Estructuras Metálicas Solana is a Mexican company dedicated to the manufacture of sheet ceilings for various companies and industrial factories. One of its main products is the creation of green roofs, made with ecological sheets, which reduce pollution and create environmental awareness.
Lucia Alvarado Tlaque
Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla
Crishelen Kurezyn Díaz
The accelerated growth of population worldwide has invaded the green areas of our planet. Mexico is considered among the countries with the highest rates of deforestation due to urbanization.
The increase of the population not only affects the loss of the green areas, but also the reduction of biodiversity, loss of habitats, excessive consumption of natural resources and especially to the contamination of the environment when requiring greater services.
Estructuras Metálicas Solana is very committed to society and the environment, which led the current Director, Civil Engineer Javier Solana Rivero, to create ecological roofs that dampen temperature changes in metal sheets of industrial roofs, warehouses, shops and multiple buildings, in addition to occupying spaces that are being wasted.
This alternative has gained ground and represents a solution that has great economic and environmental benefits and above all, in the health of the population.
So that we could understand the situation, Mr. Solana, took us to the roof of his company, where you can see much of the city of Puebla and its surroundings. Once there, he asked us “to look and count how many buildings had sheet ceilings”. It was impressive to realize that in Mexico most of the ceilings of companies and even houses, are made of steel sheets.
Approximately in the year 2005, Mr. Solana, due to the experience in manufacturing and commercialization of building materials, decided to experiment with different types of sheets and plants in his house where he located in the garden his own laboratory to study the appropriate materials to support the soil and water that plants need to live and also observe how these elements and climate changes affected them.
Later in 2008, Javier Solana, together with Salvador Zerón (now deceased), obtained the support of the Biology faculty of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to formalize their experiment.
The study was not free of errors, but they learned from them and did not give up until they achieved their goal "to help preserve the environment". Thus, they were able to identify which were the best plants and the best material for their project.
Javier says that the ceilings of industrial warehouses and commercial warehouses are hostile sites for the growth of plants, since there is a combination of environmental factors such as exposure to extreme temperatures, wind gusts and high solar radiation that affect in an important way the adaptation, growth and proliferation of plant species.
Therefore, the selection of vegetation for ecological roof ecosystems must be a careful process, taking into account factors such as the location of the installation, the climate, the water requirement and its level of maintenance, as well as an aesthetic and functional design.
The plants they use are of the genus Sedum which is composed of more than 350 species of succulent and perennial plants, whose habitat is the cold and temperate regions of all continents. In addition, these plants are characterized by being highly tolerant of drought, high temperatures, solar radiation and by feeding on carbon dioxide, that is, pollution, which they process and transform into oxygen.
The creation of ecological roofs has developed small ecosystems where different animals coexist as ants, bees, birds, among other living beings that are able to withstand the extreme temperatures provided by metal sheets.
In Mexico, the family is a fundamental part of society, so it is a value that is cared for and protected in Estructuras Solana; proof of this is that this company has survived three generations and is becoming stronger, thanks to the family that leads the company, who is very committed to its workers and society.
Javier Solana remembers how the idea of entrepreneurship came about. His parents, Angel Solana and Amparo Rivero, decided to get a loan to become economically independent and with their knowledge to help create jobs in the country. "The hunger and the desire to eat were united," Javier says with nostalgia recalling the story of his parents.
His father, “Don Angel”, as he was called by his workers, was the one who provided the technical knowledge, while his mother, “Doña Amparo”, was the one who taught him to value his employees, giving them decent treatment, as if they were part of his family, regardless of the position that they had inside the company. "My mother was a revolutionary, I think that's why she had innovative ideas," says Solana.
Thanks to these roots that blended technical knowledge with human sensibilities, the company was awarded with the prize of Technological Innovation in Mexico, in the year 1991 by the College of Civil Engineers of the State of Puebla, A.C.
"These are my roots", says Javier, which has led him to care for the welfare of people and the environment.
According to Javier, “90% of the sheet ceilings in Mexico are made with low profile sheets, 2.5 cm of crest, which was the first challenge. The second challenge was to eliminate the grain in order to maintain structural security, and thirdly the weight should not exceed 20 kg/m2 even when wet according to the official norm and finally it should be less expensive than the polyurethane panel, which is very contaminanting.
For this reason, Estructuras Solana Lozano y Unanue began formal research with Arq. Jonathan Ehlinger in consultation with the Biologist Arturo Martinez in 2016 whereafter commercialization of ecological roofs was initiated. Its first client was a company from the city of Tulancingo, in the state of Hidalgo, which requested the conversion of 1000 square meters of its roofs from sheet to ecological roofs.
Now they are in the process of selling 7,200 square meters to other organizations. This motivates the workers of Estructuras Solana Lozano y Unanue, because it means that there are companies that care about the conservation of the environment.
It should be mentioned that for the plants not to die, a very particular irrigation system is used, consisting of a porous hose made of a material similar to a sponge, which allows the water to fall in small drops on the sheet and thus ensure that the plants survive in times of drought.
The ecological ceilings represent for Javier, a direct competition with the panels most commonly used in Mexico, which are at an average price of 850 to 900 pesos ($47 USD) per square meter, while an ecological ceiling costs 600 pesos ($31 USD) per square meter.
The sheets that the sell most are made with pintro, called R-101 and R-72, which sell at a price of 200 pesos ($10 USD) per square meter after installment. In a year, they install approximately 300 thousand square meters with these sheets. And of this amount they hope to install at least a quarter as ecological ceiling, so they would get 33 million extra pesos ($1,300,000 USD) in sales per year, considering that an ecological ceiling costs 600 ($31 USD) pesos as mentioned above.
They made sure that the innovation was easy to adapt to any structure, from large installations to small structures made by a blacksmith. Since its ideal is "to see a world more aware of the environment and a clean and healthy planet inherited by future generations". For this reason, they seek to compete directly with polyurethane panels that, despite being harmful to health and the environment, are still used in large quantities in our country.
In Mexico there is no other company that has a similar project. "Ecologically, we are the kings against the devil."
As for the facilities that have the ecological roofs of Estructuras Solana Lozano, "you will see a change in the reduction of temperature in your work centers, which helps contributes to the welfare of workers". Since the sheets reach temperatures of up to 60 Celsius degrees, thanks to plants, this temperature is reduced by up to 17 degrees less.
"If the millions of square meters of ceilings in Mexico, instead of being a burning hotplate, were gardens with biology and life, it would be the promised land," concludes an excited Javier Solana.
Javier Solana Rivero, Managing Director
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Business Website: http://solana.mx/
Year Founded: 1955
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
Estructuras Solana is located in the city of Puebla, in the center of Mexico. Conserving the values of Angel Solana, who founded the company in 1955. It has been certified as a socially responsible company, Great Place To Work, among others, as well as being a member of the U. S. Green Building Council.