Campus Palmas Altas obtains LEED Platinum certification

17 September 2015

The headquarters for Abengoa, completed in 2009 is the first building in Europe to obtain; LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council.

The complex of buildings located in Seville achieved a score of 54 points from a maximum of 61 (LEED-CSV2 and earlier), obtaining the highest score in its category worldwide and the first building in Europe to obtain this certification.

The design team took up the challenge to create the most sustainable campus possible – with the aim of reducing the company’s energy consumption and steadily reducing its CO2 emissions – at a very restrictive construction cost of only 848 euros per square metre. A holistic approach was taken to the design, one that the client considered to be integral to the economic viability and social sustainability of the development. To do this, a three step philosophy was followed in the design process:

  • Minimise the energy requirements of buildings by design
  • Manage energy use within buildings to maximise efficiency and minimise consumption
  • Maximise use of ‘clean’ energy from renewable sources.

By far the largest single component in achieving an energy efficient design for the campus was the masterplanning of the site: massing to maximize cross-shading, the surface-area to volume ratios and façade design, the relationship and disposition of buildings on the site.

Abengoa instituted a number of initiatives to encourage its staff to cut down on energy and consumable use – from signage asking staff to use the stairs where possible, to extensive recycling and energy monitoring within the buildings. In addition to this, a chilled beam system was installed across the project, to maximise efficiency in heating and cooling (a first use in Andalucía).

Given Abengoa’s reputation as an important supplier of renewable technology, the project provided an ideal opportunity for the ‘passive’ design of the campus (aimed at reducing demand) to be complemented by an array of ‘active’ systems (addressing the question of efficient, clean supply): A natural gas-powered trigeneration plant is located on site which provides heat, cooling and electricity to all the buildings on campus. The option of using bio-fuels for this was examined but shown through detailed analysis to be less carbon efficient that the gas-powered option (and taking into account transport of the biofuels to the site). The trigeneration plant is viewable from the entrance to the campus as part of a philosophy that aims to educate and to reveal the systems that serve the campus. An array of absorption chillers is located on the roof of the first building and this provides additional solar-powered chilled water to the chilled beam systems in the offices. All the buildings on the campus include arrays of solar photovoltaic panels at roof level which also serve to shade the slots between buildings. At the entrance to the campus, a Stirling disk (solar concentrator) working in tandem with hydrogen fuel cells generates electricity (primarily linked to the lighting of the shared spaces and fountains).

The project was completed in 2009 and recognised with an RIBA European Award and an AIA Excellence in Design Award.