Mario Cucinella Architects has created a sustainable public building that uses several active and passive elements to lower its environmental footprint. Specifically, the new timber-clad headquarters for the Regional Agency for Prevention, Environment and Energy (ARPAE) uses a soaring rooftop made up of 112 smart chimneys to regulate its air, light and energy so that the building relies on minimal technical systems.

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timber building with multiple towers

At more than 53,000 square feet, the immense public works building features a central courtyard. Its cladding is made up of thin timber panels that top a ground floor with floor-to-ceiling glass panels, creating a natural harmony with its woodland surroundings in the small city of Ferrara, in northern Italy.

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building with large walkway under overhang

timber building surrounded by greenery

The architect chose the building’s materials based on their ability to help the structure reach a “maximum level of environmental sustainability.” Mario Cucinella explained, “The building in Ferrara explores the relationship between form and performance, that makes it the first hybrid public building in Italy.”

long hallway with glass walls

series of towers with solar panels

The stand-out characteristic in the design is, without a doubt, its eye-catching rooftop, which is comprised of 112 chimneys. An essential element in regulating the building’s energy use, each chimney features a skylight that lets natural light and air filter down into the spaces below. Some of the chimneys feature solar panels that generate ample energy for the building.

three tower-like structures with red coverings

large building clad in dark timber slats

The passive building system also acts differently in the summer and winter months. During the hotter months, the chimneys constantly move air through the interior, creating a healthy working space for employees and visitors. In the winter months, they operate more like a greenhouse, where they accumulate solar heat to keep the spaces warm. All in all, the unique system helps the building enjoy a comfortable temperate year-round all while reducing energy demand.

+ Mario Cucinella Architects

Images via Mario Cucinella Architects