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The Green Tour of Italy Continues
We collectively gasped at the marble floor in the Roman Forum, installed circa 75 A.D. and recently uncovered during the continuing excavation of this ancient city. Buried for centuries, it is remarkably intact--a polished reflection of Roman style, grandeur and perseverance.
We toured amongst the oldest sites in Italy and others newly under construction. Each told its particular story of sustainability, yet with the consistent theme of adaptive reclamation. Three of the largest projects we visited were in neglected, under-developed brownfield areas that were being repurposed. They will all revitalize neighborhoods and have a significant impact on the local economy and social structure.
For example, the Province of Trento has purchased the decimated land and buildings--22 acres--of a former tobacco factory for redevelopment into a campus of offices, research labs and university spaces that will be a landmark model for the new evolving green economy. The master plan preserves the historically significant structures built in 1854 but replaces utilitarian, and frankly ugly, buildings constructed in the 1960's and 70's--you know the look. A landscaped plaza will replace the forbidding wall and barbed wire enforced barriers that have kept this site isolated from the town.
The project, which will eventually offer 600,000 square feet of office space, has already signed a very important tenant, the Green Building Council of Italy, which is currently working to adapt LEED to the Italian market.
Some of the most high profile projects in Italy are using LEED including Porto Nuova in the heart of Milan. It would be impossible to overestimate the importance of this project to the city, which for forty years has had a wound in its urban texture just a short walk from the Duomo. At over three million square feet, it's an immense undertaking designed by some of the world's most visionary planners and architects. Dozens of buildings from residential villas to towering skyscrapers are under construction. Two of the most intriguing are residential twin high-rises with such extensive integrated greenery they are almost impossible to imagine. Porto Nuova has been pre-certified by LEED and is expected to certify at least 11 buildings when it opens in 2013. I'm coming back.
The Italian green building community has enthusiastically embraced LEED even though many of Italy's codes and regulations are stricter, making silver very doable. What LEED has done, however, is to imbed an integrated, holistic, process that was missing from many projects. The effort is being led by Habitech, a network of more than 300 companies focusing on sustainable communities and business. Its dedication, along with the doggedly persistent efforts of GBC Italy, have insured Italy's leadership in Europe and worldwide.