In the rural commune of Russi in northeastern Italy, Italian architecture studio Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti has converted an industrial area once used for sugar production into Powerbarn, a sustainable bioenergy production plant.

Inspired by sustainability, the architects developed a master plan that integrated architecture into the agricultural landscape and restored and renaturalized some 280,000 square meters – including three wetlands – for the benefit of the ecosystem and the local community. Surrounded by man-made dunes, Powerbarn uses biomass, biogas and solar systems to generate approximately 222 GWh per year, enough to meet the energy needs of 84,000 families.

The facility is on the former industrial property, which was the site of the Eridania sugar factory. This is why Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti paid special attention to the boundaries of the properties, which the team redefined with man-made dunes – rather than an industrial fence – built solely from the land used in the construction.

Our intention was to create something similar to a natural stronghold, around the power station. It is not a barrier, but a functional element that would express our design intentions: to create an element that is permeable, accessible and alive.

Giovanni Vaccarini.

Inspired by the “razzle dazzle” camouflage technique, Vaccarini dressed the Powerbarn with large triangular panels of wood and steel. The master plan also includes an office building, an electrical substation and a wastewater collection area. In addition to solar energy, the Powerbarn is powered by wood chips and organic materials obtained within a radius of 70 kilometers from the site as well as wastewater from livestock which is fed into the biogas plant.

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