Environmental Sustainability Assessment and Circularity

The Environmental Sustainability Assessment and Circularity (SUSTAIN) research unit provides industry and policy makers with science-based assessment (via new methods and technologies) of the impacts and risks associated to manufacturing of products and technologies, consumption patterns, energy systems and the urban built environment.  

The approach adopted by the Unit is embracing the Responsible Research and Innovation rationale, involving trans and inter-disciplinary research design addressing big social questions. Final purpose is to support the ecological and energy transition of our society towards the 2050 decarbonisation targets.


  • Sustainable use of natural resources (biomass, land, renewables), through design and management of integrated solutions (products, technologies, management practices) in the field of bioeconomy, sustainable finance, product ecodesign, green technologies, regenerative agriculture, ecosystem services
  • Sustainable manufacturing and consumption, through the integrated assessment of the safety, regulatory, sustainability and toxicity aspects of products, materials and substances, including (but not limited to): REACH, safer by design, environmental footprint, in-vitro testing, environmental regulations, …  
  • Development of sustainable urban systems, by means of integrated modelling, simulation and assessment of the sustainable built environment (from materials to buildings and districts), smart energy systems (e.g., flexibility, renewables integration) and mobility solutions (e.g. H2, electric, shared vehicles)
  • Demonstrating industrial symbiosis and circular economy of mass and energy flows at territorial level, by considering all the important levers and constrains, namely regulatory, safety, sustainability, design, management, business model aspects, stakeholders’ behaviours.


The Unit applies its expertise at every scale of decision-making (from substances to materials, products, technologies, services and territories), in a broad range of economic sectors, including manufacturing, process and service industry, agriculture, land planning, mobility, building and construction, energy production and distribution. Main areas are:

  • Strategic planning, and industrial, territorial and market level: sustainability strategy, safety and regulatory compliance, policy definition, new circular economy approaches, product and technology market deployment.
  • Industrial R&D projects: product or technology development from the regulatory, safety and sustainability compliance standpoint.
  • Industrial operations: improve practices and management approaches towards higher sustainability
  • Energy systems planning and operations: integration of renewable energy sources, transmission and distribution grids, forecasting of energy provision, …
  • Planning and operation of the build environment: simulation and assessment of the whole life cycle of buildings and district, from the initial planning and design until final deconstruction, from a circular economy viewpoint.


The Unit is composed of around 65 scientists, with a wide range of industrial and academic backgrounds, structured in five research groups.

  • Environmental Health: focuses on the assessment of effects of exposure to pollutants and the development of relevant tools for hazard assessment.
  • Environmental Policy Support: provides science-based support to the definition, implementation and evaluation of environmental policies at national and EU level and gives regulatory support for RDI at the interface of science, technologies and policies.
  • Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: focuses on the development of science-based indicators and tools to assess holistically the sustainability performance of products, technologies and policies to respond to the needs of industry and policy makers.
  • Sustainable Urban and Built Environment: focuses its activities on developing decision-making tools and delivering science-based data enabling policymakers and industrial organisations to make informed decisions related to sustainable urban and built environment.




Dr-Ing. Enrico BENETTO
Dr-Ing. Enrico BENETTO
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