Skip to main content

AdESA. Holistic system for deep retrofit

Award category
Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking
You want to submit
NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS: existing completed examples
Project title
AdESA. Holistic system for deep retrofit
Full project title
AdESA project. Holistic - Energy, Seismic and Architectural - deep retrofit of the built environment

AdESA is a new system for the energy, seismic and architectural deep renovation of the built environment that allows to operate from outside, without relocating the inhabitants, by applying a second engineered skin to buildings. The system is conceived to be compliant with Life Cycle Thinking and circularity principles to increase sustainability along building life, and it is completely customizable and adaptable to integrate in the project the needs of users/communities in a co-design process.

What was the geographical scope of your project?
Lombardia *
* Lombardia Region partially funded the intervention with the "Smart Living" programme (the project AdESA classified 1st among the financed projects)
Does your project address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your project refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Has your project won an EU prize?
Your project is fully completed?
When was your project implemented?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As a representative of an organisation, in partnership with other organisations
Please provide a summary of your project

The construction sector is one of the most impacting sectors worldwide. Buildings are responsible of environmental and social impacts due to their production, use, and end of life, when they are usually demolished and landfilled. Damages and losses are also due to natural and climate change-related hazards, such as earthquakes, floods or storms. In such a scenario, considering that the existing building stock will represent 85% of the stock in 2050, new retrofit techniques increasing sustainability, safety, resilience, comfort and livability of the existing buildings, whilst fostering urban regeneration, are needed to boost the transition towards a green and circular construction economy. This renovation would require the refusal of a preconceived demolishment of the existing with consequent re-construction, recognizing the value of the built environment and assigning a sense of inclusiveness also understood as the value of the culture and tradition of a community.

The AdESA system is an innovative technology for the multidisciplinary renovation of existing buildings by means of an additional engineered wooden skin. The system, which is BIM-based and applied from the outside to avoid inhabitants’ relocation, allows an architectural and aesthetic enhancement by transforming the buildings’ envelope, an energy performance amelioration by adding new external thermal layers and plants, and the safety and resilience improvement by providing a new wooden anti-seismic shell. The technique is conceived to improve circularity and is inspired by a Life Cycle Thinking approach, reducing impacts along the whole construction process and building life cycle.

The system was applied in a pilot project to a school gymnasium, where the interdisciplinary design of the intervention was built through a participatory process, including professionals, industries, public administrators, school representatives and local associations to combine technical design requirements and user needs.

Please indicate the main themes of your project with 5 key words
Sustainable holistic renovation of the building stock
LCT-based building retrofit solution
Transition towards a sustainable, safe, resilient, livable society
Inclusiveness as a cultural, traditional and moral value of a community
Co-design and social involvement for a sustainable urban redevelopment
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability (including circularity) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The proposed project addresses the sustainability of both the built environment and the construction sector placing itself as a community condenser capable of activating new inclusive and aggregative processes in a urban context characterized by important social oscillations.

Sustainability is pursuit by adopting a LCT approach to reduce environmental, economic, and social impacts along the building life cycle, also implementing concepts of circular economy.

In the product stage, the system adopts eco-efficient materials, either new or recycled/reused. Each component of the engineered shell is highly industrialized. Construction materials are optimized by providing multiple functions to the same element (e.g. exploiting the thermal properties of the structural panels to minimize the energy layer).

In the construction stage, dry technologies and prefabrication of components are adopted. Components are pre-cut using computer-controlled cutting machines implementing BIM-based algorithms, transported to the construction site, and easily moved by light cranes. Connections are also prefabricated and standardized to minimize installation operations, as well as to enable demounting and reuse at end-of-life.

In the use stage, the system minimizes operational energy through the thermal layer, but also reduces impacts connected to maintenance, thanks to dry assembly of components. In addition, the system is conceived to minimize impacts in case of earthquakes, not only by improving the seismic performances, but also by engineering the connections to dissipate energy, lump the possible damage and act as structural fuses, easily replaceable after an earthquake.

Finally, in the end-of-life stage, accessibility and standardization of connections allow the selective disassembly of the elements layer by layer and the reuse of the materials (large CLT panels can be easily tailored for further processing and reuse; standardized connections may be partially reused, etc).

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

Very often, peripheral urban contexts have an anonymous character. These territories do not have elements capable of spark interest in their inhabitants, or feelings of social identity, above all due to the lack of elements characterized by a defined iconographic image. Among its goals, our system intervenes on the figurative level of the buildings to which it is applied, updating the architectural elements of façades; action that contribute to overcome the simplistic concept of building – existing – no longer capable of satisfactorily fulfilling its functions. At the same time, it gives people the opportunity to participate in the redevelopment of the places of their everyday life, redefining dialectical relationship with the city by giving relevance to the space of proximity between the buildings.

AdESA encompasses a list of technical and morphological elements for coatings and finishes and of possible plug-ins applicable to the system with the pivotal aim of customizing the final façade, which can be implemented in harmony with the development of the construction industry and related components. As for finishes, they may be customized by varying the type of coating (membrane, slab, panels, slats, strips), the materials (steel, wood, cardboard, marble, brick, recycled materials, vegetables) and the type of connection (bolted, riveted, “clip”, “concealed”). As for plugins, additional functional elements may be added to the envelope to improve the livability of the interior and/or exterior spaces (i.e. kitchen modules, balconies, etc). In the project, a list of possible customizations has been translated into parametric construction elements (BIM) and is used for the validation of the different façade solutions. The “AdESA list” wants to offer a design tool that can accompany those who will intervene on the building stock in making the first choices, facilitating them. That is, offering a “rocket fuel” for your “design imagination”.

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The suburbs are places in which the rules are difficult to apply; however, in our opinion, the urban regeneration of these areas is not a "utopia", but it is often feasible in many places, even if profoundly marked by obsolete constructive characteristics and performance deficits. Architecture here stands as the synthesis of a process that finds its reason in the centrality of the project - the result of an active multidisciplinary action. “From the spoon to the city”: in this famous quote by E.N. Rogers we find the sense of an extraordinarily inverse approach to a consolidated modus operandi that abdicates the complexities of the design process. The analysed building reveals how minute, but precise interventions - in some cases - can become an ensemble capable of re-determining the identity of a place and giving rise to new relationships in the definition of the "part of the city". We can thus try to change utopia into “eutopia” (eu-topos), transforming the deteriorated building stock into many “good places” with the aim of achieving new forms of sobriety, to revive parts of cities affected to degradation, learning to “listen” the places through empathic attention and wisdom.

From the application experience of the AdESA System, the principles here expressed were translated into reality. Through a strategic vision, a multi-scalar and interdisciplinary approach, and the “listening” to the context before the project by engaging the population, municipality, school representatives and local associations, an obsolescent and anonymous building was converted into a new public space for the community, pursuing the goal of a city shareable and truly socially sustainable. A new multisport playground and new bleachers connected as a plugin to the AdESA envelope were added to create an outdoor space for children, and the interior and exterior spaces were shared with the local community to organize classes for citizens of different ages and social backgrounds.

Please explain how these three dimensions have been combined in your project.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

The proposed project was conceived to embrace and combine all the three souls of the New European Bauhaus: environmental sustainability, by improving energy performances of existing buildings and adopting an LCT-inspired and circular technology solution; aesthetics and quality of experience and style, by reshaping the envelope of existing structures and enhancing the neighbourhood where the building is located, even adopting the new skin to redefine the external spaces of the building; and social inclusion, by engaging the final users and the local community during the renovation process.

The AdESA system was born to respond to a concrete and urgent need, which is the need to improve the livability, comfort, sustainability and safety of our obsolescent building stock, overcoming the current uncoupled and sectorial approach to the renovation in favor of a new holistic and transdisciplinary approach. A pool of experts in different sectors was thus reunited to conceive the solution, and in this interdisciplinarity lays the project’s strength. The system is conceived to maximize the synergies of an integrated intervention, by reinvesting the tangible and immediate gain achieved with energy efficiency amelioration to partly compensate the costs of the seismic improvement. In addition, the presence of the structural layer enables the addition of functional and aesthetic plugins, which are connected to and supported by the structural shell. Finally, the system is conceived as highly industrialized both for the production process and for the installation of components, ensuring reduced construction times, site management and costs comparable to those of an energy and architectural intervention, but with additional benefits in terms of safety of the building and of the inhabitants. All these potentialities may be exploited by the final users, who are involved from the beginning of the design process to set the targets of the renovation process.

Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for

The proposed project may be considered an “example of beautiful, sustainable and inclusive project that contributes to the transformation of the industrial ecosystems towards more sustainable practices in a spirit of circularity, taking into account relevant social aspects.”

The AdESA system was developed by academic and industrial partners who put their efforts in finding innovative solutions inspired by LCT and circularity for a sustainable and holistic renovation of the existing building stock. In particular, Marlegno Srl is a leading company in the wooden construction industry, Harpaceas Srl is a leading company for the diffusion of BIM in the construction sector, Edilmatic Srl is a leading company in the field of anchoring systems for prefabricated elements, and the Universities of Bergamo and Brescia have been dealing with the combined redevelopment of the built environment for years. Such a collaboration shows the willingness of the construction sector to innovate and move toward a more sustainable society, also exploiting the contamination between different sectors and realities.

The application of the AdESA system at a major scale can contribute to the overall development of the region under an economic and social point of view, providing “local solutions to global challenges” such as climate change, resilience to natural hazards, and building and neighborhood decay. The renovation of the existing buildings under an architectural, structural, and energy point of view may indeed improve the safety of citizens and their quality of life. In addition, the introduction of LCT and circularity principles in the construction industry, such as the adoption of nature-based materials, the reuse/recycle of the building components, the avoidance of damage in case of natural hazards, etc., may dramatically reduce the environmental impacts of constructions in terms of carbon emissions, energy consumption, material depletion, and waste production, among others.

Please explain how citizens and civil society were involved in the in the design and/or implementation of the project.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.

The AdESA system is a construction system for the holistic renovation of the existing building stock. In the application of AdESA, citizens and civil society may be involved at two different levels.

When the system is applied to a private building, building users may be involved since the beginning of the process by defining functional needs and aesthetic requirements for the indoor and outdoor spaces in a co-design process, choosing among the possible customizable finishes for the facade and plugins to provide additional living space. When the system is applied to a public building, public participation and citizen engagement through focus-groups may be involved in the design process with the aim of improving the quality of life with reference to the building and the neighborhood. In this case, issues connected to equal opportunities, accessibility, and affordability of the spaces in the as-is situation may be highlighted, and new social objectives may be defined for the renovation project together with more technical performance objectives.

In the pilot project, the AdESA system was applied for the first time to the gym hall of the “Don Milani” Primary School (Villaggio Badia, Brescia, IT). The selection of the building was carried out within a special agreement with the Municipality of Brescia. This allowed the municipal technicians and the school representatives to participate in the realization of the work, involving them actively in the design choices. The collaboration has enriched the experience of the whole working group also through a critical review of the procedure for improving applicability of the AdESA system to other contexts, including residential ones.

Local associations (such as Lions Club International humanitarian organization) were also involved in the design process, participating in the fund raising for the multisport playground, to be used by both the school students and the neighbourhood community.

Please explain what kind of global challenges the project addressed by providing local solutions

The project addresses several global challenges which are connected to the built environment and the construction industry.

The first challenges are sustainability and climate change. The building sector is one of the most impacting sectors in terms of carbon emissions, energy consumption, raw material and fresh water consumption, virgin soil exploitation, and waste production. The project thus proposes an innovative solution for the holistic renovation of the existing building stock inspired by principles of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and circularity. The system is conceived to minimize the impacts along the building life cycle by adopting natural renewable or reused/recycled materials, by adopting modular, standardized and prefabricated solutions, by improving reparability, and by adopting all the principles of the design for disassembly to ensure easy dismantling and reuse of the elements at the end of life, also including innovative smart technologies to optimize both the design and the industrial production processes.

Adopting a holistic and integrated renovation approach, the project also allows to contextually improve several other challenges connected to existing buildings beyond sustainability, mainly: the lack of safety and resilience of our building stock against natural hazards, which are bound to increase due to climate change; the obsolescence of buildings, which need refurbishment under many points of view; and the social decay of the existing neighborhood, especially regarding urban peripheries.

Addressing all these global challenges affecting the existing building stock, the proposed project provides for the first time an affordable and technically feasible retrofit technique, with the aim of improving the current condition of our built environment by retrofitting one building at a time, also transforming and upbringing anonymous public spaces to new uses, with the collaboration of citizens and local communities.

Please highlight the innovative character of the project as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the project.

The AdESA system proposes a completely new approach to the building renovation, shifting from a sectorial approach to a holistic multidisciplinary one. Enormous resources are being invested in Europe to foster sustainability and the transition toward a low-carbon society. However, the common uncoordinated approach to renovation may result in upgraded nZEB (or LEED Platinum) buildings that collapse under earthquake loading, or in structurally retrofitted buildings that remain uncomfortable and unsustainable. In this project, the complex and diverse needs of the same building and the possible interferences among different types of interventions are instead addressed together. This aspect becomes even more relevant if one considers the national economic incentives currently available (such as NextGenEU). In addition, when integrated in urban contexts, such an approach may contribute to increase the neighborhood readiness level to possible hazards.

To enable truly effective holistic interventions, principles of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) are also included in the project to reduce costs and impacts over the building Life Cycle (LC). Besides safety, new performances are pursuit, such as eco-efficiency, controlled damage/reparability to improve resilience, durability, ease of maintenance and adaptivity to future needs, and ease of dismantling and recycling/reuse at the end of life.

Finally, the AdESA system also implies the adoption of digital tools, such as laser-scanner techniques for the initial surveys allowing for the realization of georeferenced and measurable 3D model of the building envelope, 3D BIM model for the architectural drawings, computer-controlled cutting machines implementing BIM-based algorithms, and sensors for structural health monitoring, for smart monitoring of comfort parameters, for energy efficiency optimization and for energy flexibility in reaction to signals from the grid, thus promoting a digital transition in the construction industry.

Please explain to the potential of transferring the projects’ results or learnings to other interested parties and contexts.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.

AdESA is a retrofit technique for the deep renovation of existing buildings located in different contexts and environments. The system is conceived to be applied outside the building, avoiding inhabitants’ relocation, thus overcoming one of the major barriers to building retrofit. The system is very flexible and adaptable and consists in the application of a layered shell to the existing building, encompassing: 1) a structural and a fire protection layer, if necessary; 2) an energy layer, and 3) functional and architectural layer and 4) possible additional plug-ins. Being juxtaposed, these layers are completely independent and may be designed case by case according to the building’s technical needs and to the user requirements. The architectural layout, depending on the urban constraints, the system allows different levels of morphological transformation determined by the choice of the shape of the shell and its offset from the existing building façades. The shell may be either in close proximity to the building, resulting in a structural-energy coat, or placed at a distance to obtain volumetric expansion and new living spaces. Additional plants and sensors may also be added for the smart monitoring of structures and of comfort.

The application of the AdESA system to a real case study, i.e. the gymnasium of the “Don Milani” school, allowed to show the feasibility of the solution in terms of costs and time and in terms of management of the construction site with minimum interferences with the building functionality. The system presents thus a high technological readiness level (TRL), at the level of deployment. New projects applying the AdESA system to residential buildings and social housing complexes are now under development, to further showcase the versatility of the solution, which may further feed the ongoing renovation wave and may contribute to foster a more and more sustainable, safe, resilient, livable, and inclusive built environment.

Is an evaluation report or any relevant documentation available?
If you would like to upload additional documentation, please upload it or write it below

Additional documentation:

  1. Technical paper: Zanni J., Cademartori S., Marini A., Belleri A., Passoni C., Giuriani E., Riva P., Angi B., Brumana G., Marchetti A.L. (2021). “Integrated Deep Renovation of Existing Buildings with Prefabricated Shell Exoskeleton.” Sustainability. 2021, 13, 11287. DOI:  >> paper sustainability
  2. B. ANGI, A. SOCI (2020). Gioco di squadra. Tra centralismo e decentramento: l’empirismo eretico e la città. «International Journal EdA». ISSN: 2384-9576 - MIUR E211002.
  3. Book of drawings made by the children of the Don Milani School.
By ticking this box, you declare that you are not in in one or more of the exclusion situations foreseen under Article 136 of the Financial Regulation.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that you assume sole liability in the event of a claim relating to the activities carried out in the framework of the contest, that the proposed project has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022 in any other category or strand and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
By submitting your application, you guarantee that you are the author or have the rights to proceed with the application and to authorise the use of the project, concept, idea, and that you have obtained any necessary consents, licenses or assignments from third parties and included copyright notices when necessary.
By submitting your application, you understand that all the applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be shared for the purposes of the selection processes, and notably published on the secured platform and for the purposes of the promotion of these on the New European Bauhaus website and/or other European Commission communication channels. In this sense, the applications would be widely available. Applicants should ensure that they present their ideas, concepts, projects, in such a way that they could be shared without giving rise to intellectual property related concerns. If your submission is selected as one of the finalists, it will additionally be shared for the purpose of the public vote that will take place. The European Union is granted a licence to use and share your application with the general public and the official external experts for the purposes of the selection process, including the voting. The European Union has the right to use the images and visual materials and the description provided in the application for communication purposes related to the contest and beyond. Rights granted comprise the right to store, reproduce, display, publish and communicate or distribute copies in electronic or digital format, including, but not only, through the internet. Unless you have disclosed your name, the European Commission has no obligation to share your name when using or disseminating your contribution to the public. The European Union cannot be held responsible in case any submitted idea, project, concept is found to infringe third parties rights. The European Union shall be neither responsible for the use that third parties may do of the applications or related content.


In order to submit your project, please make sure you have filled in all the mandatory fields marked with *, in both the “Basic information” and “Description of the project” tabs.


The country you have selected is not a Member State of the EU.

Please select the country your project was either implemented in the EU for strand A in or is being developed or intended to be implemented in the EU for strand B.