In architecture, we’ve been talking about sustainability for years now, but more as a philosophical principle than from a practical perspective. Nevertheless, there are various systems for assessing the sustainability of a building that not only measure its technical and structural characteristics, but also the quality of life that it provides for its users. Two of these are the LEED and WELL building standards. To understand their importance, let’s take a look at a new project designed by Nemesi studio for IT company Tesisquare, the recently opened Digital Innovation Gate 421. The first part of a larger masterplan underway in Italy’s Piedmont region, DIG421 is an innovation village conceived to work in harmony with its surrounding landscape, local area, and local community. Here’s how the project achieved sustainability certifications and why it’s been described as having a “positive impact.”
Digital Innovation Gate 421 is the nucleus of a new collaborative village that will have a positive impact and generate long-term value for its local area. The owners want the complex to play a role in the redevelopment and reassertion of the locality, forming community itself. And herein lies the key to the approach taken by the studio, founded in 1997 by Michele Molè and, since 2008, led by him and Susanna Tradati. Molè explains:
We’ve now inaugurated the first part of a project that’s intended to serve its community. Tesisquare’s vision is very much in the spirit of Olivetti’s, with open, inclusive, transparent, and sustainable spaces. We’ve developed this together with the client, whose goal is to give the community a system of local, infrastructural, and information connections. In other words, it’s a “hive of ideas,” with this enhancing the local dimension of the project but without losing sight of the international perspective. This is why we say that this project has a positive impact: it’s an example of architecture that urbanizes its setting by creating wellbeing and identity, helping to define communities, and spreading quality.
Constructed from concrete, steel, and glass, the office complex’s modular volumes recall the binary language of computers. The axis it has created, parallel to the company headquarters, which will be completed in 2023, will be further developed in the coming months, with one side of the complex open to the landscape and characterized by a rhythmic sequence of volumes, whose dynamism and lightness will be highlighted by a spectacular green wall, made of painted tubular steel.
Nature and landscape are essential elements of this project. They interact with the architecture, with each reflecting the other, resulting in an urban space punctuated by green backdrops, landscaping, green roofs, and a network of common areas, including paths, small squares, a canteen, a kindergarten, an underground auditorium, refreshment areas, as well as a park and a cycling/walking trail open to the public.
The landscaping and urban development plans include many facilities open to the public, including an extensive green space, an open-air theater, and cycle paths that will connect the development to the nearby town of Brà.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the wellbeing of workers and to ensure that the development has a positive impact on the local area, this making it a kind of Olivetti Mark III, in which the company becomes a place for personal growth, a common good, and a driving force behind development for the greater community.
The DIG421 project has perfectly integrated technology for reducing energy consumption and the use of renewable sources, all intended to meet the standards of the main international certifications, including LEED and WELL. Briefly, LEED is a voluntary certification program developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) that focuses on sustainability. It evaluates the performance of a building from the perspectives of energy usage, water efficiency, and emissions, also taking into account the greenness of its materials and location with respect to the local area.
LEED certification applies to buildings and not products. The assessment therefore looks at the entire built “organism,” which can be a new or existing building intended for residential, educational, commercial, healthcare, or industrial use. The certification can also apply to structural, restoration, and urban design projects. To obtain LEED certification, the characteristics of a project are mapped out on the basis of a system of credits. The levels of certification range from Certified to Platinum, and the assessment takes place by submitting technical documents on the design and construction phases of the project to the body. At the end of the analysis, a LEED AP, an Accredited Professional approved by the USGBC, assesses the project in terms of compliance and awards LEED credits accordingly.
The WELL building standard is somewhat different from LEED in that it concerns itself more with a building’s users, evaluating and certifying their levels of wellbeing – an absolute novelty for Europe. WELL also has an equivalency schedule for credits it shares with LEED. Overseen by the WELL Building Institute (WBI), WELL certification is issued by the GBC and other bodies. In Italy, it’s administered by the International WELL Building Institute™ and the company APTA VITAE.
>> Air – Promote indoor air quality, ensuring effective ventilation through the regular opening of windows or the use of particulate filters;
>> Water – Promote ready access for all users to sources of water that are clean and free of pollutants;
>> Nourishment – Promote healthy eating, with an emphasis on raw foods in company, school, and hospital canteens;
>> Light – Maximize natural light while limiting artificial light;
>> Movement – Design indoor spaces that have access to areas that allow movement so as to reduce sedentary behavior;
>> Comfort – Promote cleanliness, reduced noise levels, the maintenance of optimum temperatures, and good quality finishes;
>> Mind – Promote the physical and mental health of the humans who occupy buildings so that they can work and be at their best while inside them;
>> Innovation – Encourage innovation by presenting new ideas for new functionalities based on the eight Concepts.
The process of obtaining WELL certification (Silver, Gold, and Platinum) is very similar to obtaining LEED certification, with technical documents sent electronically to the Institute, which then evaluates them on the basis of the eight Concepts.
With the work environments of DIG421 promoting the health and wellbeing of their users, the shared vision of Tesisquare and Nemesi fully reflects this new way of conceiving workspaces and creating collaborative ecosystems in which people can share knowledge, share projects, and develop new business models with international applicability.
Ph. Credits Luigi Filetici, courtesy of Nemesi
Render masterplan Campus Tesisquare, courtesy of Nemesi