- Taylor Architects
- RMJM Architects
NUI Galway Engineering Department
This substantial building completed on the campus of the National University of Ireland, Galway campus (NUIG) in 2011 has a dramatic, landscape setting. Like many universities in Ireland, the buildings of NUIG typically sit as distinct villa blocks in a leafy, almost suburban landscape, in defined areas at the edges of main cities. This is no exception. The building, designed by RMJM architects in Scotland, in association with Taylor Architects in Ireland is sensitive to its surroundings but still aims to assert itself just enough to act as a gateway to the NUIG North campus.
It opens its façades to the eastern riverside setting and offers a dramatic cascading staircase back to the campus, inviting engineers and visitors alike up into the teaching spaces, onto an external balcony and the dramatic, colourful rooms above overlooking the river Corrib. The building is thought of as a new engineering ‘house', giving united homes and rooms to the five engineering departments in the University – namely Civil, Electronic, Industrial, Engineering Hydrology and Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering. With a large community of over 1,100 students and 100 staff, this ensures that the four-storey, glass and zinc clad building always feels lively and busy, from inside and out. Organised and designed to allow easy cross-communication and cross-fertilisation of ideas across the different disciplines, this 'human energy' makes the building feel vibrant and alive, progressive and active, at the cutting edge of thinking, research and innovation in engineering. This ambition to have the act of learning facilitated by the building organisation is further reflected in the design and construction of the building.
The 14,250 square-metre building has a two-storey south-facing twin-skin climate façade, with imbedded probes and sensors within the construction fabric of the building. This allows the entire project to operate as a teaching tool providing a continuous stream of information for research and monitoring. The engineers using this building place a significant focus on research into environmental technologies, and again the building reflects this interest, as it contains a range of ‘green’ technologies which will add to the hands-on learning experience for students. There is large-scale rainwater harvesting, solar thermal panels, ground source heat-pumps, a biomass boiler, low-embodied energy materials such as zinc, grass roofs for water attenuation, heat exchangers, and passive layout design to allow natural ventilation throughout the building.
Natural ventilation is a key feature of the building and its simple potential is very apparent on the riverside façade. Here the Reynaers CW 65-EF, unitized façade system is employed to great effect. A desire for speed of erection on site and quality control prompted the architects to use this solution as it allowed much of the façade to be preassembled off site, at the workshops of Duggan Systems, in nearby Limerick. A substantial 1,150 square metres of the CW 65-EF façade were successfully installed in an astonishing two weeks as a result of being freed from weather, access and other constraints. The resulting façade is clean, open and transparent and looks particularly dramatic at night, when the rooms show their colourful interiors to the riverside. Passive design elements are key to the low environmental impact of the building, such as the use of natural ventilation, night purging, thermal storage mass, and exposed slabs which are used to maximize the advantages of natural ventilation, thus creating an optimal thermal environment whilst minimizing the use of fossil fuels to achieve that environment.
Reynaers systems are used around the building in windows and skylights, but the south façade, a double skinned climate wall which uses Reynaers CW 50-SC system on the internal façade, is key to the environmental strategy and is visually striking. The architects wanted this south façade to be as open as possible, as behind it lie the postgraduate rooms, arguably the most productive rooms of this engineering house, where research is on show to the entire campus – the south façade looks back to the University and to the other disciplines and as such is the buildings 'main face'. The two glass layers, one metre apart work as a traditional curtain wall do, gathering heat, allowing hot air to discharge, while keeping the aspect and horizon open – arguably, much like the act of research itself.
- Taylor Architects
- RMJM Architects
- Neil Warner
- BAM Construction (General contractor)