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Last edited 25 Nov 2023
Irish Life Sciences Global HQ, an exemplar of adaptive reuse
 AT award winning Irish Life Sciences Global HQ
The adaptive reuse of an existing warehouse, which had already been previously used for many years in Scotland, offered a superb opportunity for MMA Architects to demonstrate that our existing building stock should be the building blocks of our future.
Mel McGerr FCIAT, was approached in early 2019 by a new Athlone company, Irish Life Sciences, to design
a state-of-the-art facility for their new venture. The brief required a striking building that would reflect this new and innovative company on the international life sciences market. They had an immediate requirement for a building to have multiple purposes.
As the core market of this business was based internationally, particularly in North America, the client was keen to develop a building that portrayed their commitment to carbon neutrality and energy efficiency in their manufacturing processes. The client owned a site with an existing warehouse on it and wished for this to be the site of their new facility.
 Challenge the common notion of demolition
We identified that this existing structure offered a unique opportunity to challenge the common notion of demolition and rebuild. Instead, we sought to adapt and reuse - immediately reducing the carbon footprint of the project. It was through detailed engagement with the client that we learned the original steel structure had previously been a warehouse in Scotland, and had been dismantled and relocated here in the mid 1990’s.
With the requirement for an economic design, that portrayed the sustainable credentials of the building a must, we quickly agreed with the client that the reuse of the building was a major opportunity to achieve these goals.
Budgetary constraints meant that ratings such as LEED or BREEAM were not sought but a pragmatic and innovative approach led to sustainable targets being identified and achieved, and compliance with Part L of the Irish Building Regulations. Despite working within a tight budget and a restricted site, this project was highly innovative in its aspiration to show that it is possible to positively contribute to a sustainable future.
Simplicity and buildability were at the fore of all design and detail decisions. We took a proactive approach, working closely with the main contractor to agree detailing and finishes. There was significant complexity where the new extension met with the existing structure – particularly at roof level. This was dealt with by using a simple parapet structure and hidden gutter assembly. Whilst the options of lower carbon structural material such as timber were examined, we decided to proceed with a steel structure.
 Embodied carbon reduction
Reusing the existing warehouse reduced the carbon footprint of the new construction by minimising the need for new materials and resources to be used in the construction process. By repurposing the existing structure, the embodied energy and emissions associated with the production and transportation of new building materials were avoided. Additionally, the reuse of the existing structure reduced the amount of waste generated from the construction activities that traditionally would have gone into landfill, further reducing the environmental impact.
We insisted on using as much of the existing structures and materials as possible. Where cladding was removed, it was salvaged for reuse on other buildings (shed repairs etc.) whilst a portion was also used on one of our other projects to act as a temporary roof during ongoing works.
Another major carbon saving was the repurposing of an extensive existing steel mezzanine structure. Originally positioned to the north of the warehouse, it was dismantled and rebuilt to the east, housing toilets and stores on the ground floor and additional stores and warehouse staff facilities at first floor level. Reuse of the materials also contributed hugely to keeping within budget!
 Operational carbon reduction
The manufacturing machines housed in the clean room are high energy users and this created a significant carbon footprint. From an early stage it was agreed that PV would offer the optimum opportunity to reduce electricity consumption from the grid and develop the buildings carbon credentials in a meaningful way. We worked with Urbanvolts engineers to maximise the efficiency of the roof space for a PV Array. The result was an installation of 447 solar panels to generate clean energy for Irish Life Sciences.
Since installation of the solar panels were completed on 28 January 2022, the solar array at Irish Life Sciences has produced over 88 thousand kWh of solar energy, which is the equivalent of preventing over 62 thousand kilograms of carbon from being released into the atmosphere each year (as of April 2023).
It is expected the future PV Generation and consumption of the Irish Life facility to be over 145 thousand KWh per year on average. The solar system installed was designed to meet these future demands. This will be the equivalent of preventing over 102 thousand kilograms of carbon being released into the atmosphere annually.
Another small but innovative addition to the energy efficiency of the design was the use of a thermodynamic solar panel to provide hot water for the office spaces. This is a system that works on similar principles to a heat pump but with a small external panel (similar in looks to a pv panel) that extracts heat from the atmosphere to heat the water. This meets
the needs of hot water for staff showers etc. where previously electric or gas would have been used.
The critical part of this building is the cleanroom manufacturing facility, as this is what drives the company. This was designed to ISO 8 within the ISO14644-1 classification standard for cleanrooms. Initially 7 no. moulding machines were installed, but with extra space and capacity for up to 15 as manufacturing increases.
For improved efficiency and functionality, these machines were located at ground level in the new section next to the warehouse that holds the raw materials for manufacturing. Provision was made for the future connection of silos, to more efficiently supply raw materials to the machines.
The entire first floor level has been left fallow for future expansion. This area has been earmarked as a research and development facility to create new products. We have designed the space to ensure it meets future functional requirements.
Irish Life Sciences are a new and innovative company, providing highest quality products to the international life sciences market. When recognising the need for a new facility they saw the opportunities to be innovators and leaders in construction too. This drive for quality and innovation combined with MMA’s knowledge in the field of Architectural Technology led to the delivery of a highly innovative building built on sustainable principles.
- Adaptive reuse.
- Alterations to existing buildings.
- Change of use class.
- Do the building regulations apply to works to existing buildings?
- Design for deconstruction.
- Embodied carbon.
- Life cycle assessment.
- Live/work unit.
- Material amendment.
- Material change of use.
- Minor material amendment.
- Non material amendment.
- Planning permission.
- Permitted development.
- Renovation v refurbishment v retrofit.
- Recyclable construction materials.
- Repurposing of buildings
- Reuse of building products and materials – barriers and opportunities.
- Reuse potential.
- The Carbon Project: infrastructure and the circular economy.
- Types of work to existing buildings.
- Where does embodied carbon analysis stop?
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