The Research Institute building, designed by Pich Aguilera Architects in conjunction with 2BMFG Architects, stands in the Santa Creu & Sant Pau Hospital complex in Barcelona. It is one of the biggest modernist Spanish architectural ensembles and has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The building stands out for its striking ceramic envelope and its capacity to blend in with Sant Pau Hospital’s modernist buildings, while also guaranteeing high energy savings and improved comfort inside the building. 

High-tech ceramic skin 

The facade acts as a high-tech latticework ceramic skin, which was designed to echo the colours of the modernist hospital’s historic buildings – changing in appearance throughout the day, both inside and outside the building. The facade is based on an existing adhesive-free prefabricated system of flexible ceramic slats, with a braided steel mesh holding the 45 000 slats in place.  

The project’s made-to-measure slats were extrusion manufactured by Faveker, a specialist in high-tech facade solutions. The different models were specially produced to coincide with the dimensions of the building and, above all, to ensure maximum energy efficiency. The ceramic facade filters the natural light that enters the building, while also providing greater privacy for researchers. At the same time, its interiors are lit up by the latticework’s colours.  

Polychrome mosaic 

The ceramic slats have a fold that juts out and protects the building from the sun. The slats on its south-facing facades have a horizontal fold, and these on the facades less exposed to the sun have a lateral fold. Thanks to these folds, from some angles, the polychrome mosaic that is visible inside the building can also be partly glimpsed from the outside.  

The rear of the slats has been glazed in the colours of the surrounding modernist domes in several different shades of terracotta, blending in with the bricks of the historic buildings. 

Sustainable design 

Building research and technology played an important role in the whole architectural design and construction of the building to maximise savings on energy and materials and minimise costs. The building meets the most stringent current criteria in terms of sustainability and the circular economy, receiving the maximum energy saving rating of A, and has also been awarded the Leed Gold certificate for its minimal environmental impact.  

In comparison with a standard building of a similar type, this strategy has led to 62% savings on energy (48,5kwh/m² per year) and a 62% reduction in CO₂ emissions per year (savings of 31,5kg CO₂).  

Circular economy 

The circular economy was also a priority in the facade’s design – thus it is dismantlable, convertible and uses bioclimatic techniques to save on energy consumption. It also combines efficient protection from solar radiation with good insulation and materials that guarantee a good thermal inertia. 

Issue: Creating a sustainable insulating facade. 
Solution: A high-tech latticework ceramic skin insulates the building from solar radiation, with good insulation and materials that guarantee a good thermal inertia.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go https://www.picharchitects.com/ for the information in this editorial. 

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