13 November 2009

Irene Cassarino: The social dimension of environmental sustainability

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Environment Park
Experientia collaborator Irene Cassarino went yesterday to the international “The social dimension of environmental sustainability” conference, organised at Turin’s Environment Park with the support of the City of Turin. The event, which focused on the importance of social aspects in achieving environmental sustainability, took place in the context of the CAT-MED European Project (Change Mediterranean Metropolis Around Time).

Here is her short report:

Our shoulders feel heavier today: we just learned from Gian Vincenzo Fracastoro, expert in green energy policies and solutions from the Polytechnic of Turin, and vice-director of its Department of Energy, that the average C02 emission of a Turin citizen is 9 tons per year.

The objective of the Turin municipality is to reduce this by 18-20% by 2010. Solutions, Prof. Fracastoro said, range from a larger district heating (“teleriscaldamento”) network — a method that reuses surplus heat generated from the production of electricity — to the development of renewable sources.

Yet his long-term experience studying, researching and teaching renewable energy matters convinced him that “the major source of renewable energy lies in energy saving”.

In other words, more sustainable lifestyles, together with state-of-the-art eco-constructions (like the building-lab that hosts the events of the Environment Park) will be essential in making us both happier and richer.

Massimo Bricocoli from the Polytechnic of Milan and the University of Hamburg, underlined the importance of the social dimension to enhance environmental sustainability: five case studies from all across Europe highlighted the various roles that city administrations can play in leading housing projects.

In the first case, two elderly educated couples (the so called ‘empty nesters’) decided to move from their big family house to a smaller flat in Berlin within a eco-multigenerational project, where a particular amount of square meters were allotted to people of their age. While they have been very happy with their choice, Mrs Millo, in Trieste, Italy, had a worse experience when she moved into a social eco-house building: the house was said to be very advanced with respect to infrastructure, but since she was not taught how to use it properly, she ended up with very high energy bills and eventually had to switch off all the heating and electrical equipment.

Public administrations — summed up Giovanni Magnano, Manager of the Social Housing Department of the City of Turin –- have a crucial role in making the best of social housing projects. How? By focusing on introduction/learning paths, leveraging virtuoso community dynamics and concentrating on cost reduction potential, not only for the developer, but especially for the residents.

CAT-MED, represented and introduced by the general coordinator Pedro Marin Cots, from the City of Malaga, aims at preventing the natural risk related to climate change by leveraging the convergence of metropolitan strategies and actions. The City of Turin is a member of this project, together with the cities of Malaga, Marseilles, Seville, Valencia, Barcelona, Aix, Genova, Rome, Athens and Thessaloniki, all from the Mediterranean region.

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