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The temporary dwellings by Programma Housing in Turin, Italy

Among the several housing actions promoted by the PH-Programma Housing (by means of free grants to third parties, direct contributions or mission related investments in ethical real estate funds for social housing) the experimentations directly promoted and funded are particularly interesting for their experimental approach. The aim is to test and define replicable social housing models to control the building integrated sustainability, starting from variables impacting on the global housing cost of both beneficiaries and social managers (plants - building technologies, common services offered, rental costs etc.), up to the quality of life offered to the inhabitants and local community. What’s extremely challenging in the temporary dwellings so far realized by the PH relays on the building typologies chosen: XIX century complexes settled in vibrant and multi-ethnical urban areas of the City of Turin. Furthermore, the realization process itself matches the opportunity of the Compagnia di San Paolo di Torino philanthropic mission (foundation of banking origin) with the public aim of supporting the housing welfare policy. The outcome is in fact the successful result of a joint public-private consensus to enhance and maximize the local resources allocation (the buildings are under a free loan agreement from public or private side while the realization processes have respected a public interest vision, conducted through several step by step calls for public tender and benefitting from the municipality consensus thanks to the local “Social Housing” council act within which the real estate properties involved had been recommended for the purpose).

The Programma Housing of CSP has started in 2006 to experiment innovative social housing solutions, and, in 2009, launched the challenging concept of “temporary social housing”, labelled “Luoghi Comuni” (common places). By 2015 two social housing temporary dwellings have been realized in central quartiers of Turin, offering, for a maximum time period of 18 months, affordable housing rents and common services to people facing social-economic stress (city users, visiting people, singles or couples with sons, etc.). The first one, active by 2013, is set in the Porta Palazzo area, facing the famous square where each day the biggest and vital open-air market of Europe is set up. The project offers 27 apartments sided by commercial and common spaces (laundry, restaurant, etc.) to singles or couples. The second one, rolled out in 2015, is located in the San Salvario multi-ethnical quartier, close to a strategic rail station and the Turin Synagogue. This intervention mainly addresses vulnerable families with children (24 apartments) and is in close connection with the inner infant school, a restaurant and other sharable spaces. Both buildings offer common spaces for outreach events in favor of the local community.

One of the several values in which the Programma Housing has invested in undoubtedly relays on the definition of the best mix of social, technical, economic and managerial inputs, to grant a global affordable and sustainable housing solution, also in relation to the peculiar typology of the building, the specific urban context, and the inhabitants needs and social mixitè. The renovation projects have in fact drawn up to safeguard the architectural features of the buildings, the inhabitants’ quality of life and focusing, at the same time, on the achievement of high energy efficiency performances, by means of scenario analyses. In this regard, in recent years, PH has defined a "toolbox framework" to govern the sustainability of these interventions and work tables participated by local operational and institutional stakeholders are in progress to widen these reflections towards the sharing of metrics and indicators useful for explicating the social impacts.

One of the first studies actually concluded during the early phases supporting the realizations of the temporary dwellings concerned the housing cost sustainability. Specifically, it has been built a threshold of housing cost, simulating changes in the energy efficiency of the building projects. Then it has been built a second set of thresholds of income limits for target users to test the affordability of the housing services offered. The environmental sustainability has been after all a technical requirement of the preparatory documents for the design calls of tender. As a result, the two projects avail of solar panels for domestic hot water production, photovoltaic systems on roof and facades. Many are the building materials attesting a low consumption of resources and high quality of disposal: natural insulation (mineralized wood wool, pressed wood fiber, flakes of cellulose and recycled cork, as well as bamboo, eco gres, etc.). Moreover, in the San Salvario temporary dwelling, the rainwater is recovered for the inner courtyard irrigation, where preexisting trees have been merged with the new design.

Particularly valuable is the scenario pre-feasibility analysis carried out on the global housing cost of the first intervention settled in Porta Palazzo square. Here the Programma Housing decided to apply the LCC-Life Cycle Cost evaluation methodology, taking into account all the costs that would have impacted on the initiative life cycle: technical, construction, and operational costs, maintenance and replacement costs, disposal costs. The analysis, based on the European Standard EN 15459, had been conducted to verify if, during the useful life of the building, the savings, in terms of lower costs related to the energy management, would have been able to cover the higher cost of construction needed to achieve the specific energetic performance level.

The obtained results, useful to fine tune the design and the management setting, represent now a benchmark model for the monitoring phase, in order to test the efficiency level of the interventions to prevent the inhabitants’ energy poverty, while sustaining, at least, the cost-revenue flows balance. The emerging results evidence that it is effectively possible to balance housing costs components (rent rates and operating costs) with the energetic performance of the building, reaching up to -60% of energetic expenses and up to -10% of the housing cost variables as a whole, thus unburdening both the residents and the social manager.

The energy efficiency of the building, the cost of utilities, the rent, the household income, the characteristics of the real estate market as well as the urban social and cultural context into which the building is inserted, are all variables that must be considered in order to build an effective management model for interventions of social housing. Although the results obtained are to be considered in the specific context of the application in which they have been calculated, and therefore cannot be generalized, these two experimentations let to set an evaluation methodology that can measure the impact of these variables on the housing cost. The goal, after 3-5 years of activity, is now focused to deepen the local scale mechanisms that regulate and influence the trade-off choices between good design and efficient management, especially in relation to the social and economic purpose for which these social housing projects have been provided for.


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