Plaza Ecopolis – public space + kindergarten + children’s ludic center
The Spanish architectural firm Ecosistema Urbano has once again managed to transform an unlikely area into a sustainable, family-friendly community center, much like its Air Tree project in Vallecas. This time, however, the project is designed to be an “open environmental classroom” for teaching children about the benefits of reduced energy consumption.
Constructing children’s playgrounds in antiquated industrial parks may not seem like the best idea. But this is Madrid – and taking advantage of any and every available square meter has become an art form in the Spanish capital. Ecopolis Plaza is yet another example of creative urban reusability, but its focus on education makes it truly unique. A public nursery school is located at the heart of the plaza, which is designed to bring together community, sustainability, and education in one very brightly colored building.
Built in 2009, Ecopolis Plaza is a childcare center in Rivas Vaciamadrid. Located about 20 km (12.4 miles) outside Madrid Centro, Rivas Vaciamadrid is currently one of the fastest growing municipalities in Spain. Previously known more for its industrial areas, Rivas Vaciamadrid has recently seen an abundance of renovation and revitalization with new urbanization projects.
While Ecopolis Plaza certainly isn’t one of the most obvious tourist destinations, you won’t need a map, directions, or even a street name to find it: Its bright yellow color and geometric design make this building virtually impossible to miss.
Its structure has been described as “a canvas-like shell stretched on to a sculptural steel frame,” and it has all of the makings of a modern nursery school and family center. While the color is its most notable feature aesthetically, the building is abundantly equipped with practical green features. The strategy behind its shading is to control temperatures inside the multi-level building and to provide shade in the outdoor play areas. The retractable shades also allow for optimal organic gardening, which is incorporated into the children’s’ many activities. In addition to strategic structural designs, the Ecopolis Plaza also includes multiple solar panels and a large play area that surrounds a natural water-purification system.
Although the ideas embodied by the Ecopolis Plaza are not uncommon in today’s urban design trends, here these elements offer more than just a pleasant ambience of “greenness” – they show the children the full cycle of energy consumption and the importance of conservation.
Adjacent to the school are two smaller structures, the “solar house” and the “energy agency.” Thanks to the open access of these structures, children (and residents) can actually see the benefits of incorporating sustainable solar and landscaping strategy within the architectural design process. It is first-hand sustainability education at its best.
Ecopolis Plaza highlights the city’s dedication to sustainable design education within the community. It is a highly commendable project for an area that might not otherwise be noticed for its design features. The plaza was built on the idea that it’s never too early to educate children on the benefits of conservation. Certainly, with the implementation of Ecosistema Urbano’s design, Rivas Vaciamadrid has become a standout example of successfully blending urban planning with education.
Contemporary society is imposing new challenges to architecture, beyond the formal experimentation that monopolizes much of its recent history. The project “Plaza Ecopolis” aims to incorporate the idea of sustainability into daily life. The main focus is therefore to create a vision of urban sustainability that facilitates the reduction of energy consumption through the design but that also aims at raising people’s awareness of their own consumption habits. The layout of the building generates a public space that can be used by the area’s residents. Another remarkable feature of the project is to consider the public space as an “open environmental classroom”, an integrated educational program for children with the goal of improving the urban environment -which, among other things, integrates a water purification system based on natural processes. It is Ecosistema urbano’s belief that projects such as “Plaza Ecopolis” are a way to raise awareness of sustainability issues to children who -in consequence- will become responsible adults.
An important area of the building (50%) is half-buried to take advantage of the land’s thermal inertia and a large south facing glass facade (700 m2) is constructed with solar control and thermal insulation glass (U = 1.80 W / (m2K), solar factor 0.52). These are basic decisions that shape the physical relationship between the building and its environment. A bioclimatic textile layer superimposed over a light steel structure is wrapping the rational concrete core of the building. This textile (partially movable, connected with sensors to sun position) is the interface between interior and exterior spaces, blurring the boundaries between private and public and extending the inner comfort to the public space.
Technologies – Economy of means:
The technologies implemented at Ecopolis project are helping the initial bioclimatic design approach based on minimizing the consumption of both energy and natural resources. Once consumption has been dramatically reduced, we analyse the use of active systems based on alternative energies.
A complete energy simulation study was developed by the Thermodynamics Research Group at the Industrial Engineering School of Seville. This simulation study is the key to understand the behaviour of the building and it helped to select the best location for every single constructive element, adjusting the available construction budget.
Ecopolis Plaza is also a demonstrative experience of economy of means applied to the field of sustainable construction, where efficiency usually means higher construction cost. The Ecopolis project cost per square meter is more than 35% lower than a conventional building.
Optimization of resources – Enviromental strategy:
The Ecopolis Plaza project has the highest eco-label (A grade) of the Spanish legislation.
The building extends its limits into the plaza and part of its functional processes are placed outside to make them more transparent to the public, creating a more conscious way of managing natural resources. The sewage system ends into a lagoon in front of the building where all the waste water from the building is naturally purified by macrophyte plants. All the purified water is stored under the ground within a gravel tank and it is used for all the irrigation needs of the plaza. This artificial landscape emulates a natural riverbank.
An artificial topography has been created as an enclosure and protection filter from the aggressive industrial environment. Inside the plaza it is easy to forget about the context and to imagine you are somewhere else, closer to nature.
Regeneration of a plot on the outskirts of Madrid, surrounded by transport infrastructure and adjacent to an industrial estate, in a public space for social interaction.
Design urban social:
Is it a utopia turn the city into a field of experimentation and play? Is it possible to integrate the different areas that make up the public space avoiding fragmentation affecting contemporary cities?
From our point of view should rethink the contemporary city as a transformation of reality around us rather than a new reality to build from scratch. We understand that this transformation (utopian or real) should operate essentially from the public space, which is taken as the physical expression and collective social and cultural diversity. It is necessary to regain the public space by those who make a more unprejudiced and free from him, not assigned to preset rules and patterns: children. Just look through that child will be able to rediscover the city and transform it from a structural and not merely aesthetic.
The Plaza Ecopolis city conceived as a source of learning for citizens, educating on energy saving and optimization of natural resources, integrating ecology in everyday life, without turning it into an exceptional phenomenon more akin to a theme park or museum . This project has the challenge of architecture beyond formal experimentation, to transform a plot unnamed outskirts of Madrid in a space for social interaction.
Technologies employed in the Ecopolis project are integrated into a design adapted to the climatic conditions and that the first relies on passive environmental control techniques to minimize energy consumption and resources.
The design phase and integration of technologies was developed in collaboration with the Photonic Research Group, School of Industrial Engineering of Seville, who developed the building energy simulation, reported in this phase of project, the behavior, the exact location and characteristics of building elements that contribute passively to improve the energy performance, getting adjusted to the maximum budget available for the basic needs of the building.
A significant percentage of floor area (50%) is partially buried to benefit from the thermal inertia of land and 700 m2 south-facing facade is constructed of glass-based solar control and thermal insulation (U = 1.80 W / ( m2K), solar factor 0.52). An outer textile layer on a light metal frame surrounds the interior volume of concrete, as part of its mobile surface to suit the different solar inclinations. Thanks to this element bioclimatic get a fuzzy boundary in the transition between outside and inside, extending the climatic comfort of the building to public space.
Technologies enable climate control system (advanclim) combine adiabatic cooling, solar thermal and underfloor displacement ventilation. The combination of passive and active saving energy efficiency can achieve more efficient energy rating (certificate A).
The building extends its boundaries to public space becoming more transparent some of the processes that normally run hidden in the urban network of waste disposal. Making visible these processes is to create greater public awareness of responsible consumption of natural resources (200 liters of water daily consumption per person in Europe). The sanitation system of the building waste water ends up in a lagoon macrophyte plants that characterizes the public space in front of the nursery.
The natural system of water purification (system Hidrolution FMF) by floating macrophyte plant is sized to recycle 100% of water consumed by the building and thus cover irrigation needs of the plant species of the Plaza, storing the treated water on a raft of gravel around the pond, being part of the pavement of the square. This artificial landscape emerging from the waste-resource combination connects us with the natural conditions of the river banks.
An artificial topography of the land bordering the perimeter of the plaza space and serves as a filter against heavy truck traffic and aggressive industrial environments, from inside the Plaza Ecopolis is easy to forget the urban context and imagine another immediate environment to nature. Economy means the connection between construction Usually, ecology and energy efficiency is synonymous with dramatic budget increases. The Plaza is an Ecopolis demonstration of economic construction experience with environmental criteria, and its physical implementation budget considerably less than any conventional building.
Project name: Plaza Ecopolis
Location: Square Ecopolis, 1 Rivas Vaciamadrid, 28529 Madrid, Spain
Coordinates: 40°21’15N, 03°32’54W
Type: Public Facilities, Kindergarten, Public Space, Square, Community Centre
Building floor Area: 3,000 sqm
Public space: 7,500 sqm
Project Year: 2009-2010
Construction cost: 2,700,000 €
Building cost per sqm: 700 €/sqm
Completion Year: 2010
Client / Owner / Developer: City Council of Rivas-Vaciamadrid
Architects: Ecosistema Urbano Arquitectos, Estanislao Figueras 6, 28008 madrid, spain
Project team: Belinda Tato, Jose Luis Vallejo, Michael Moradiellos, Domenico Di Siena, Jaime Eizaguirre, Cuervas Ion-Mons, Louise Stride, Benjamin Castro, Masatoshi Oka, Johannes Kettler, Javier de Paz, Married Julia, Alvaro Ferrer, Emilio Garcia, Andrea Franceschi, JOHN Search, Pau Munar, Ignacio Cabezas
Landscaping / water purification system: Diego Hurtado
Climate Control / Simulation Energy / Energy Concept: Research group AICIA Thermotechnology Industrial Engineering School of Seville, Servando Alvarez, Rafael Salmeron
Facilities : Julio Bernal
Engineering Structures: John King, Rinske Daniels
Lighting: Targetti Poulsen, Juan Jose Garcia
Textile Engineering: BAT spain, Javier Tejera, Marian Marco
Construction: HM sa
Site engineer: David Moreno, Javier Alonso
Wireframe: Emetal, Fermin Barea
Water purification system: Hidrolution, Vicente Torres, Alfredo Rodriguez
Air Conditioning: Hemera, Juan Francisco Navarro
Text Description: © Courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano Arquitectos
Images: © Emilio Doiztua, Javier De Paz, Isidro Iglesias, Ecosistema Urbano