitoring the properties and quality of the air and, from the freely available data, it can be seen that in Milan the production of PM10 is to be attributed for about 30% to non-industrial combustion (i.e. practically civilian only) with winter peaks far beyond the legal limits This non-uniformity in the values ​​on an annual basis, considering a low variability of traffic, indicates how combustion systems for winter heating have a non-negligible impact compared to electricity generation systems that eliminate the problem by drawing on the energy produced. outside urban centers and thus moving production to areas where there is no concomitance between traffic and combustion. In those areas it is clearly under the concentration of the guard. In addition, electricity is also produced thanks to the exploitation of renewable resources, a system that therefore does not involve polluting processes.

6) Is a zero-emission city possible, in your opinion? Are there policies in Italy that stimulate green conversions or would there be others?

In my opinion, the zero-emission city goal is utopian to achieve, especially in the "short" term. We are talking about cities already formed, built in times when there was no awareness that there is today about energy and environmental problems. Modernization plans that include everything civil, not only from a plant but, above all, architectural point of view, involve a series of interventions that are difficult to implement, even leaving out the economic aspect. Instead, we can speak of zero - or quasiemissioni buildings, for all that is new construction thanks to a synergy between designers and legislation or, in some situations, even for redevelopment interventions. The problem is felt especially in the case of renovations where the user is not always willing to spend higher amounts with a view to future earnings.

In Italy there are incentive tools such as 55% and 36% that allow an economic return for virtuous energy interventions, even if in a period of 10 years. Lombardy is perhaps the most active region from an energy point of view and has implemented additional incentive tools such as the deduction of walls for new buildings and, limited to the municipality of Milan, discounts on urbanization charges for new buildings and renovations in function of the achievement of certain energy standards. A further incentive could consist of a state contribution that favors the new construction in the purchase of plant systems in order to reduce the payback-time of the plant. A little bit what happens with 55-36% but also extended to the new.

7) Is noise pollution a widespread problem? What awareness is there of the phenomenon?

Acoustics is an aspect that has always been a bit neglected in design and that is only now beginning to have a certain value also at a regulatory level. In plant design, the professional has to work with machines that are often noisy, with data from manufacturers that are not always clear and reliable, and with the need to carry out a whole series of complex and delicate acoustic impact analyzes. This means additional costs, requirements such as architectural barriers that are not always applicable and, from a purely architectural point of view, unpleasant situations. All this becomes superfluous using geothermal systems, which can be installed in less noble rooms such as basements, where acoustic problems can be easily solved with good architectural design.

Interview byMarta Abbà

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