Coffee-machine maker Iberital builds its planet-friendly values into a green HQ

Barcelona – Forty years after it was born in a Barcelona garage, coffee-machine manufacturer Iberital is practicing what it preaches – sustainability isn't just a page on Iberital's website. Today, the design-forward brand is headquartered in a factory that is as eco-friendly as the products that are made there.

In 2015, Iberital moved into a former lumber production warehouse in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, on the outskirts of Barcelona, after an extensive renovation that has earned it awards for sustainability and energy performance.

With the aim of promoting an industrialism of well-being and sustainability, as well as streamlining factory operations and updating its offices, the brand tapped architects Paula Catalan and Adrià Rieradevall. The two preserved the building's original structure, façades and concrete floor and exposed the existing metal structure of the loft, but remade the gabled roof using translucent panels to draw in more natural light.

Visitors and employees pass through a brick-framed entrance into an airy double-height lobby that anchors the offices. Dividing the spaces as little as possible, the architects organized the interiors with glass partitions that create optimal flexibility and transparency that lightens the space and maintain generously open sightlines. The open spaces help employees, whether in the offices, on the factory floor or in logistics, work together more often and more easily, forming a network-driven organisation instead of a pyramidal hierarchy.

A central axis connects the offices to the production area and logistics warehouse where simple gestures, like the use of insulation in the facade and roof and a low-energy lighting system activated by sensors, make the building perform efficiently. The architects covered the principal façade with plants to control humidity, light and temperature, elements crucial to the wellbeing and comfort of workers inside, while giving colour and texture to what might have been a bland grey industrial exterior.

The most significant intervention, however, is a hot-water recycling system, designed by Iberital's own engineers, that captures the 100ºC water generated on the assembly line during the final stage of testing. It then re-circulates it to the heating and sanitary systems used, for example, in the changing rooms and the canteen.

In 2015, the project earned the AMB award, bestowed by the Área Metropolitana de Barcelona, making it a reference for the refurbishment of energy-efficient industrial buildings. 'Most importantly, the building is consistent with an eco-friendly philosophy that guides all our activities,' said Iberital director Aurora Farré. 'We believe there must be more companies committed to our planet.'

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