The Center for Community Life in Barcelona’s Trinitat Vella district is a pioneering project in the management of local social policy. It houses various social services and entities, including a Women’s Information and Attention Point, and aims to become a neighborhood meeting space that is warm and welcoming thanks to the use of wood in its construction.
The Center for Community Life in Trinitat Vella, situated at one of the entrances to the city of Barcelona, is the new multifunctional complex in the neighborhood. This public building is the result of an innovative proposal designed with a collaborative spirit to allow local people and social agents in the neighborhood to express themselves. The new space will form part of a community facility hub for the districts of Sant Andreu and Nou Barris to be built in the coming years, which will also include community housing and homes for young people and the elderly. The project is the work of the architects Manuel Sánchez-Villanueva and Carol Beuter of Haz Arquitectura, a studio with extensive experience in the construction of public and private facilities in the health, cultural and social sectors, as well as offices and sports amenities.
As this is the first building in the future complex, to avoid creating a major contrast with upcoming projects Haz Arquitectura has opted for a simple, abstract outer design that opens up to a future plaza that will link the various facilities. The program is laid out around two covered courtyards located to either side of the circulation core that ensure light and ventilation throughout the building. Inside, the ground floor houses the reception, the canteen and a large entrance that acts as a foyer for the assembly hall and can host exhibitions and other activities. On the first floor is a Women’s Information and Attention Point and other social services. On the rest of the floors – there are four in total – offices and spaces for local entities and associations are arranged around a central shaft.
A Building that Minimizes its Carbon Footprint
The most used material in the construction of the center is wood. The architects made this decision for various reasons. First, given the rather inhospitable location of the new facility – on the city’s outskirts near one of its busiest traffic hubs – they considered that the comfort transmitted and provided by wood would give the volume warmth. In addition, they took into account the fact that in terms of energy, it would combat the environmental impact of its carbon footprint, since wood enables the building to absorb CO2 throughout its useful life.
A completely dry construction method was used. A metal framework of girders and pillars was erected, working in collaboration with a load-bearing system of radiata pine cross-laminated wood panels and ceilings that brace and give stability to the whole. The interior cladding is limited to areas of plywood skirting to enable the passage of electrical and data connections, and otherwise the interiors are characterized by the bare CLT structure and the metal framework coated with fire-resistant paint.
Trinitat Vella Center for Community Life, An Example of a Passive Building
In keeping with the present-day trend in which one of the main goals in the construction sector is to create passive buildings that minimize energy and material consumption, the design of the center addresses all heating and cooling needs. To counteract the low thermal inertia of the wooden construction, the ventilation system harnesses the inertia of the ground by situating ventilation tubes in the cutting in the hillside. Taken from the ground, the air that circulates through the tubes is heated and released into the two covered courtyards that function as large conductors. The renewed air is cool in summer and warm in winter, recovering an old tradition of Mediterranean construction. All the rooms take in air from the courtyards and treat it with a fan coil unit to slightly raise or lower its temperature and humidity as needed.
All the walls and doors of the corridors incorporate a specific design that returns the air through the plenum to central chimneys that take it to the machine room on the roof. The air is blown directly onto the machines, generating a local atmosphere that is warmer or cooler than the outside environment, which allows them to function with less effort and less electricity consumption. Finally, the roof generates 60,000 W of electrical power a year by means of photovoltaic panels, making the building’s consumption very close to zero.