It’s in Milan. The Palazzo Ricordi, in the heart of Milan, has obtained the LEED certification gold level for environmental sustainability. LEED is the acronym for The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an American system that was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental sustainability of construction.
Know to the Milanese as “the house of music,” the Palazzo Ricordi for many years was the headquarters of Casa Ricordi, which was the world’s largest publisher of opera music. The building in at via Berchet 2, next to the fashionable Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, was built in 1880 and in 1920 became the seat of the Ricordi business. This building beat the competition of the Empire State Building in New York, which was constructed in 1931, and the University of Ca’ Foscari in Venice, which is 400 years old, but LEED certified at a lower level than the Milanese palazzo.
LEED is a voluntary program of certification that can be applied to any type of building—both commercial and residential—and rewards an approach oriented to sustainability, to saving energy and water, to reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and to the improvement of the ecological quality of the interiors.
After the work of reconstruction and restoration, the Palazzo Ricordi now saves more than 35% in energy consumption, reducing 40% of CO2 emissions, well beyond the efficiency standards that a European Union directive proposed by the year 2030. Many interventions were undertaken to earn the LEED gold certification. Some were rather simple, like arranging for parking bicycles inside the structure, designating a place for positioning the bikes vertically.
Other more complex actions were also done. For example, natural illumination was provided in 90% of the space. Even the management of the work site was planned to reduce the impact of construction activities and to find building materials with the best sustainability characteristics.
Many changes are too difficult for me to understand and explain. But it was a very complex undertaking that involved the structure, the “casing,” the interior, and the entire system of heating, cooling, and ventilation.
“Palazzo Ricordi is proof that one can work according to ‘green’ practices preserving the maximum integrity to the historical structures that we have in Italy by using a little intelligence, hard work, and innovation,” declared Gianni Silvestrini, the President of the Green Building Council, the LEED certification agency for Italy. “Our building heritage is significant, and many historical structures are in desperate need of improvement. This represents an opportunity to reduce consumption and lessen every year huge quantities of CO2 emissions as the European commission requires of us.”
Changes in Italy are very difficult because of so many historical structures. In a country where more than 70% of building heritage is class G (that is, at high environmental impact) and there are so many buildings over 50 years of age, “green” conversion could give a much needed jolt to the construction industry.