Innovation bringing sustainability to infrastructure: Enel awards new designs for street cabinets
Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability® Officer at Enel once said: “If you innovate today, in the future you will be more resilient and more sustainable. And sustainability must be the ultimate goal, while innovation is the tool”. Through a constant search for innovative ideas that can solve the challenges of tomorrow, our Business Lines are always on the lookout for sustainable solutions to accelerate the decarbonization of the world.
The challenge by Enel (Global Infrastructure and Networks) involved finding innovative design and materials for sustainable Enel street cabinets. After scouting and receiving more than 70 quality proposals, 3 solutions have been chosen by Enel as those that will help us create a value-added impact on a global scale.
The circular future of sustainable grids
Street cabinets are electrical built-in containers used to distribute energy and to protect elements against short circuits and overloads. They control the low-voltage electricity grid and are handled by Enel’s expert workforce. In recent years, Enel has innovated in this field by developing street cabinets defined as “Smart Box” because they contain a special terminal block, remote switches and an advanced sensor kit for monitoring electrical and environmental data measurements.
But how can we better integrate the installation of these street cabinets into urban or rural environments? Most of all, how can we create a new design that complies with the principles of the circular economy in all life cycle phases?
The challenge sought to find a sustainable solution that was compliant with Enel’s founding technical and safety requirements. We also scouted for street cabinet design solutions that could meet the circular approach across the value chain, such as material sourcing, design, production and waste management, as well as those aligning with sustainability and the SDGs.
And the winners are...
After a wide search for the right design that would take street cabinets to the next level, the Business Line found and awarded 3 winners. In first place was Japanese technology company NTT Data. The runner-up was design engineer and architect Eugenio Bini, and in third place were designers Sara Muscolo and Nader Al-Khatib.
The winning designs all reflected a positive visual impact and were precisely what we were looking for. NTT Data’s winning design allows for adaptability to the most diverse environments. Due to its modular structure, the design facilitates functional aspects of use such as the maintenance and replacement and sustainable management of components, as well as supports protection and safety requirements. In terms of innovation for sustainability and circularity, the solution incorporates a mix of reinforced and recycled thermoplastic materials that allow for easy recyclability with established processes, compared to the current mechanisms.
“Our initial goal was to open to suggestions, ideas and points of view different from ours on the street cabinets”, mentions Pierluca Russotto, Scouting Referent in Innovation at GI&N. He continues by saying that “expectations were fulfilled as we collected many interesting proposals, including from very young designers capable of effectively combining formal, functional and sustainability aspects while bringing innovation into all three pillars.”