Building: innovation using rice

RiceHouse is an innovative start-up that produces sustainable building materials from the waste products of rice farming. The next challenge? To employ this approach to upgrade an electricity substation.

Can the construction sector innovate and become more sustainable? This is a key question as the world sets itself on a one-way course involving energy and ecological transition that will lead to irreversible changes in the way we live, work and make our homes. The answer, after years of crisis and inaction, is finally a “yes”. This is possible thanks to enterprises like RiceHouse, an innovative start-up that uses waste from rice farming to produce sustainable materials for “healthy building”, finding an ethical and high-tech was to transform the home into “a new live living organism”, as declared in the company's mission.

Today, the construction sector consumes approximately 50% of the raw materials extracted in Europe. In addition to this, it accounts for 60% of energy consumption, 36% of emissions, more than 20% of water consumption and one third of waste production. Therefore, the success of the “green revolution” depends on the ability to find new innovative and sustainable solutions that can reduce the environmental impact of the building industry. This has prompted Terna to take action and do its part, working with start-ups and small businesses that have the ability to make a difference with their innovative ideas, revolutionising a sector that has always resisted change.

Use of RiceHouse building materials (Ricehouse.it)

To do this, the operator of the national transmission grid uses the Call for Innovation tool, through which explores technologies and innovative methods in sectors outside its core business. Terna has sought and identified projects and products capable of reducing the energy needs of the group, helping it to become ever more sustainable.

Innovation is one of the primary drivers of the current energy and ecological transition” explains Alessia Zoccali, engineer and environmental analyst and Terna’s head of Environmental Protection. “At a global level, in this period we are charged with tackling profound changes and the only way to succeed is through innovation. At Terna, the Environmental Protection Open Innovation divisions work together with the goal of launching projects that support development of the circular economy, selecting start-ups that contribute to improving our knowledge and directly or indirectly help us to manage the grid in a more sustainable way”.

Thermal insulation extracted from rice (Ricehouse.it)

This commitment gave rise to our partnership with RiceHouse. The innovative start-up, co-founded in 2016 by architect Tiziana Monterisi, participated in a Call for Innovation regarding Advanced Materials for Sustainability. “RiceHouse is a very promising enterprise in the field of green construction, as it uses innovative, sustainable materials capable of eliminating the use of primary raw materials. Its products derived from rice-farming waste guarantee excellent energy performance and high quality, reducing consumption and the environmental impact of buildings throughout their life cycle” Alessia explains.

RiceHouse finishes, plaster and panelling can generate a CO2 saving of up to 20%. Just imagine the positive cycle that could be triggered if these materials were used for the more than 800 Terna electrical substations, as well as its offices and workshops. A pilot project has already been defined. “We are focusing on a project that involves upgrading an existing mechanics workshop in Camin, Padua. Planning is complete and we are proceeding to the works phase. This building was not chosen at random, and neither was the location. The north-east of Italy is the home of rice production and RiceHouse has founded its business on the waste products generated”, Zoccali concludes.