LABAU (Bioclimatic Architecture and Urban Agriculture Laboratory)
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LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.Project Name: LABAU (Bioclimatic Architecture and Urban Agriculture Laboratory)
Year: 2016
Owner: ITD, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (ESTIA-UPM)
Location: Madrid, Spain
Building Type: Educational
Type: Living Wall, Test/Research
System: Custom
Size: 1916 sq.ft.
Slope: 100%
Access: Accessible, Open to Public
Submitted by: Joaquin Sicilia, Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura

Designers/Manufacturers of Record:
Architecture and Team Director: Joaquin Sicilia, Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura
Research Team Coordinator: Dr. Isabel de Felipe, PRONATUR
Collaborating Architect: Jose Maria Gonzalez, ARQUISENA
Technical Architect and Site Management: Miguel Gomez, ARQUISENA, and Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura
Building Construction: NEGIO CONSTRUCTORA, S.A.
Perimeter Facades Construction: Arasaf, Incoten
Modular Greenwall Systems: Vertiarte, Paisaje Urbano, and Metro Huerto
Greenwall Installation: Vertiarte, Paisaje Urbano, and Metro Huerto with ITD Researchers
Irrigation: Biofiver
LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.Metro Huerto saks in front of the LABAU planted with vegetables; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.
The linking of urban naturation to different disciplines and technologies is the basis for the necessary research and development of new products that secure urban greening as a construction material of our latest generation based on today's and future architecture and urbanism. It becomes essential to work with an interdisciplinary scope in order to place naturation and urban agriculture where they belong, inside urbanism and our cities, linked to the newest research processes and technological development.

As with any other building material, these must be officially certified and included in regulations. It also becomes essential to guarantee their proper incorporation on roofs, facades and any structural construction element in order to defend the values that naturation (greening) provides the city and its inhabitants. These include environmental, energy, alimentary, symbolic, artistic, therapeutic, social, economic, etc.

From these initial aims, and in collaboration with various research departments at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM or Technical University of Madrid), the Laboratory of Bioclimatic and Urban Architecture or LABAU was recently inaugurated in 2016. LABAU is the result of a refurbishment of an old and deteriorated building on the university campus which incorporates a green technological "coat," a green wall structure capable of adding different modules and bioclimatic systems for data collection and analysis of the green facade.

LABAU is situated on the Maintenance Building of the School of Agronomy Engineering (Edificio de Mantenimiento de la Escuela Tecnica Superior de Ingenieros Agronomos), and hosted by the Innovation and Technology for Development Centre (itdUPM), found within. ItdUPM is a space that, due to its interdisciplinary character and the commitment to research, excellence and quality, will provide urban naturation and biodiversity with the necessary credentials to become a common practice in city planning and architectural designs.

Completed in July 2016, the aim of the project and the remodeling of the Maintenance Building has been to create a meeting point and a space dedicated to bioclimatic and urban agriculture research. The approach is carried out from an international global vision of similar problems by contrasting adopted solutions, and from there applying a local vision to the city and to the corresponding district.

Primary research focuses on the analysis of air contamination programs, heat sources for experimental crops, wastewater recycling, rainwater use, photovoltaic panels, and the incorporation of biodiversity research on green walls and vegetal elements on roofs to encompass both plant and animal kingdoms. The project also experiments on the possibilities of recycling organic products and creating new uses in greenwall construction such as sheep's wool for the substrate bed (growing felt).

The vegetated cover was developed based on a sub-structure attached to the building. This structure is a modular grid designed to provide maximum flexibility with the incorporation of different elements, systems, and materials, achieving the perfect integration between natural and artificial components.

Placed on top of the perforated metal structure, a meteorological station monitors sensors that have been placed within the building, on the metal exterior wall panels (without vegetation), and within the greenwall modules to measure energy efficiency at different orientations, ambient air temperature, relative humidity, and the CO2 concentration within the building.

As such, the building envelope is in itself a laboratory, conceived as an active system open to multiple configurations and adaptations to the advances that technology related to green economy may offer. The new envelope becomes a new skin for the building, providing an open and constantly evolving technological appearance in a constant process of evolving, in accordance with the set goals of the Laboratory of Bioclimatic and Urban Architecture.

Among other awards, LABAU received First Prize on Naturation and Urban Agriculture (Academic) from the Agrarian Forum. In 2016 LABAU received 2nd Place in the Global Design Category in The Next Green Awards at the World Green Infrastructure Congress 2016 in Bogota.
Pre-greenwall at LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.
LABAU Technical Description:
The green cover was developed through the modular combination of steel tube profiles (60x60x3mm) with a 6 meter maximum length attached to the facade with anchor plates and 2 steel L profiles (110x30x3mm). These L profiles are slotted and welded to both sides of each tube profile. All the elements are painted in polyester dust.

These elements set up the base framework for the cover-facade, made up of 1.5mm perforated steel plates of different shapes, dimensions and colours, galvanized and painted in polyester dust. The framework is shaped with folds and welding points on its corners.

Each plate, approximately 2 meters length, incorporates a strip as a central reinforcement. This cover solution is applied on the east, south and west facades of the building. On the north side, where isolation elements will be tested, the cover incorporates a Tramex staircase built with galvanized steel UPN-220 profiles that are supported by superior and inferior HEA-240. All of these are painted in polyester dust.

The following 3 types of modular greenwall systems are currently used on LABAU:

Vertiarte: Module of two three-dimensional structures of polypropylene cells. One of the structures is filled with selected organic substrate and the other remains empty generating a hollow space for air circulation. Between the two layers there is a hydrophilic fabric for the rear distribution of irrigation. The outer layer is stabilized earth that allows the development of roots on the outside, favoring biofiltration.

Types of perennials planted for biodiversity: Koeleria glauca, Lavandula stoechas, Sedum spp., Alyssum saxatile, Cerastium tomentosum, Coreopsis grandiflora, Dianthus deltoides, Heuchera spp., Iberis sempervirens, Lonicera maigruen, Thymus serphyllum, Vinca major, Leptinella spp., Lysimachia spp., Mazus reptans, Hedera helix, Festuca glauca, Carex spp., Erigeron karvinskianus, Soleiroia soleirolii, Ajuga reptans, Calocephalus browni, Rosmarinus spp.

Metro Huerto: Work is performed outside of the building on the stationary platform which is connected to the wooden structure, built with the participation of students. Several cultivation sacks were integrated into the structure: three large sacks measuring 60x30x30 cm were installed for the cultivation of vegetables in the urban garden, and two small sacks of 30x30x20 cm are dedicated to culinary herbs and edible flowers, as a complement to the garden.

The urban wall garden is currently in the phase of replanting for the fall winter season with leaf crops such as cabbage, lettuce, endive, Swiss chard and spinach; pod crops such as peas and snow peas; and seasonal edible flowers such as violas.

Paisaje Urbano: For the installation of this vertical garden, Paisajismo Urbano(R) used its modular system NaturPots(R). This system is perfect for small surfaces such as this greenwall garden due to its ease of installation with very simple maintenance. Made of recycled polypropylene, the system consists of 42 pots per square meter that can be handled independently.

Types of plants: The vertical garden uses the same plants as traditional gardening, but adapts the exposed conditions. Given the thermal variants of Madrid and the solar exposure of the installation area, plants such as Luzula nivea, Vinca minor, Carex oshimensis, Lamprnathus aurantiacus or Tulbaghia violacea were used, among others.

The evolution of the LABAU building allows further development according to the different research projects of the itdUPM. In the near future, the addition of a greenhouse is expected on the roof to be integrated into the building cover as its fifth facade. The semi-basement floor will host, in a similar way, experimental spaces related to the different research projects.

LABAU's presence highlights the current public space system of the school and is meant to be a landmark within the campus circulation. Designed as an element that subtly combines natural elements with textures and light variations of the building facade, they see the project as: Greening at its purest expression which correlates nature and the world of symbols and senses through the materials themselves.

The LABAU (Bioclimatic Architecture and Urban Agriculture Laboratory) at ESTIA-UPM has become a reference space for global sustainability and initiative within the framework of the university's new agenda of sustainable development. An icon for technological innovation through nature, the new revitalized vegetated space has also become a popular public gathering space and meeting point inside the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid campus.

Additional thumbnail photos:

LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.LABAU; photo courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.LABAU; poster courtesy of Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura.
The Escuela Tecnica Superior de Ingenieros Agronomos (Universidad Politecnica de Madrid) is located at UPM, Av. Puerta de Hierro, 2, 28040 Madrid, Spain; +34 913 36 56 00; visit the itdUPM website and see real time data streaming. Watch the 3:09 LABAU (Bioclimatic Architecture and Urban Agriculture Laboratory) - Project of the Week 11/6/17 video from Greenroofs.com on the greenroofsTV channel on YouTube. Greenroofs.com Project of the Week 11/06/17 video photo credits: Courtesy of Joaquin Sicilia, Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura and itdUPM.

See the case study from
Sicilia & Asocciados and read the June 28, 2016 Diseno colaborativo de mobiliario para el espacio exterior del itdUPM from itdUPM.

For more information regarding the LABAU (Bioclimatic Architecture and Urban Agriculture Laboratory), please contact Joaquin Sicilia, Sicilia & Asociados Arquitectura at joaquin@siciliayasociados.com.
 
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