One of Latin America’s tallest buildings combines sustainability, a striking aesthetic, and earthquake resistance for a stunning mix of security and luxury.

North America’s most populous urban centre, Mexico City sits on a rolling plateau at an altitude of 2,240 metres above sea level. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the region experiences high seismic activity, putting significant pressure on the city’s building stock.

Against this spectacular but challenging backdrop rises the Torre Reforma. Standing 246 metres tall, the tower is the second highest on Mexico City’s skyline, with its unique triangular design catching the eye.

Inspired by 18th century Mexican architecture with a contemporary twist, the tower’s prism-like design is made of two sides cladded with a tiled façade and third made up of a glass and steel diagrid with a sky lobby that offers unparalleled views of the city and nearby Chapultepec Park.

Despite its slender appearance, the mixed-use tower has approximately 40,000m² of floor space for offices, a conference centre, sports facilities, and retail space. It also has 10 below-ground levels that house parking and building services.

The glass and steel diagrid on the tower's south-west side allows for a column-free floor design that supports innovative, energy-saving schemes.

A green skyscraper at altitude

Winner of the 2018 International Highrise Award, the 57-storey tower is one of the greenest in Latin America. Its sustainable design and energy-saving systems made it one of the first towers in the region to achieve LEED Platinum designation.

The tower’s ‘open book’ style with two tiled sides and a steel diagrid on the third, allows for a column-free space that supports innovative, reduced energy-consumption techniques. This is aided by the slimline design which allows for natural light to reach throughout the building.

The building has shared space throughout that are naturally ventilated, boosting internal air quality. This is supported by automated controls that open windows before sunrise, allowing the building to ‘breathe’ in cooler air and ‘exhale’ warmer air.

The Torre Reforma uses modern water conservation systems, including rainwater collection, water reuse, and advanced wastewater treatment. The building’s steel-built, highly efficient cooling unit also uses ice storage, keeping down costs and allowing the system to keep running during power failure.

The building’s parking service is even automated, using an advanced robotic system that reduces the amount of space and ventilation required.

Uniquely, an existing historic house dated to the 1920s has been fully incorporated into the tower’s main lobby. In order the incorporate the tower’s foundations and complex subterranean elements, the engineering teams had to physically move the existing house before work could begin.

Excavating under the historic house, a new base was constructed and suspended on steel runners. This allowed the house to be moved before being slid back into position once the tower’s lobby structure was ready for it to be integrated.

The tower's naturally-ventilated atria keep temperatures pleasant for occupants without the need for air conditioning.

A seismic achievement

Built in a city renowned for its earthquake activity, Torre Reforma’s interlocking concrete façade and structural steel diagrid use performance-based seismic design to mitigate vibrations and ensure structural integrity.

The core and steel outrigger truss system were adapted to withstand extreme wind shear and seismic loads. With the core situated near the tower’s centre of gravity, the south-west façade’s steel mesh provides stability for the beams that hold up each level.

One the other façades, triple-height, steel-mounted windows have bene installed on every fourth floor, giving the walls the ability to flex under pressure without cracking.

The engineering team used 2,500 years’ worth of seismic data and used it to simulate how the tower would respond in a variety of earthquake scenarios. This means they now expect Torre Reforma to be able to resist the full range of Mexico’s predicted seismic activity over the two and a half millennia.

Beautiful, steel-built, sustainable and secure, Torre Reforma shows the true power of innovative engineering and construction.


Images: Torre Reforma, Arup