Buildings built with green technologies, powered and heated in a sustainable way, moving only with electric cars, this is how MIND, the innovation district that is being born just outside Milan, will be in ten years’ time.
In ten years, when the transformation is completed, the area on the border of Milan that hosted the Expo in 2015 will be an innovation district frequented by 60 thousand people every day. A smart city in which you will move only with electric cars, in which the buildings will be built with techniques that are as green as possible and above all will aim to be powered in a sustainable way. Because the declared goal of MIND, the Milan Innovation District, is to create a model capable of declining the ambition of building “the city of the future” to the present. Also for the energy transition.
Starting with what they call West Gate, the first new district of offices, houses, laboratories, shops, hotels, public spaces that is heating up the engine of construction sites. And that, thanks to a partnership between Lendlease - a global real estate giant with pipeline projects for 81 billion dollars which in MIND will develop the private part with an investment of 2.5 billion - and E.On - an international energy group with capital private company with headquarters in Germany and 78,000 employees worldwide - will be heated and cooled with a “latest generation zero-carbon system in Italy”. Saving, according to estimates, about 10 thousand tons of CO2 per year. The equivalent of the emissions generated by the consumption of 3,350 families.
But how do you build a carbon free city and, above all, able to achieve energy independence, even more so in the midst of an international crisis that has put the issue of Russian gas back on top of priorities? The technologies, explains Frank Meyer, CEO of E.On Italia for just over a year, “are there”. From “photovoltaics to columns for electric vehicle charging to air conditioning”. And the company “from January to today has reached almost 5,500 installations” of what they call Feh systems, Future energy home, throughout Italy. But above all Meyer points to the need to act immediately, ”electrifying everything possible” and starting to apply all technologies ”starting with new projects to already build 100% green houses, neighborhoods and cities”.
There are many examples of those in Europe who have embarked on the path of change. There is the Swedish village of Simris, “which has been almost self-sufficient since 2017 and which, using wind and solar power, sells excess clean electricity to the national grid”. And there is Berlin. The German manager with a doctorate in physics from the Max Planck Institute cites cases similar to those of MIND. From the regeneration of Tegel airport as a district of 10,000 homes and 20,000 jobs that aims to be energy self-sufficient, to the Adlershof Science and Technology Campus, which “with a heating, cooling and electricity network in combination with a thermal and electricity has seen its impact reduced“. “MIND - he says - can truly become one of the first examples of a district that reaches carbon neutrality: no, looking at other European cities as well, there are no such great examples of sustainability“.
The construction site where Expo was located
To understand this goal, however, it is necessary to see what is happening on the million square meters where a total of 4.5 billion investments are landed: seven years after the end of the Expo, the area is once again a moving construction site between realities that have already revived. Like Human Technopole, the research center dedicated to life sciences which is in business with its researchers. And the new Galeazzi hospital, ready to open in September. In the next few months, the construction of the campus will start with the scientific faculties of the State University, the third public pillar of the Arexpo plan, the company owned by the government, the Region and the Municipality of Milan that owns the land and acts as a director.
Finally, the private part, for which Lendlease is responsible, which Arexpo awarded a concession that lasted almost a century. An outpost, between laboratories and company headquarters, has just been inaugurated in a converted building. Among the first to board: AstraZeneca, Rold, Esselunga, the American genomics giant Illumina, the Bio4Dreams incubator, SkyDeck, non-profit startup accelerator of the University of California Berkeley, Valore Italia, the Botticino restoration school . It’s called MIND Village and it’s an anticipation of what will happen when the West Gate takes shape in 2026.
It is in this district that the strategies to make the city of MIND carbon free will be tested. And it is here that E.On returns to the field, which, among other things, has booked 4 thousand square meters in one of the future buildings to make it the Italian headquarters. The engine of the sustainability project will be the 25-year joint venture between E.On and Lendlease which, together, have created an ESCo, Energy saving company, to reduce emissions from buildings. “We will use ectogrid - explains Meyer - our proprietary technology that allows us to reduce consumption by up to 30%”. The patent allows, thanks to “an automated digital management system, to efficiently recover and reuse waste energy between different users”. The promise declared by both partners is to use 100% renewable energy both produced on site and with certified external supplies.
But to get to the green smart city, there are at least two other elements of MIND’s overall strategy. The first concerns mobility, which will be electric only. The second is construction. And in this case, Lendlease declares that it wants to build sustainable structures. Starting with the use of wood. With a project to experiment with the use of so-called engineered wood in construction. All pieces that in 2031, Meyer is convinced, “will make it visible how it is possible to build the city of the future for the energy transition”.