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It is like an industrial cathedral. New energy headquarters building in Spain

This original building located in the city of Palencia in northern Spain is part of a larger structure that remains hidden underground. The whole represents a new energy infrastructure for the city. The district heating network is promoted by DH Ecoenergías, a pioneer of the energy transition in Spain. It is the first in a series of similar projects in a form like an industrial cathedral, which aim to decarbonise a large part of the country’s urban areas by changing the heating system to fossil fuels – diesel and gas – in order to replace them with a clean network powered by renewable energy sources.

The district heating network runs under the streets of Palencia, supplying hot water from renewable energy sources – mainly forest biomass – to buildings in much of the city. The central station, on the other hand, has a technical function but, at the same time, a clearly desired pedagogical significance: to make the transformation visible and to support and enable its dissemination. This dual condition requires approaching the issue of industrial construction not just as a strictly functional issue, where only the economic viability of the building matters, but in a more broadly architectural way.

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As Teo López, founder of DH Ecoenergías, puts it: “This project must be an icon and a reference point for energy and environmental transformation, and its architecture must symbolise renewable energy sources, a paradigm shift and ultimately improved urban health.”

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The architecture of the building is therefore symbolic both in its geometry – based on energy and economic circularity – and in its materiality, representing the whole as the new identity of Spanish energy. The building consists of two main elements: a concrete tank and a lightweight recyclable steel and plastic structure. The base supports all the machinery and provides an aboveground connection to the environment through two large galvanised steel gates and to the biomass silo located underground.

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The concrete cover of the tank serves as a walkway surrounding all machines, allowing visitors to move throughout the building and follow the energy generation process. The steel and plastic structure reinterprets the economic solutions typical of industrial buildings, creating an important connection with the community it serves: a small cathedral of energy. The polycarbonate sheet façade is designed as a soft veil supported by a delicate structure of galvanised and painted steel wire. The final touch is the semi-transparent tower, which releases white smoke resulting from the filtering process.

Studio: FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol
Authors: Pablo Oriol, Fernando Rodríguez
Client: DH Ecoenergias
Project location: Palencia, Spain
Year of completion : 2023
Photographer: Luis Asín

Also read: Architecture | Ecology | Spain | Interesting facts | whiteMAD on Instagram

Subject: It’s like an industrial cathedral. The new energy headquarters building in Spain

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