FRPO designs green thermal power plant as architectural icon
Luis Asín

FRPO designs green thermal power plant as architectural icon

31 May 2024  •  News  •  By Gerard McGuickin

Madrid-based architectural studio FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol has completed a green thermal power plant for the Spanish District Heating company DH Ecoenergías. Located in the Spanish city of Palencia, the small thermal power plant building is described by FRPO as “the visible part of a whole that remains hidden from view.” The studio approached the project from an architectural viewpoint, creating a building as an “icon” and a “reference” to green energy transition, its design a contrast to more mundane industrial architecture.

photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín

The Palencia network is the first in a series of similar projects that aim to reduce carbon emissions across Spain’s urban conurbations, particularly in medium-sized cities. The goal is to replace fossil fuels with clean, sustainable energy — “renewable resources will largely come from an improved management of Spanish forests,” says FRPO.

Fueled by forest biomass, Palencia’s District Heating network is hidden beneath the city’s streets, supplying hot water to more than 3,000 households while the thermal power plant itself is very much a visible entity. The plant has a dual role: to house the District Heating facility’s technical processes and provide a pedagogical function — its transparent infrastructure is designed to show “how renewable energies are improving the public health in our cities,” says FRPO. The thermal power plant can thus be seen as a physical symbol of sustainable energy resources.

photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín
photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín

The pill-shaped building consists of two main structural elements: a heavy concrete base topped by a recyclable light steel and plastic “lantern”. “The steel and plastic lantern reinterprets economical solutions typical of industrial buildings to establish a significant connection with the community: a small cathedral of energy,” says FRPO.

photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín
photo_credit FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol
FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol
photo_credit FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol
FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol

The in-situ concrete base supports the plant’s machinery and a biomass silo is located underground. Reinforced concrete slab floors cover the concrete base and a perimeter walkway surrounds the machinery, providing a circulation route for visitors. Exterior doors, interior doors, and stairs are made with galvanized steel sheets; balustrades are made with galvanized steel tubes. The plant’s roof consists of a corrugated sheet, insulation, and exterior Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) membrane (known for its energy-efficient and UV-resistant properties).

photo_credit FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol
FRPO Rodríguez & Oriol
photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín
photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín

The facade of fluted polycarbonate sheets appears like a soft white translucent veil and is supported on a galvanized and painted steel wire structure. Adjacent to the main power plant, a translucent tower expels the white smoke that results from a filtering process.

photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín
photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín
photo_credit Luis Asín
Luis Asín

Gross floor area: 1,960 square meters (21,097 square feet)

Usable floor area: 1,833 square meters (19,730 square feet)

Plot size: 4,000 square meters (43,056 square feet)