Net Zero Energy Certified


This single-family, detached house is located at a 10-minutes drive from the splendid Garda Lake in Italy. The project is a new construction on a greyfield site, previously a garden centre. The project includes the demolition of the old structures, land remediation, and the construction of a 1-story residential unit. Several features of the site are kept to honor the spirit of the place and to showcase love and respect for its history.  The house perfectly integrates with the surroundings sandstone natural rocks formations through the concrete wall on the northern edge of the lot and through the exterior facade.


Certification StatusNet Zero Energy Building Certified
Version of LBC3.1
LocationArco, Trentino, Italy
Project Area358 Square Meters
Start of OccupancyJune 2018
Owner OccupiedYes
Occupancy TypeSingle Family Residence
Number of Occupants5
Photo Courtesy of Casa SN


OwnerNicola Berlanda
Project ManagerAlessandro Povoli
ArchitectPLAN.architettura Srl
ContractorCostruzioni SMART & c snc
MechanicalStudio Vio
ElectricalVeechi Dario
StructuralAta Engineering S.p.a
LFACarlo Battisti



The site was previously used for commercial purposes but was abandoned for a long period (2007-2017). The original plan was to construct two high residential building blocks on the lot but no legal nor commercial agreement could be found with all relevant stakeholders. Before 2007, the company AF, AcroFlora, used the site to cultivate and sell flowers. This is also how the current owners got to know the site. The site comprised of several in-and outdoor structures like greenhouses and a main and smaller building. In general, the built surface was partially covered by growing plants. From the street, both greenery and the greenhouse/building were visible. Overall, the site was abandoned and plastic waste (flower containers and pots) and tools were visible and dispersed across the lot. The current owners hand-picked and recycled the waste before the rough demolition works kicked-off. The site was surrounded by a see-through fence and metal gate at human-height.

The project respects the zone and prior site-use by designing a building at ground level and dedicating a large area of the lot to fruit cultivation (20%), a garden (40%) and vegetable cultivation (2%). Further, the old metal gate and one greenhouse is kept in its original shape. In addition, an old shaft, which used to be designed as an elevator, is currently incorporated in the design as a sky-light for the -1 level living areas.

Photo Courtesy of Casa SN



The project’s design promotes natural cooling and ventilation in the main living area, while the roof overhangs allow natural shadow. Mechanical ventilation extraction is provided with heat recovery. Lighting is manually controlled, exterior lights are fitted with movement sensors. A performance monitoring and feedback dashboard is installed. Space heating is distributed through underfloor heating. The HVAC system is 100% electric and consists of an air/water heat pump supported by solar thermal panels, which feed into a water well used as sensible thermal energy storage. All the required electricity is generated on site with photovoltaic panels. The project also honors hisorical vernacular traditions by installing a fireplace, which is generally used in this mountain area for ornamental reasons.


Actual energy produced during performance period9,862 kWh
Actual energy use during performance period8,419 kWh
Net Energy Performance-1,443 kWh
EUI7.45 kBTU/sf/yr
Photo Courtesy of Casa SN


Panel Array Size11 kW
Panel Output per Capacity Nameplate305 W
Panel Quantity36
Panel Type & BrandMonocrystal by Fronius
Inverter Quantity2
Ownership DetailsProperty Owner


Space heating is distributed through underfloor heating. Space heating and warm water are provided by a water/water heat pump supported by an existing 18 m deep underground water well in combination with a 500L water boiler. The well’s access point is located in the basement of the main building.


The U-shape of the floorplan with in the middle an atrium-like natural light corridor promotes natural cooling and ventilation in the main living area. Roof overhangs allow natural shadow until 1 m above ground. Mechanical ventilation extraction is provided with heat recovery.


Wall R value5.24
Roof R value5.71
Floor R value and section specification5.59
Windows Triple glazed with steel frames. U value = 1
LightingDaylighting & LED
Photo Courtesy of Casa SN



The design of the project has continuously had a strong focus on the shared vision of the owners (Nicola and Sara) and the ILFI: “What does good look like?”. The site is located at a 10-minute drive from the splendid Lago di Garda which has a rich history that goes back to the Roman Empire.

As the owners have a strong bond with the site and, more specifically, its past commercial flower activities (Nicola used to come to the site to buy flowers for his wife in the early 2000’s), they have respectfully kept several features of the site to honor the spirit of the place and their love and respect for each other. First, the abandoned shed on the most southern-west side of the lot is kept untouched and will be transformed to a typical Italian ‘Pergola’ in the near future, providing greenery, fruits and shadow for its users. Tiles, originally present on-site, will be recycled, cleaned and used as tiles for the terrace surrounding the pergola. Secondly, as the site was used to grow plants and flowers, the owners wanted to honor the site’s previous activities by dedicating a significant portion of the lot to grow fruit trees and a vegetable garden. The location of the latter has already changed in the course of the months as the original location suffered from too much exposition to the natural elements (wind and sun). Therefore, the plot for vegetable cultivation is moved to the north west side of the lot, near the old entrance gate. This old entrance gate is also a feature from the previous site which was kept in its original shape. Visitors and pedestrians have a direct view on the original shed/pergola, the fruit trees, and the vegetable garden through a see-through fence, so the projects beauty may be shared with the public.

On the other side of the lot, the edge of the east, has a see-through fence which allows the old olive trees of the site to co-exist with the adjacent vineyard. The combination of the olive trees, the vineyard and the tower of the San Giorgio church positioned in between the steep mountain slopes surrounding the most Nordic part of Lago di Garda, is a human delight which inspires and celebrates the co-existence of nature and humans in the area. The five olive trees which are all about 100 years old, add personal character to the natural spirit of the place ad they have been meticulously transferred from the owner’s previous residence to the current lot. Another tree with a story on the site, is a Populus tremula located at the entrance. As Sara, the co-owner of the project, loved this Populos tremula, they decided to keep the tree and position it where they frequently pass, i.e. right in between the entrance of the house and the parking space and therefore becoming the signature-tree and the soul of the house.

Another feature that was kept on site is one large metal frame on wheels which used to be used to grow flowers, is kept on site and will have the same function. Furthermore, the site comprised a shaft to transport materials from level -1 to the ground floor. However, this elevator has never been in use, the shaft existed, and the owners decided to use it as a 2 / 2 large skylight to provide natural light to the below-ground living areas. Ultimately, the northern edge of the lot is marked by a concrete wall which mimics the natural geological distinct sand layers in aquatic soils. The exterior facade of the house also consists of this same structure. As a result, the house perfectly integrates with the surroundings rocks rising from the Lago di Garda as a natural rock formation in sandstone.

The design of the house is a playful combination of shape, light and elevation. The U-shape with in the middle an atrium-like natural light corridor to the underground level reminds of a typical Roman villas’ design. This corridor also allows the below-ground level to have a view on the surrounding mountains with the benefits of a natural cool climate below ground. As the house is not equipped with a cooling system while located in a warm climate, the U shape promotes natural cooling and ventilation in the main living area. By opening the windows on the northern and southern side of the room a natural air flow increases the occupant’s wellbeing. In addition, the roof overhang avoids the need for technological shading devices in summer, as the design allows natural shadow down until 1 m above ground.

Photo Courtesy of Casa SN


The project team hosted an open day to teach members of the public about the project. The team also developed a comprehensive Operation & Maintenance Manual so the occupants would be able to maintain and operate the building systems as designed.

The project site is of special significance to the owners. They kept several features from the garden centre that was previously located there, in order to honor the spirit and place of the site. The owners intentionally made project features visible for visitors and pedestrians, so the site’s history could continue to be shared with the community.