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Extension and refurbishment of tower block

Extension and refurbishment of tower block


Cork County Hall is a landmark building in Ireland and was the tallest building in Ireland when it was opened. The building houses the administrative headquarters for Cork County Council. It was originally a 16 storey tower block, completed in 1968. However, since then the building had begun to deteriorate, with the original textured surface of precast concrete tracery becoming severely eroded. The building was also very uncomfortable to work in because it had excessive solar heat gain. In addition, the building’s entrance and surrounding environment was in need of a revamp. Therefore, it was decided that the building should be refurbished and extended. As part of this project, the original concrete façade was replaced with louvered glass cladding that is climate sensitive and provides natural ventilation for the building. As part of the project, an additional storey and a six-storey extension at ground level were added, as well as a new concourse. The project was completed in June 2006.

Building details

Type of building: Administrative
Year of construction/ Floor area/ Operating hours: Officially opened on the 16th of April 1968, with the renovation and extension completed in June 2006. The tower block is now 17 storeys (originally 16 storeys) and a six storey extension and a three storey concourse were added as part of the redevelopment. The building is open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Heating and cooling / measures installed Natural ventilation was installed via an active façade.
Energy/CO2/Water label (before and after improvements if possible) This building already had a reasonably good standard of energy performance, using 119kWh/m2/annum of energy and emitting 32 kg/m2/annum of CO2 before the refurbishment. The water use was not accurately measured because no meter was in place. The building’s energy performance will be reassessed soon. However it will be difficult to make comparisons with the pre-development performance because of the addition of another floor to the tower block and the new six-storey extension at ground level, which is attached to the tower block and its heating system.

Project Description

Aim There were several aims of the Cork County Hall redevelopment project, including:

  • Creating a new relationship between the County Hall and the City;
  • Making a striking architectural composition of elements relating the new accommodation with the existing landmark building in a coherent arrangement;
  • Architecturally and environmentally upgrading the existing building in sympathy with its formal and aesthetic properties;
  • Reorganising the overall site layout to provide a new campus for the County Hall;
  • Providing a public building for the 21st Century.
Key points In 1999, Cork County Council held an international architectural competition in association with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI, who represent Irish Architects) to find a design team to renovate and extend County Hall. The competition was won by Dublin-based Shay Cleary Architects. The winning scheme involved recladding and general fitting out of the existing tower block along with the provision of further office accommodation in a six storey extension and a new concourse and council chamber. Renovation and extension of the tower blockThe existing tower block was completely fitted out to the highest contemporary office standards. The winning scheme provided an innovative solution to the eroding façade of the tower by introducing a skin of glass louvers that respond to differing climatic conditions and allow the tower to provide a high quality, naturally ventilated working environment for the first time. A 17th floor was added to the tower block to provide a rooftop glazed pavilion. This new pavilion contains a restaurant offering panoramic views of the city and surrounding environment. The former council chamber at the top of the tower is now a conference centre.

Six storey extension and concourseA six-storey extension was built in the southern flank of the tower to form an L-shaped configuration. This extension accommodates a canteen on the ground floor and offices on the upper levels. It also embraces a triple-height concourse used for public functions and office space, including offices for the elected members of the council. There is also a new elliptical council chamber, which sits in the public volume of the concourse.The new extension also has a climatically responsive glass louver façade.

Reason for inclusion as Shining Example This redevelopment shows how climatically responsive active façades can be used in both retrofit and new-build developments to provide natural ventilation, shading from the summer sun, collection of solar gains during winter and protection against aggressive winds, to provide a comfortable working environment and minimise the need for fossil fuel sources of cooling and heating.

Costs & Benefits

Costs & funding The redevelopment of Cork County Hall cost €62 million.In view of the innovative design of the external façade and the environmental advantages accruing from this, Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI, Ireland’s national energy agency) approved the maximum grant available of €0.5million towards the development. The remainder of the redevelopment was funded by Cork County Council.
Benefits There are several benefits resulting from the incorporation of a climatically responsive glass louver façade in the redevelopment of Cork County Hall, including:

  • Optimised climatic control and environmental stability to provide a more comfortable working environment
  • Improved energy efficiency for heating and cooling by controlling the façade elements so that the building is in unison with the climatic environment. It provides shading against the aggressive summer sun, collects solar gains and protects against aggressive wind conditions during winter
  • Natural ventilation of the offices and the removal of previous draughts
  • Moving components of active façade with a design life of twenty-five years
  • Panoramic views of the county and the city from the new facility.

In addition, the redevelopment has resulted in new public space and office accommodation. The addition of the concourse has created a dynamic entrance and gathering place for the public.


Partnership details The design team consisted of Shay Cleary Architects, Arup Consulting Engineers and Bruce Shaw Partnership.

The general contractors were Rohcon Ltd.


Achievements The public of Cork enjoy the new facilities provided by the redevelopment and the 600 County Council staff members find the naturally ventilated offices a pleasure to work in.
Difficulties There was some opposition to the proposed redevelopment of Cork County Hall, from parties that wanted the original concrete tracery retained and fixed. Planning permission was initially refused but the appeals board decided to grant permission, stating that the proposed development "would be in accordance with the interests of conservation and sustainability [and] would be compatible with the requirement to protect and enhance the status and function of the building as Cork County Hall".

To know more



Cork County Council
Contact Paul Finnerty
Phone + 353 (0) 21 4276891

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