Completed in 1966, the boiler house in Ballymun was the largest civic heating scheme in Ireland and the United Kingdom, which supplied heat and water to 3,000 flats in the town. When the regeneration of Ballymun necessitated the demolition of the flat complex, the Boiler House was also scheduled for demolition. This changed however in 2014 when the Rediscovery Centre, Dublin City Council and the European Commission (under its Life+ funding programme) joined forces to save and repurpose the iconic building. The aim was to repurpose the building as a prototype ‘3D textbook’ a novel concept in experiential learning which capitalizes upon the educational value within the built, natural and cultural environment. Ground was broken on the site in early 2016 and the building completed in early December 2016. The re-imagined building resulted in an exemplar eco-centre which won the National ‘Green Construction Award’ in 2017 and SEAI’s Green Building award in 2018. It is now the Rediscovery Centre’s headquarters and an international eco-destination.
Repurposing of the old Ballymun Boiler House
The reuse of the old Ballymun Boiler House showcases the environmental and economic benefits that come from seeing waste as an opportunity. The building is a novel interactive experience and learning environment designed to stimulate curiosity in the natural, physical and cultural environment and promote sustainable living for the circular economy.
Throughout the project, opportunities for reuse were given preference. The original concrete and steel flooring was maintained, and a staircase and upstairs floor built using Irish fir and plywood respectively. The outside of the building was finished using recycled brick, and cladded with old louvres from the original boiler house. Interior glass and the west-wall insulation were sourced as leftover materials from the wider local area regeneration. Where new materials were needed to complete the building, they were sourced as locally as possible.
Thermal and PV solar panels were fitted to the roof with the aim of ensuring 80% energy self-sufficiency. The building fabric for the east and south facing walls were constructed using hempcrete (a mixture of hemp and lime) which creates a breathable membrane that also efficiently retains heat. The west elevation was developed using timber frame and insulated with salvaged sheep’s wool.
Recycled paint from the Rediscovery Centre’s Rediscover paint project was used throughout the building having been previously salvaged from nearby recycling centres. Furniture and fittings also destined for landfill were upcylced and reused for the building completion. Overall wherever possible materials were specifically selected based upon their ability to demonstrate best practice reuse, recycling or recovery.
The building has a number of sustainable features that include but are not limited to:
– Passive design: optimising orientation for solar gain
– Heating and electricity from alternative, renewable and sustainable sources
– Rain water harvesting and grey water recycling
– Composting toilets
– The incorporation of green roofs and a green living wall
– Onsite reed bed system
– Building construction and landscaping to encourage biodiversity
– Materials selection having regard to their reuse, recycled, natural and sustainable properties
– Urinal waste water collection and use for plant nutrition within the internal comfrey wall