Agnelli Foundation Headquarters by Carlo Ratti Associati

July 12, 2016

Agnelli Foundation Headquarters- International design and innovation firm Carlo Ratti Associati has developed a personalized heating, cooling and lighting system which follows occupants as they move around the building, like an individually-tailored environmental bubble. The new system – part of the redesign of the Agnelli Foundation headquarters in Torino, Italy – gives shape to a workplace that naturally learns and is synchronized to its users’ needs, thus optimizing space usage and limiting energy waste. The building’s official kick-off is on 6 June, 2016. Designers and researchers at Carlo Ratti Associati equipped the century-old structure in the city center of Torino, Italy, with Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors that monitor different sets of data, including occupancy levels, temperature, CO2 concentration, and the status of meeting rooms. Based on this information, the building management system (BMS) responds dynamically, adjusting lighting, heating, air-conditioning, and room booking in real-time. Once building occupants set their preferred temperature via a smartphone app, a thermal bubble follows them throughout the building, as the fan coil units, situated in the false ceilings, are activated by human presence.

When an occupant leaves a given space, the room returns naturally to ‘standby mode” and saves energy – just like a computer does. “Today, a lot of energy is wasted heating or cooling empty buildings”, says professor Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of Carlo Ratti Associati. “By synchronizing energy usage and human occupancy within buildings we can create a more sustainable and responsive architecture – theoretically slashing energy consumption by up to 40%.” Carlo Ratti Associati has explored forms of climate control in award-winning experimental projects such as Local Warming (exhibited at the 2014 Venice Biennale) and Cloud Cast (shown at Dubai’s Museum of Future Government Services in 2015). Now, for the first time, these very technologies are being deployed at the building scale, in collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group. “With this project, we are writing the next chapter on the history of this building”, explains John Elkann, Vice Chairman of the Agnelli Foundation and Chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. In the early 20th century, the building was the home of FIAT’s founder Giovanni Agnelli, and later became a hub for design experimentation following its refurbishment by two of Italy’s leading 20th-century architects, Amedeo Albertini and Gabetti & Isola. “Sensors and localized climate control are already established features in the car industry. With Carlo Ratti Associati we are now exploring how such solutions can impact architecture, using the Internet of Things. The project for the Agnelli Foundation will transform a historical building into a new center open to the city, companies and schools, devoted to learning, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship”, adds Elkann. The new building’s IoT sensors collect data that can be used for both environmental control and a variety of other functions. An internal positioning system – similar to GPS – is the platform on which a range of applications can be developed going forward.

“This open platform for occupants, employees, and guests will further evolve over time, through crowd-developed apps and software updates”, adds Ratti. In the last decade, mobile apps such as Foursquare have changed the way we experience open-air urban space. The Agnelli Foundation project aims at transferring the bottom-up approach of these mobile apps to the workplace, fostering creativity and productivity in the office and creating new communities at the intersection of physical space and digital information. The knowledge of internal occupancy also allows to reconfigure offices over time. The new workplace will also feature a set of movable glass walls, sound-absorbing curtains, and foldable partitions made of wooden panels, all of them permitting endless reconfiguration of the interior. Hence a large open space can quickly turn into a series of small meeting rooms – each of them with its own individually-customizable thermal bubble. This kind of flexibility is essential to the building, which will contain not only the headquarters of the Agnelli Foundation, but also a co-working space, a Fab Lab, workshop areas for students and entrepreneurs and a café. Construction is set to commence on 6 June 2016, and the renovated Agnelli Foundation building will be inaugurated in Spring, 2017.

A project by Carlo Ratti Associati (team: Carlo Ratti, Giovanni de Niederhäusern, Antonio Atripaldi – project
leader, Francesco Strocchio, Valentina Grasso, Mariachiara Mondini, Nicola Scaramuzza)
Structural and executive project: Studio Ferraresi
Mechanical, microclimatic and BEMS design: Paolo Lazzerini (Studio Lazzerini)
Illuminating engineering: Roberto Pomè
Historical consultancy: Michele Bonino

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