Bird eye view of the master plan; Bird eye view of the master plan;

L’Innesto , Milan

Milan and C40s support L'Innesto, Italy's first carbon-neutral social housing project

Keeping a zero-carbon footprint while living in a city can sometimes feel like a distant, lofty ambition. With its plans for a large-scale sustainable housing masterplan, Milan is embracing a bold regeneration strategy for its first carbon-neutral social housing development. Working on the six-hectare, former rail depot of Scalo di Greco Breda, Arup together with Fondo Immobilare Lombardia (FIL) and architects Barreca & La Varra have developed a proposal for what will the country’s first zero-carbon affordable housing development.

The vision, predicated on the delivery of an innovative, decentralised low-carbon district heating network, has won the C40’s Reinventing Cities competition, a global contest that invites innovative carbon-free and resilient design solutions for the regeneration of underused urban space. The design embeds circular economy principles from the strategic planning stage, and unlocks value for all the stakeholders: private sector investors, public sector actors such as the Milan municipality, the rail administration FS Sistemi Urbani, the university and above all, the local residents.

Arup is coordinating the project on behalf of FIL. As well as leading the masterplan design, our consultants and specialists are the Circular Economy advisors and are also providing sustainable and environmental design as well as the decarbonization strategy. 

Project Summary

First zero carbon social housing in Italy

21,000 affordable housing

72%green areas

Located next to the Greco Pirelli train station in the north east of the city, the six-hectare Scalo Greco Breda site is a former freight depot. The botanical roots of the aptly named L’Innesto translate into real life: the project will be a ‘green’ implant grafted onto this industrial rail area. The masterplan will connect the mixed-use historical neighbourhood of Precotto and the former industrial area of Biccoca, which currently provides housing and services to the nearby university campus. 

As a sort of urban sustainability sandbox, the partnership between the public and private sectors is expected to be a replicable and scalable intervention to test carbon-neutral initiatives and inform future policy making.



Italy’s first zero carbon social housing project

The winning proposal is based on the development of an innovative decentralized 4th Generation District Heating (4GDH) powered by renewable sources, including an urban wastewater heat-recovery system. To achieve a zero C02 emissions balance within 30 years, the buildings are designed to be near-zero energy and will be built with a pre-assembled construction technology, enabling the modular structures to be disassembled and recycled.  

Soil excavation will be minimized and treated with bio-remediation techniques on site to be re-used for landscaping. Vegetable gardens, a garden nursery, green seeded roofs and ‘edible’ landscapes will create an agricultural heart.

L'Innesto is an example of a successful urban regeneration strategy applied to larger underused sites: it demonstrates the value that Arup’s city planning team can deliver toward decarbonisation and sets a clear path for the future. ”

Stefano Recalcati Stefano Recalcati Associate Director

Active mobility and reduced car ownership

With over 70% of the former railway yard area redesigned as public park and a pedestrian core, active mobility will be the key driver behind the ambitious sustainable transport vision. Plans limit individual car parking spaces to around 100 for the 700 tenants and including 1,200 m² of bike parking facilities, 10 electric charging terminals and a shared neighbourhood car fleet.

Plans also include the creation of a private carbon fund to enable a local carbon emissions swap system, so that the district’s carbon debt can be offset through the continued implementation of carbon-neutral projects. 


The heart of the community: human-focused affordable housing

The development prides itself in being a human-focused initiative. To drive the daily management of the site, we have established a multi-disciplinary think-tank – coordinated by Arup – and which encompasses some of the city’s utility companies, bank foundations, leading Italian universities along with research and innovation centres as well as NGOs committed to social development.

An engineered mix of activities on site – such as a Community Food Hub, a Circular Economy District, an Energy Showroom, a Zero Waste Store, a ‘Residents’ Handbook’, and a district App, will also support future inhabitants of L’Innesto in creating a sustainable community and in being part of the change they are seeking.


  • Winner of the C40’s Reinventing Cities Competition, a global contest that invites innovative design solutions for the regeneration of abandoned urban space