Case 4: Villa within the new “Borgo Digani” building complex, Argelato, Bologna


Case parameters:

Type of construction: partial demolition and renovation, with attic recovery
Typology: Manor villa. Net floor area: about 500 m2 before renovation, about 600 m2 after renovation
Owner: Private bank foundation (Fondazione CARISBO)
Construction systems: Load-bearing masonry walls in solid bricks
Location: Italy, Argelato, Bologna

Video credits: University of Bologna

The challenge we faced

The Italian demonstrator represents a typical rural residential building commonly widespread in different rural territories of Southern Europe and Italy. This specific case study represents an example of renovation and refurbishment of historical buildings, fostering a cycle of requalification of this architectural typology according to a circular approach, which is completely innovative in the field of protected heritage.

The interventions concerned the partial demolition and reconstruction as well as deep renovation through the reuse of original materials and new sustainable and partially prefabricated components. Indeed, the existing and territorial construction materials are reused, respecting the traditional and regional architectural standards. After the retrofit, this rural building stock will meet a high level of energy efficiency based on the circular use of materials and building components with high technological solutions for energy efficiency improvement.

Photo credits: Cecilia Mazzoli (University of Bologna), Mirko Cioni (Habitat Plus)

What we did

The typical rural architectural aspect makes this case study an exceptional example of territorial architecture. The villa consists of two floors and has been converted into a multi-user residence with 8 bedrooms (for hosting a total of 15 people) and common facilities.

This deep renovation demonstrator has been developed based on the following circular actions:

  • Reuse of existing materials, such as reusing 90% of the original roofing tiles for the new villa’s roofing, reuse of the original crushed solid bricks as substrate for flooring.
  • Installation of integrated photovoltaic panels (BIPVs) on the South-oriented pitch of the new roof.
  • Energy efficiency of the building envelope through two different systems: for the South and East façades, a traditional EPS External Thermal Insulation Composite System (ETICS); for the North and West façades, an innovative prefabricated “Plug&Play” system designed by the local company ALIVA, consisting of an inner layer of glass wool and an outer sandwich panel filled with rock wool.
  • Installation of new high-performance window frames integrated within thermally insulated prefabricated “monoblocks” manufactured by a local company.

​Photo credits: Cecilia Mazzoli (University of Bologna)

Find plans, sections and technical drawings here (Credits Mirko Cioni, Habitat Plus).

Find detailed drawings of the facade here (Credits Aliva).

The results we met

We met the following results in the Italian demonstration building.

Case-specific outcomes:

  • Demonstration of the effectiveness and replicability of the proposed solutions to lead to an increased rate of renovation for defined building typologies in several districts/cities/regions.
  • Implementation of a circular retrofit intervention, replicable on other buildings of this common type in agricultural areas, based on the concept of urban mining with maximum locally reused and recycled materials.
  • Testing the reusability of existing building materials and the possibility of adopting “Plug&Play” technological prefabricated components even in the context of renovations of protected historic building heritage.
  • Development of detailed LCA and LCC analyses for assessing the environmental and economic impacts of the implemented solutions at both building component and whole building scale.
  • Increasing the awareness in the field of circularity and decarbonization of the target groups involved in the renovation process during the dissemination activities (scientific papers, conferences, academic lectures…).

Case-specific profits:

  • Development of a new technological solution for energy refurbishing the building envelopes designed by ALIVA allowing for industrialization.
  • Implementation and testing of several circular economy strategies related to the reuse and recycle of existing materials, reducing the environmental and economic impact of the intervention.
  • Integration of a photovoltaic system for PV plants able to cover the 69.60% of the yearly energy demand of the villa.
  • Elaboration and testing of a method for easily assessing the level of circularity of buildings, as a tool to support operators in the construction sector (

Case-specific impact indicators:

  • The percentage of primary energy saving after renovation (measured in kWh/m2 y) is 70%.
  • The amount of primary saving after renovation is 0.070GWh/y.
  • The percentage of CO2 emissions reduction (measured in KgCO2/m2y) is 90%.
  • The total amount of primary saving by deep renovation is 26.12 tCO2eq/y.