Former Mexico City Helipad Turned Into Green Roof

In the 1970s and ’80s, no self-respecting corporate giant (or power-mad Bond villain, take your pick) would be caught dead without a sleek company helicopter and helipad atop its downtown vanity tower, so its executives could be whisked away without ever having to mix with the worker drones on the street. In the post-Great Recession world, however, the helipad has fallen out of favor as a too-conspicuous extravagance.

Rather than let these structures rust, the suits at the Coca-Cola Co.’s Mexico City headquarters decided to let their unused helipad go to seed in the form of a green roof and a reconditioned co-working space for its environmental financing subsidiary, Transformadora Ciel.

Former office tower helipad xeriscaped as a new green roof in Mexico City. Image via Rojkind Arquitectos.

Former office tower helipad xeriscaped as a new green roof in Mexico City. Image by Jaime Navarro via Rojkind Arquitectos.

Working with Mexico City-based design firms Rojkind arquitectos and AGENT, Transformadora Ciel kept much of the practical, bare-bones support structure exposed and intact, but added new glazing, gardens and several renewable energy features to help reduce operational and construction costs.

The base of the helipad structure was converted into co-working office space. Image via Rojkind Arquitectos.

The base of the helipad structure was converted into co-working office space. Image by Jaime Navarro via Rojkind Arquitectos.

The adaptive reuse project, completed in 2012, includes a completely modern, open-floor-plan office tucked into the circular space that was used as a support structure for the helipad above. Because the helipad is recessed into the existing roof of the 11-story Coca-Cola tower, workers only see a metal retaining wall from their workstations. To draw in the maximum amount of reflected natural daylight, the exterior of their office space is made entirely of curved, floor-to-ceiling windows.

One of the vegetable gardens outside the offices, irrigated by rainwater collection. Image via Rojkind Arquitectos.

One of the vegetable gardens outside the offices, irrigated by rainwater collection. Image by Jaime Navarro via Rojkind Arquitectos.

Spectacular views of the sprawling city, however, can be had with a short jog up the original exterior staircase that leads to the old helipad surface. A wooden walkway meanders through an array of xeriscaped greenery, including cacti and other drought-tolerant plant life that are native to the semi-arid climate of Central Mexico. The old helipad is also equipped with solar panels to provide 3.84 kilowatts of photovoltaic power to run the efficient LED lighting in the offices below.

Diagram of various green features of the Transformadora Ciel office. Image via Rojkind Arquitectos.

Diagram of various green features of the Transformadora Ciel office. Image via Rojkind Arquitectos.

Between the office windows and retailing wall are several pocket gardens where workers can tend to vegetables fed by a rainwater retention system. Each year, Rojkind says, nearly 1,300 gallons of water are collected for irrigation use. The plants also absorb more than 178 pounds of CO2 annually.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.