Arup's water expertise helps Milan's MIND innovation district on sustainability
Above: outdoor working at Milan's MIND district (landscape design by SLA for Arexpo - image courtesy Carlo Ratti Associati)
Set in the northwest of Milan, the MIND Milano Innovation District is an urban regeneration project that will transform the city’s former international exhibition site into a mixed-use, net zero innovation district, featuring a mix of residential units, green areas as well as space for the sciences, knowledge and innovation.
The 100-hectare urban redevelopment, equivalent to around 120 football fields, will put people front and centre Arup says, leveraging placemaking to facilitate the health and wellbeing of local residents. Aligned with Europe’s decarbonisation agenda, the district aims to be powered by renewable energy, and tackle the future impacts of climate change through its resilient assets. The district will host private firms, start-ups, state-of-the-art research labs, as well as mixed-use real estate, garden and park space, and a hospital.
Landowner Arexpo, majority-owned by a mix of public entities, and real estate investor Lendlease are together managing the development through a public-private partnership. Arup’s sustainability advisors have been appointed to deliver a carbon roadmap to net zero; as well as a high-level climate change adaptation and resilience strategy, and an integrated water management strategy.
Lendlease has set ambitious net zero targets for Milan’s Innovation District; targeting operational and embodied net zero carbon emissions by 2025, and absolute zero scope 1, 2 and 3 by 2040.
MIND’s carbon roadmap offers one of the first examples of a large-scale carbon budget for an existing urban redevelopment. Following Lendlease’s targets, Arup’s sustainability experts developed a carbon roadmap that anticipates and goes beyond an overall net zero carbon footprint for the site, including emissions from construction and operation.
Buildings are key to achieving net zero. Arup's experts have also supported Lendlease in measuring the performance of a series of building typologies to determine the carbon budget per type. Through an independent review of the design of the buildings, Arup has provided a number of technical solutions to reduce embodied carbon during construction.
The strategic goals and actions are grouped around three key pillars: nature, people and nourishment. These will guide the design of green and blue infrastructure and shared spaces across the site, helping shape a circular food system and promoting social resilience through urban farming and on-site food production activities.
MIND paves the way to creating an innovative approach for future proofing urban redevelopments against extreme climate change scenarios.
Arup’s water experts developed an integrated water management strategy to ensure the efficient use of water resources including nature-based solutions such as green roofs and gardens, reed beds, bio-swales and wetlands, alongside technical thinking to create a resilient system, improve canal water quality and optimise the potable and non-potable consumption. The team analysed the morphological and infrastructure properties of the site, as well as the quality of the drainage, groundwater and canal systems.
MIND’s circular use of water resources will be enhanced through the implementation of a metered system. The system will be supported by efficient plumbing fixtures and a non-potable water network, alongside an integrated utility water system to reduce energy demand and costs of water treatment. The installation of an aeration system will improve canal water quality and help the district produce clean drinking water.
Nature-based solutions will help mitigate flooding risks, and improve the interaction between surface and groundwater by optimising the site’s water infiltration and attenuation mechanisms.
Expected to be completed in 2030, the MIND Milano Innovation District is an imaginative showcase of a large urban mixed-use redevelopment that aims to foster a culture of wellbeing, social interaction, and collaboration, linking innovation with sustainable functionality.
Below: the master-plan for MIND (courtesy MC Architects / Mario Cucinella Architects for Arexpo)