New HQ for BBVA: smart, sustainable, innovative… and a landmark in the city

ACCIONA has built the corporate headquarters of one of the biggest banks in Spain and made it one of Madrid’s architectural landmarks.

A star client moved into Las Tablas district, in north Madrid, just a few months ago. The building is the new corporate head office of one of the biggest banks in Spain, BBVA. The HQ, known as ‘La Vela’ (‘The Sail’), is a striking feature, not only for the financial company itself, but all the city of Madrid. The ovoid-shaped tower, designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, is 93 meters and 19 storeys high, has all the majesty of a ship at sea and is a symbol of innovation and continuous progress.

Built on a 59,000 m2 plot besides the highway to Burgos, the project involved construction work of huge complexity and great originality in which ACCIONA deployed all its experience.

It consists of two kinds of buildings —one vertical and seven horizontal— connected to each other. The horizontal have a long, flat, prismatic geometry, with a large oval plaza at the center and streets running off it to access different parts of the buildings. The have three floors above ground (ground floor plus two others) and three below ground level. The floors above are mainly dedicated to offices, with services on the ground floor. Those below ground are for parking. There are 3,000 places for cars and 230 for motorcycles, access for goods vehicles, a loading bay, building service facilities, stores, etc.

The vertical edifice, ‘The Sail’, is the most recognizable part of the complex, ovoid in shape, with a width of 16 meters. It was the part that required the biggest construction effort, due to its special form. Emerging from the central plaza, The Sail is already regarded as an architectural icon in the capital. It has 19 floors above ground (ground floor plus 18). The ground floor opens mainly towards the plaza, while the first floor houses the reception foyer, and offices occupy floors two to 19. The façade is glass, reinforced with forged steel and supported by a metal framework formed by an internal structure of steel mullions and transoms. The external aluminium work is placed over this structure, with the glass fixed by structural silicon to guarantee the rigidity of the aluminium frame. The external southern face is covered with solar protection fins on the top floors like those on the horizontal buildings, but with a different geometry.

ACCIONA is a company with broad international experience in projects of this kind. The means and resources it made available to the project meant it was the company which contributed added value to the construction of a project as important to BBVA as this one,” commented Susana López, Project Director for the new BBVA Head Office.

BBVA says Energy savings are 40% in the new building

Comfort and savings

The 6,000 employees of the bank who will work in the new BBVA City will be able to enjoy all the advanced features added for their comfort. They will have views and natural light, for example, open plan offices, will use the gardens and patios as part of the working environment, etc. And all of this, designed and built according to the most stringent certification requirements, will permit considerable savings to be made, mainly in energy, thanks to the use of: wall and roof gardens, solar control fins, plant canopies, natural lighting, electric vehicle parking places, recycled rainwater for the sprinkler system, etc.

ACCIONA has also bestowed on the facility a series of 20 geothermal energy probes that run 100 meters deep, and 100 kw of refrigeration capacity that, as well as reducing energy consumption, allows CO2 emissions to be cut by 2.5%. The company has also installed 1,032 m2 of photovoltaic panels in the top floor of the complex, which generate direct, continuous electric current that is transformed into alternating current by inverters.

The bank’s 6,000 staff in the new BBVA City will enjoy all kinds of advanced features aimed at increasing their comfort

This way, some 750,000 kWh is supplied to the building annually for own consumption, reducing the electricity bill by lowering energy consumption by 3.3% and CO2 emissions by 1.6%. Finally, ACCIONA also equipped the building with 500 m2 of solar thermal installations, contributing further to the energy savings.

Susana López estimates the Energy savings obtained by the bank to be 40% compared to the old head offices. Additionally, low-volume taps and controlled water usage are reducing potable water consumption by 50%. The Project Director of the new BBVA head office also highlights the digitization plan implemented by the bank prior to the move. This has permitted it to save 80% on paper, moving to a paperless environment in which the number of printers has been cut to a minimum and there are no individual wastepaper bins.


In pursuit of sustainability

The new BBVA head office is sustainable in that it provides a modern, healthy, working environment, while being efficient from the viewpoints of design, construction and occupation of space.

ACCIONA Infrastructure, in collaborating to achieve the objective set by BBVA, was successful in:

  • Controlling erosion and sedimentation of soils, while avoiding contamination of air with dust and particles during the construction phase.
  • Controlling the environmental quality of the air inside by minimizing works that could negatively affect the occupants of the building.
  • Managing 100% of inert waste generated by the works.
  • Sourcing 42.66% of materials regionally (within 800 km) with respect to the LEED materials budget.
  • Sourcing 96.41% of wood in compliance with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Principles, ensuring it comes from forests managed responsibly and sustainably.
  • Sourcing adhesives, paints, coatings and sealants that are low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), to reduce concentrations of chemical pollutants that can damage air quality, health and the environment.
  • Sourcing 100% of carpets and mats in compliance with Green Label Plus certification, fulfilling the strictest criteria for low chemical emissions.

BBVA Project Director for the new headquarters


The Sail, although it only represents 10% of the head office development, has become one of the best known landmarks in Madrid.

Susana López, Project Director for the new BBVA Head Office, believes its uniqueness and representativeness, as well as the innovative and efficient design, are the reasons this building has succeeded in becoming a flagship project not only for the bank but all the city of Madrid. “It’s a city within a city,” she explained. The building also transmits

several key values: simplicity, innovation, teamwork, commitment to employees, sustainability, progressive thinking, etc.

The vertical building, The Sail, ovoid in shape and 16 meters thick, has become clearly recognizable in Madrid and required a major construction effort due to its special form.

What is new about this building in relation to others like it?

There are lots of novelties, not least the comfort of all the people working in the building. For example, there are great views and natural light. We’ve got rid of walled offices and use the gardens and patios as part of the work environment, as well as other informal meeting areas which are all over the building. It also has international LEED Gold certification for sustainability, innovative systems such as chilled beams and geothermal energy, reduction of the heat island effect, etc.

What qualifies it as a smart building?

There are technological innovations at work in every corner of BBVA City, controlling and detecting temperature, humidity, luminosity, movement, etc. There is also a management system to regulate all the values automatically, optimizing consumption and detecting possible inefficiencies.

Behind every architectural work there is a concept, philosophy, certain values… Which values does BBVA aim to transmit by this project?

Simplicity, innovation, teamwork, commitment to employees, sustainability, progressive thinking.

Is there an especially original feature you could highlight? Something you can only find in this building?

The most unique thing about the project is the shape of the central building, christened by the employees themselves as The Sail. Although it only represents about 10% of the developed site, it is already a landmark not only for BBVA but also the city of Madrid itself.

Why is this building a model for energy efficiency? What are its values as far as environmental sustainability and eco-efficiency are concerned?

The building was designed and built according to the most stringent certification. We opted for Gold level LEED certification and have obtained ISO 14001, too. At the moment, I can confirm that the energy saved compared to the buildings we left is in the order of 40%.

How does the building function as a workplace on a day-to-day basis? Are there offices? Has a preference been given to open spaces? Are there meeting rooms, or other rooms for special uses?

The Bank took advantage of the move to a brand new office to change the way we work in the head office. The new headquarters better collaboration and communications. It eliminates closed, individual spaces – they have disappeared altogether – to promote interaction between all the members of the teams. Open spaces are valued, meeting rooms are transparent and there are many areas for informal collaboration. New technologies allow us to work in this new environment and the gardens and patios also function as improvized workplaces and meeting venues.

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