Two Sustainable, Energy Efficient, and Highly Secured Buildings Designed by Architect Fernando Menis 

The Government of the Canary Islands commissioned two maximum security buildings to increase the response capacity against natural hazards and climate change in the archipelago, but also against pandemics and other possible events such as cyber attacks or terrorism. After winning the public competition to design the ESE Buildings, one in Tenerife and one in Gran Canaria, the Spanish architect Fernando Menis now unveils the design of two identical but autonomous buildings. The fact that two buildings, located on different sites, have the same design, means that in the long run they are more economically sustainable because they are easier to operate and maintain. Energy efficient, highly adaptable to external factors, and equipped to stand up to any type of exceptional situation, the ESEs will provide services to citizens uninterruptedly throughout the year. The ESEs will stand out for their construction innovations, energy efficiency and unique architecture, their focus on the ecological regeneration of the environment, the safety of operations, the accessibility of security forces and other emergency teams from anywhere, but also for their attention to the well-being of workers subjected to high levels of stress.


The future Edificios de Servicios Esenciales (Essential Services Buildings) of the Canary Islands are designed by the Spanish architect Fernando Menis. Image © Fernando Menis


In a world in which the devastating effects of natural hazards are enhanced by increasingly extreme climate changes, faced with threats such as global viruses, cyberattacks, sabotage or terrorism, it is vital to have adequate infrastructure to guarantee public safety and prevent potential risks. Since 2008, the European Union has focused on consolidating what it called "critical infrastructure" that is energy, telecommunications, industry and transport equipment. Their operation is essential for the functioning of Europe and, therefore, their vulnerability is an international problem that affects all the member countries of the EU.


The fact that two buildings, located on different plots, have the same design, means, in the long run, that they are more economically sustainable since they are easier to operate and maintain. Image © Fernando Menis

On the other hand, the island territories of the world, where more than 700 million people live (11% of the world's total population) , are more vulnerable to adverse climatic events thus require resilient and durable infrastructures, capable of adapting to almost any circumstance and able to face disasters yet to come. The Canary Islands archipelago is highly exposed to rising sea levels, to volcanic eruptions, to extreme phenomena such as haze from the Sahara desert, and to hurricanes which increasingly move away from the Caribbean and form near Cape Verde, the Canary Islands and Madeira. In addition, even though it is a Spanish territory, it has to deal with the 2,000 km distance that separates it from the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, it is also one of the most advanced island territories in the world in general organization of services that affect citizens.


Model of the future ESE Gran Canaria, designed by architect Fernando Menis. Image©Fernando Menis


Model of the future ESE Tenerife, designed by architect Fernando Menis. Image © Fernando Menis

Given the recent events - the COVID19 pandemic, Russia's war in Ukraine, cyberattacks and the increase in extreme weather events- the Government of the Canary Islands has taken a further step in terms of public safety, risk prevention and management of emergencies, calling, in 2021, a public tender for the design of two Essential Services Buildings, one on each of the largest islands of the archipelago, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, with a total investment of almost 80 million euros.


ESE Gran Canaria_General view©Fernando Menis

The ESEs are maximum security buildings, which will be built to withstand earthquakes and other extreme phenomena, to concentrate public awareness, response and action services in the event of public safety incidents. The buildings will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including two separate Data Centers to guarantee cyber protection. The entry submitted by the Spanish architect Fernando Menis, leading a team of experts in different fields related to emergencies and security, won the design contest and the construction of the two buildings is scheduled to start in 2023.


3D image of the future ESE Tenerife. Image© Fernando Menis


The ESEs, like other buildings by Fernando Menis, place special emphasis on integration with the environment, seeking its renaturation, while trying to contribute to the regeneration of the urban and social fabric that houses them. The perimeter walls, inspired by breakwater walls, have the typical vegetation of the area. The large sidewalks in the access areas and the arrangement of trees, both inside and on the edges of the plots, will integrate the buildings into their urban context and create spaces of transition and relationship. While on a larger scale, the massive expression of the building will produce a landmark in the urban fabric of the city.


The interior garden of the ESEs, designed to support the well-being of workers, will give the sensation of immersion in
nature, thanks to its great biodiversity. Image © Fernando Menis

The interior garden, designed to support the well-being of workers, will give the sensation of immersion in nature, thanks to its great biodiversity across different areas: the aromatic one will contain bromeliads, rosemary, jasmine, low-rise conifers, orange trees, maidenhair and ferns; a colorful zone of multicolored flowers; a zone of low shrubs; and a vertical garden zone. In addition, the inner courtyard will contain spaces for encounter, rest, leisure and sports.

The rest areas are distributed throughout the building and the interior garden, so that the employees have the possibility of compensating for the extreme stress that their work usually entails. In addition, the building includes a slot 2.80 m wide and 300 m long, with a vertical garden, which provides light and natural ventilation to the three upper floors. Since it is connected to the main outdoor courtyard, this ramp can be used for exercise such as walking or running.


3D image of a work room in the future ESEs. Image©Fernando Menis

The glazed façade is made with low-emissive double glass and has a solar control system so that the solar incidence is reduced by more than 80% without any color change in the shade of the glass. It is also resistant against winds of more than 280 km/h and is able to receive impacts from solid elements. The horizontal slat system is arranged in such a way that it allows the view of the exterior both from the sitting position at the work tables, and from a standing position. A control system for natural lighting and interior thermal conditions will continuously monitor the building and modify each element to guarantee comfort.

The interior circulation is simple and intuitive with a main core in the entrance area and two secondary cores on the sides, thus creating an interior street and freeing up the entire front of the building to achieve a completely flexible interior space. The linear and mobile structures will allow rapid subdivision into rooms with different capacities depending on the needs, maximizing adaptability to the diversity of uses at all times.


The functional spaces include: work rooms one being the Crisis Room, citizen service rooms; offices; and technical spaces of the different facilities that provide service to the buildings, among which the Security Control Room stands out. Cafeteria areas, assembly hall, press room, car park and high security areas are added.

Both buildings will have a Data Processing Center, each 350㎡, equal and designed under the same concepts of security, redundancy, robustness, adaptability to future needs, ease of operation and energy efficiency. In this last aspect, they are distinguished from the vast majority of other data centers by incorporating an energy recovery system that will be used for reheating water, thus avoiding discharging the heat generated by the servers into the environment.

The main function of the roof is to serve as a heliport and its finish with picón (local volcanic stone) improves the energy efficiency of the building by increasing its thermal inertia. In addition, the use of picón, which has a high level of acoustic absorption due to its porosity, will help to control noise pollution from the heliport.


3D of the Data Processing Center in one of the two future ESEs. Image © Fernando Menis


The ESEs will have a bioclimatic design to produce natural ventilation and optimal air quality, while the air conditioning installation will allow energy savings and maximize comfort. The main design criteria is the rational and efficient use of energy, low energy consumption machinery, and the treatment of the envelope with 8 centimeters of thermal insulation (avoiding thermal bridges), all of which allows the building to obtain a type A energy certification. The buildings will have a photovoltaic installation on the roof of approximately 90 kW for the generation of electrical energy and to support the production of air conditioning. On the façade, a system of slats varies its spacing depending on the orientation, so that the incident radiation inside is controlled at all times.


The future ESEs will have a bioclimatic design to produce natural ventilation and optimal air quality, while the air
conditioning installation will allow energy savings and maximize comfort. Image © Fernando Menis

About Fernando Menis (1951, Tenerife)

With a professional career spanning more than 40 years, Menis's architectural production includes works of various scales and typologies, as well as long-term research projects. An expert in designing concert halls and auditoriums, he is internationally recognized and awarded for conceiving an innovative variable acoustics system for the CKK Jordanki Concert Hall (2015, Poland). Among the projects completed, alone and in co-authorship: the Church of the Holy Redeemer of Las Chumberas (2022), El Tanque Cultural Space Public Garden (2022), CKK "Jordanki" Concert and Conventions Hall, in Poland (2015) , Plaza Bürchen in Switzerland (2015), Insular Athletics Stadium (2007), Magma Arte & Congresos (2007), Floating pool in the Spree River of Berlin (2004) and the Presidency of the Canary Islands Government in Tenerife (2000). Menis has won multiple international prizes, and his works have been shown in museums from around the world. His project Iglesia del Santísimo Redentor is part of the permanent collection of the MoMA Museum of Modern Art in New York.