The Future Bioclimatic Essential Services Buildings of The Canary Islands


Two future Essential Services Buildings have been envisioned by Spanish architect, Fernando Menis, to be established in the Canary Islands starting in 2023. The Canary Islands have opted to increase public safety and manage emergencies in their territory with the construction of two Essential Services Buildings (ESE), one on the islands of Tenerife, and Gran Canaria, with a total investment of almost €80 million.

The public tender for the design of the two maximum security buildings was won in 2021 by Fernando Menis, leading a multidisciplinary team of experts. The project for the future ESE Buildings of the Canary Islands stands out for its constructive innovations and unique architecture, the focus on the safety of operations, its hyper-connectivity and functional flexibility, as well as the attention to the well-being of its workers and the ecological regeneration of its setting.

2 ESE Gran Canaria General view©Fernando Menis
Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

The Government of the Canary Islands commissioned two maximum security buildings to increase the response capacity against natural hazards and climate change in the archipelago, but also against potentiality of pandemics, and other possible events such as cyber attacks or terrorism.

After winning the public competition to design the ESE Buildings, Fernando Menis now unveils the design of two identical but autonomous buildings. The fact that two buildings, located on different sites, have the same design, means that in the long run they are more economically sustainable because they are easier to operate and maintain. Energy efficient, highly adaptable to external factors, and equipped to stand up to any type of exceptional situation, the ESEs will provide services to citizens uninterruptedly throughout the year. The ESEs will stand out for their construction innovations, energy efficiency and unique architecture, their focus on the ecological regeneration of the environment, the safety of operations, the accessibility of security forces and other emergency teams from anywhere, but also for their attention to the well-being of workers subjected to high levels of stress.

The Canary Islands archipelago is highly exposed to rising sea levels, hurrricanes, volcanic eruptions, and extreme phenomena such as haze from the Sahara desert. In addition, even though it is Spanish territory, it has to deal with the 2000 km distance that separates it from the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, it is also one of the most advanced island territories in the world in general organisation of services that assist citizens.

3 ESE Tenerife General view©Fernando Menis 1
Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

The essential services buildings will be able to serve any exceptional situation

The islands rely on a series of essential services, provided 24 hours daily, offering services related to security and emergencies, urgent sanitary coordination, police, rescue, personalised attention, social tele-care, infrastructure control, etc. and that, to this day, are located in dispersed facilities.

The Essential Services Buildings will bring together and coordinate the actions and resources of all these infrastructures in a high-performance technological building, strategically located and responsive to sustainability criteria. Each building will house more than 500 public employees and will occupy 15 000 m2 of floor area.

4 ESE night view interior garden©Fernando Menis
Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

Safe and resilient buildings

In order to solve the connection with the environment and ensure protection against any external action, each ESE has been designed with an outer ring, acting as a buttress, which generates a large interior open space where the building is housed. This barrier will be prepared to resist, dissipate, and reduce the impact of giant waves, tidal waves, even lava rivers. The organic geometry of the form is designed that, in the event of lava rivers or tsunamis, the element flows to the sides in order to reduce the effects on the building. To ensure the correct structural behavior of the building during earthquakes, the ESEs have been designed to withstand force accelerations higher than those indicated in the current regulations for the Canary Islands. In addition, ductile concrete structures have been used, which allow deformation and the dissipation of energy without affecting their resistant capacity. Given the importance of control and security for the proper functioning of the Essential Services Buildings, access has been limited to two entrances, one for staff and the other for vehicles.

5 ESE Work room©Fernando Menis
Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

Environmentally conscious design for the city and its people

The ESEs, like other buildings by Fernando Menis, place special emphasis on integration with the environment, seeking its renaturation, while trying to contribute to the regeneration of the urban and social fabric that houses them. The perimeter walls, inspired by breakwater walls, have the typical vegetation of the area. The large sidewalks in the access areas and the arrangement of trees, both inside and on the edges of the plots, will integrate the buildings into their urban context and create spaces of transition and relationship. While on a larger scale, the massive expression of the building will produce a landmark in the urban fabric of the city. The interior garden, designed to support the well-being of workers, will give the sensation of immersion in nature, thanks to its great biodiversity across different areas: the aromatic one will contain bromeliads, rosemary, jasmine, low-rise conifers, orange trees, maidenhair and ferns; a colourful zone of multicoloured flowers; a zone of low shrubs; and a vertical garden zone. In addition, the inner courtyard will contain spaces for encounter, rest, leisure and sports.

The rest areas are distributed throughout the building and the interior garden, so that the employees have the possibility of compensating for the extreme stress that their work usually entails. In addition, the building includes a slot 2.80m wide and 300m long, with a vertical garden, which provides light and natural ventilation to the three upper floors. Since it is connected to the main outdoor courtyard, this ramp can be used for exercise such as walking or running.

The glazed façade is made with low-emissive double glass and has a solar control system so that the solar incidence is reduced by more than 80% without any colour change in the shade of the glass. It is also resistant against winds of more than 280 km/h and is able to receive impacts from solid elements. The horizontal slat system is arranged in such a way that it allows the view of the exterior both from the sitting position at the work tables, and from a standing position. A control system for natural lighting and interior thermal conditions will continuously monitor the building and modify each element to guarantee comfort.

The interior circulation is simple and intuitive with a main core in the entrance area and two secondary cores on the sides, thus creating an interior street and freeing up the entire front of the building to achieve a completely flexible interior space. The linear and mobile structures will allow rapid subdivision into rooms with different capacities depending on the needs, maximising adaptability to the diversity of uses at all times.

6 ESE interior garden©Fernando Menis
The interior garden of the ESEs, designed to support the well-being of workers, will give the sensation of immersion in nature, thanks to its great biodiversity. Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

Functionality and operability

The functional spaces include work rooms; one being the Crisis Room, citizen service rooms, offices, and technical spaces of the different facilities that provide service to the buildings, among which the Security Control Room stands out. Cafeteria areas, assembly hall, press room, car park and high security areas are added. With the exception of the Crisis Room, which will be used in extraordinary situations and will have independent systems, the other work rooms will be permanently be occupied by operators and technicians. For this reason, special attention is paid to lighting and regulation through day-night sequences, to the adequacy of power and voice/data sockets, to the ergonomics of workstations, to air conditioning, air renewal and filtering, as well as to the control of access and security. The 8m height of the top floor allows for elevated control rooms to offer a global vision of the operations that are being carried out at all times.

Both buildings will have a Data Processing Center, each 350m2, equal and designed under the same concepts of security, redundancy, robustness, adaptability to future needs, ease of operation and energy efficiency. In this last aspect, they are distinguished from the vast majority of other data centers by incorporating an energy recovery system that will be used for reheating water, thus avoiding discharging the heat generated by the servers into the environment.

The main function of the roof is to serve as a heliport, and its finish with picón (local volcanic stone) improves the energy efficiency of the building by increasing its thermal inertia. In addition, the use of picón, which has a high level of acoustic absorption due to its porosity, will help to control noise pollution from the heliport.

7 ESE Press room©Fernando Menis
Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

An energy-efficient building model

The main aspects that make the Essential Services Buildings energy efficient are the following:

Thermal insulation: The thermal envelope of the building with lower thermal transmittance values than what is required in the Canary Islands Technical Building Code decreases the thermal loads and lowers the overall energy consumption.

Airtightness: For the windows and doors on the façade, carpentry with very low thermal transmittance, low emissive double glazing, solar control and very low permeability will be used to control unwanted air infiltrations and improve the efficiency of air conditioning facilities.

Reducing solar incidence: A solar protection system with micro-perforated horizontal slats, together with the use of solar control glass in the carpentry, allow the entry of solar radiation to be optimised and reduce the thermal loads in summer.

Heat recovery: The building reuses the heat generated by the buildings’ data centers to heat the rest of the building, lowering the energy consumption.

Reducing thermal bridges: All non-essential thermal bridges to the outside have been avoided, considerably reducing energy loss.

Photovoltaic panels: Placed on the roof to use the incident solar radiation, they will help to reduce the building’s energy consumption and will guarantee, through the installation of batteries, the production of electricity in case of emergency.

8 ESE Data Centre©Fernando Menis
Image courtesy of Fernando Menis©

The ESEs will have a bioclimatic design to produce natural ventilation and optimal air quality, while the air conditioning installation will allow energy savings and maximise comfort. The main design criteria is the rational and efficient use of energy, low energy consumption machinery, and the treatment of the envelope with 8cm of thermal insulation (avoiding thermal bridges), all of which allows the building to obtain a type A energy certification. The buildings will have a photovoltaic installation on the roof of approximately 90kW for the generation of electrical energy and to support the production of air conditioning. On the façade, a system of slats varies its spacing depending on the orientation, so that the incident radiation inside is controlled at all times.


Architect: Fernando Menis

Design Team: MENIS + IEOCI

Heliport Specialists: SED-IA ARCHITECTURE

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