Hera cogeneration plant - Bologna

Efficiency and future-oriented architecture

Ceramic tiles have helped refresh the urban identity of a power plant that has doubled its capacity while cutting emissions
Laura Milan
Massimo Gennari
Andrea Zanarini - Heratech srl
Year of completion

The new Hera cogeneration plant in Bologna’s Borgo Panigale-Reno district generates combined heat and electricity and has been in operation since 2017. The new facility is the result of a €17 million upgrade of an existing plant originally built in the 1990s, an investment made with the aim of improving the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of the facility while refreshing its architecture.
The project was developed in-house between 2012 and 2015 by a design team led by architect Andrea Zanarini. A key factor in determining the new architectural identity of an otherwise anonymous and partly demolished building was the choice of its materials and finishing elements and the use of the colours traditionally associated with the city of Bologna and its mediaeval historical centre, namely brick red, yellow ochre and tuff, as well as warm dark brown and rust tones.
The cladding material played an important part in this renovation project and consisted predominantly of ceramic elements produced and supplied by Casalgrande Padana. Large expanded metal panels in a Cor-Ten steel colour enclose the main body of the complex, redefining its simple geometric profiles and urban identity, while rectangular slabs in the Soraya Red colour (Marte Collection) were installed in a horizontal layout to create a uniform, matching backdrop.
The renovation of the rooftop chimney stacks provided an opportunity to establish the new power station as an urban landmark, a new identity based on the use of ceramic. The chimney stacks are enclosed by a series of elliptical metallic rings onto which 576 large-format (30×120 cm) slat-shaped porcelain stoneware tiles in a variety of colours have been mounted vertically with different angles of orientation (Architecture collection in the colours Acid Green, Marte Emperador and Soraya Red and Unicolour collection in the colour Giallo Ocra).
A lighting design based on warm LEDs to enhance the building’s night-time identity completes the transformation.
No less importantly, the new cogeneration plant has improved the performance of the old facility and doubled its capacity to 35,000 MWh per year. A further 7.44 MWt is recovered from the flue gases, in turn supplemented by 11 MWt from conventional boilers. Emissions have also been lowered, with nitrogen oxides reduced by 21 tonnes per year and carbon dioxide by 2,500 tonnes.
This seemingly modest project is in reality part of an increasingly important trend in terms of both the energy supply of cities and the quality of the associated urban transformations. Whether newly built or upgraded, power stations must be equipped with cutting-edge technology while at the same time redefining their architectural characteristics. Form and function come together in a model already established by other state-of-the-art facilities such as Copenhill, the award-winning waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen designed by studio BIG, which even has a permanent ski slope installed on its roof.

Casalgrande Padana, Architecture and Unicolore
porcelain stoneware
30x120 cm
Acid Green, Marte Emperador e Rosso Soraya (Architecture) e Giallo Ocra (Unicolore)
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): < 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): conforme
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 150 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): conforme
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): conforme
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): > 45 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): PTV > 36
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): conforme
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): conforme
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): conforme
Certifications and awards
ISO 14001
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