In the coastal resorts of Emilia-Romagna, they call them “eco-hotels”, in other words hotels which meet a series of requirements relating to waste management, water consumption, sourcing of foodstuffs and even noise pollution. In reality, the trend sweeping through Italy’s major hotel chains is much more than just a quality mark, however prestigious. We are moving into the arena of energy-efficiency per se, a concept that’s receiving growing attention both from legislation – which in Emilia-Romagna, for example, requires that every building bought or sold must have an energy certificate – and from a public that’s increasingly sensitive to issues of eco-sustainability.
These and others will be the topics under discussion at the meeting “Hotels and energy-efficiency”, to be held at Cersaie on 2 October (at 9.30 a.m. in the Architecture Gallery), as part of the “Building, dwelling, thinking” series of events. There’s no denying that hotels are particularly energy-hungry, and the subject of efficiency is more than just a question of projecting an image or meeting legal requirements (an energy certificate will soon be necessary even for a simple vacation rental contract); it is now also a question of remaining competitive. The meeting’s contributors will include the architects Andrea Rinaldi, Head of the Architecture and Energy Centre at the University of Ferrara’s Faculty of Architecture, and Paolo Rava, a representative of ANAB (the Italian association of bio-ecological architecture) and Commissioner for Urban Planning for the municipal council of Forlì. It is in the field of energy-efficiency, moreover, that architecture enjoys its most beneficial links with engineering, through expert reports, measurements, calculations and other component parts of a complex task that compels engineers and architects to work side by side towards the common goal of “zero impact”, a goal which has already been achieved in several state-of-the-art facilities, both in the public and private domain.
As witness to this symbiotic relationship between architecture and engineering in the field of energy-efficient building, the speakers at the meeting will include Professor Luigi Martirano of the Department of Electrical Engineering at “La Sapienza” University of Rome. Underlying the whole issue, is a completely new way of conceiving buildings: houses, like people, have their weak points and their own particular needs. Even buildings, it would be fair to say, have their own metabolism. We call it energy-efficiency and it can be defined in terms of a performance indicator (from Class A to Class G) determined on the basis of a comprehensive range of variables, which generally represent the weak points of buildings. These might include the windows and the insulation of the walls, roof and floor. They also include the technical systems – which fall squarely within the scope of engineering – such as the boiler, heating system, etc. The very structure of the building – and according to some studies even the shape of the rooms – can also affect energy-efficiency.
The solution? To save energy, first and foremost, but also to develop ways of producing it at a lower financial and environmental cost, bearing in mind that 40% of Europe’s carbon dioxide emissions come, not from cars, but from buildings and their heating and air conditioning systems. The aim of the meeting “Hotels and Energy-efficiency” is to demonstrate that carbon-neutral buildings are not science-fiction but an achievable (and in many cases, already achieved) reality. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the meeting will see the participation of Martina Demattio, Head of Agenzia CasaClima based in Bolzano, an area of Italy in which eco-buildings are now widespread and large numbers of hotels are to be found, due to the high levels of incoming tourism. All in all, the meeting will provide a perfect opportunity to take a closer look at some top-class, real-world examples of what is meant by the energy-efficiency of buildings, including hotels.