Tall & Urban News

Sustainable Refurbishment of Landmark Madrid High-Rises is Moving Forward

Image credit: @JavierValeiro
Image credit: @JavierValeiro
01 April 2024 | Madrid, Spain

The iconic Torres Colón in Madrid, Spain, a local landmark since their completion in the 1970s, are undergoing a comprehensive, seven-year refurbishment (three years of pre-construction, four years of construction) that blends the buildings’ legacy with modern design innovations. Owned by Spanish insurance company Mutua Madrileña, and located at the Plaza Colón, a cultural destination known for its prominent monuments and sculptures, the project will revitalize the high-rises into a beacon of contemporary architecture and sustainability. 

A Local Marvel
Originally designed by the Spanish architect Antonio Lamela and engineer Javier Manterola, the Torres Colón, consisting of two 20-story buildings, were—and continue to be—a significant architectural and engineering achievement. Known for its suspended structure, this unique design enabled the construction from the top down. This approach marked a departure from traditional building techniques and saved time, reduced costs, and minimized impacts on Madrid’s bustling city center.

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The towers’ distinct suspended floors and pillar-free layout, a first in Spanish construction, allowed for maximum flexibility in interior design. Recognized at the World Congress of Architecture and Public Works of Prestressed Concrete in 1975, the Torres Colón were praised as the “buildings with the most advanced technology in building construction until 1975.”

Towers Transformed: Introducing Modern Efficiency 
Like many buildings, the Torres Colón required upgrades to align with contemporary standards of efficiency, environmental sustainability, and aesthetic appeal. The scope of work involved a comprehensive refurbishment, including renovating the building’s facades, installations, office floors and common areas; adding new elements like connecting walkways and new sky office floors; and introducing new elevator cores and evacuation stairways. Once complete, the building will be approximately 117 meters tall with a total build area of roughly 20,000 square meters, including an auditorium for events and 2,000 square meters of terraces for clients’ exclusive use.

Key to the refurbishment process was the demolition and dismantling of many of the existing elements, while observing the main features, like cores or structural “heads.” The project includes four new floors of offices in both buildings, a new core of elevators outside the existing, new evacuation stairs in the cores of each, new facade closing, and the replacement of general installations, coupled with new interior and exterior finishes.

Exemplifying a forward-thinking approach to sustainability, the refurbished skyscrapers will be powered entirely by renewable electric energy and will consume 60 percent less energy than conventional buildings. This efficiency, combined with a cogeneration system for self-generating a portion of the building's energy, will enable the towers to achieve the status of a Nearly Zero Energy Consumption Building (ECCN). The project also targets an "A" energy efficiency rating under its Energy Performance Certificate (Certificado de Eficiencia Energética, CEE), as required by the Spanish government, along with WELL GOLD certification from the International WELL Building Institute and, LEED Gold from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

A Multi-Disciplinary Approach
The Hill team’s comprehensive project management services span the entire lifecycle of the refurbishment project, encompassing design, tendering, construction, and handover phases, while collaborating with several key partner firms. The design of the refurbished towers, spearheaded by international architecture firm Luis Vidal + Arquitectos, played a pivotal role in realizing the project's vision of blending the towers' history with current architectural elements. The project also incorporates a wide range of specialized contractors and consultants, each contributing to different aspects of the renovation, from structural modifications to the installation of advanced sustainable technologies. This multi-disciplinary team approach verifies that every phase of the project adheres to quality and sustainability standards.

Pilar Pereira, Hill's Country Manager, Spain, highlights the team’s role on the project: "Our focus in the Torres Colón refurbishment extends beyond preservation. Our team is strategically managing each phase, from pre-construction to handover."

Embracing a New Horizon
As the refurbishment of the Torres Colón approaches completion, the project is emerging as a model for incorporating inventive design with contemporary renovation techniques. By focusing on preserving the architectural integrity of the original structures and integrating sustainable and advanced features, the project makes certain the Torres Colón remains a prominent and revered fixture in Madrid’s skyline for years to come.

“The project seamlessly combines the towers' original suspended structure with modern architectural elements, resulting in an eye-catching effect where the new additions appear to float above the original framework,” shares Pilar Pereira. “This blend of old and new elements not only respects the towers' heritage but also illustrates the potential of integrating sustainability and innovative design in revitalizing historic landmarks in the future.”