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From agriculture to architecture: houses are made with rice. The project of the Ricehouse startup

“Fifteen years ago my partner and I, who is also my partner, moved to Biella and we found ourselves living in the middle of the rice fields. We have noticed how much waste remained on the fields, destined to be burned, because not suitable for breeding, as it happens for other crops. Since the straw of other cereals was already used in architecture, I said to myself: why not try also that of rice? So I started using it in my building sites as an insulator “.

Tiziana Monterisi, a 43-year-old architect from Lecco, tells how two years ago she decided to kick off the startup Ricehouse , officially presented last January in Klimahouse , where she arrived among the 10 finalists of Klimahouse Startup Award , a competition created to boost to green innovations among young entrepreneurs, and received the special innovative startup award from the CasaClima agency. The idea is to promote the exploitation of rice crop residues and to support the use of straw, husk and chaff as building materials.

“I have always been interested in architecture in favor of man, I see the house as our third skin. As we pay attention to the clothes we wear, the same must be done with the materials of the environments in which we live “.

What does Ricehouse do?

Ricehouse stands as the central hub of the supply chain that goes from agriculture to architecture. The startup manages the coordination of the production of raw materials, from logistics to storage, in order to ensure a continuous supply, follows the production, carried out in partnership with companies in the sector, deals with the promotion and marketing in the construction world sustainable. Four, in particular, the products conceived by Ricehouse: from the frame made of wood and rice straw to special plasters, mortars and screeds that find in the rice processing waste one of their main components.

“Since January 2018 they have all been offered for sale and can be bought by anyone, by contacting us. Before I used them and experimented on building sites, so a customer had to “trust” me. Now, however, I have had all the tests and certifications necessary to prove the technical and acoustic insulating characteristics. All important values ​​for companies, professionals who prepare the specifications, customers who are attentive to high energy efficiency “, explains Tiziana Monterisi.

Thanks to the mixture of lime, husk and straw, the Ricehouse products are very light, highly thermal, completely natural, breathable and healthy. They are also distinguished by their ease of installation, very similar to that of cement. They are suitable for all types of intervention and construction : from restorations, because they contain natural lime, to renovations, where they can be placed side by side with pre-existing brick or reinforced concrete, new buildings, perhaps in wood or bio materials. As a UD House, awarded in the residential renovation / restoration category as a 2017 green building for the 2017 sustainability award by the AESS Agency in Modena: a zero-energy house with a very low environmental impact, signed by architect Monterisi a Chamois, in Val d’Aosta, 1,816 meters high. Born on the ruins of an old ruin from 1834, the building, thanks to the insulating properties of the rice straw inserted in the frame, does not need heating or a conditioning system, because it maintains a mild and comfortable temperature inside. Humidity, on the other hand, is regulated in a natural way by internal plasters, made of raw earth, and by natural ventilation.

Development cooperation in Italy

Italy promotes cooperation with developing countries and supports policies of intervention consistent with United Nations initiatives, which aim to reduce poverty and consolidate institutional structures in developing countries.

Historically, the Italian cooperative commitment in the international field began immediately after the Second World War, in the ’50s and’ 60s, with interventions in the former African colonies and in particular, under UN mandate, in Somalia. After an initial regulation of the subject (Law 38/1979), it was in the 80s that the reference legislation, still in force, for the Cooperation sector, was formulated under Law no. 49 of 1987 (“New discipline of the cooperation of Italy with the developing countries”).

In the 1990s, Italy’s contribution was partly reduced following the cuts in public spending implemented during that period, but it has in fact extended the scope of support programs, with the response to the needs deriving from the new geopolitical structure. As beneficiaries of the protection and development interventions, the Balkan countries have been joined to Africa and, in recent years, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The body which, on behalf of the Italian Government, manages the initiatives in the field of Cooperation is the Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Currently, the guidelines and general aims of the Cooperation are set within the European Union, in a multilateral context that has as its main reference the “Millennium Declaration”, the goal of halving by 2015 the number of people who they live on less than a dollar a day.

In addition to participating in EU support programs, Italy uses, as a tool to promote the economic growth of developing countries, participation in development funds supported by several countries and the direct funding of International Bodies.

In the context of bilateral projects involving Italy and the individual developing countries, the implementation of the cooperation programs involves the collaboration of the Ministry with Regions, Autonomous Provinces and other Local Authorities – coordinated by a special structure – and with Public and private institutions, universities, research centers and non-governmental organizations.

NGOs working in the field of cooperation with developing countries can access contributions for the performance of their activities or receive specific assignments financed by the General Management, only if they have the recognition of eligibility – which, according to D .Lgs. N. 29 of 3 February 1993, is assigned by decree signed by the Director General for Development Cooperation.

The recognition of eligibility can be requested for the following types of activities: implementation of short and medium-term programs in developing countries; selection, training and employment of volunteers in civil service; on-the-spot training of citizens of the developing countries.

The “suitable” NGOs can also request recognition to carry out (in Italy, EU or PVS) educational / informative initiatives or programs aimed at raising awareness and updating teachers on the issues of Cooperation.