In 2008, the vision for the Bord Gáis Networks – Networks Service Centre was for an innovative solution for a contemporary workplace that would centralise its key Dublin operations, for a workplace that has a real sense of community and place. This came at a time when the business was undergoing a significant transformation programme that set out to invest in its people, systems and facilities to sustain its future as one of Ireland’s leading utilities. The Bord Gáis team discusses the project from the clients perspective.
The result is a ‘powerhouse’ of a building that has recently received the coveted rating of ‘Excellent’ under the bespoke building BREEAM assessment procedures; the only office building in Ireland to receive an ‘Excellent’ rating under the 2008 standard. BREEAM is the world’s leading design and assessment method for sustainable buildings.
The news of the BREEAM rating achievement follows a number of top industry award wins for NSC in 2013. Most recently, the NSC building won ‘Best Commerical Building’ and ‘Best Sustainable Project’ at the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) 2013 Annual Architecture Awards. It was also shortlisted from 100 entries for the RIAI Public Choice Award. In April, NSC secured the main award, the Building Category, at the Irish Concrete Society Awards, beating prestigious entries including the Giants Causeway Visitors Centre, the UCD Leisure and Sports Complex and Waterford Medieval Museum. NSC also won a special “Sustainability” award, given out periodically only to those projects that deserve particular commendation based on the sustainable use of concrete. NSC also won “Building of the Year” at the Irish Building and Design Awards beating the Titanic Building in Belfast in an industry online poll.
Sustainable Design at its Heart
The Networks Services Centre focuses the Dublin operations of Bord Gáis Networks in one single location on a circa 5 acre site at St. Margaret’s Road, Dubber Cross, Finglas. The new building incorporates a number of primary functions including:
* Design, construction, maintenance and operation of Ireland’s natural gas distribution network
* 24/7 emergency response for Dublin and surrounding counties
* The national Technical Training Centre
* The Health, Safety, Quality & Environment Unit
In 2008, Bord Gáis Networks embarked on a two stage international architectural competition, facilitated by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). From an initial 56 entries for stage one, a shortlist of eight proposals was drawn up to develop the designs for stage two. Denis Byrne Architects was selected and appointed as the lead architectural consultant for the new Network Services Centre with Walls as the main contractor.
Reflecting on the selection of the winning design, John Barry, the then Managing Director of Bord Gáis Networks (and now Programme Director at Irish Water) says: “For over thirty years, we have been constructing gas pipelines with an excellent reputation earned through positive relationships and a respect for the preservation of the built and natural heritage on pipeline routes. We are ever conscious of our impact on the environment and communities and always endeavour to act responsibly and in the best interests of sustainability. These factors were essential in choosing this design. In addition, incorporating the critical functions carried out in this building, really the heart of Bord Gáis Networks operations, was a further challenge that had to be met.”
The main focus of the new Networks Service Centre Building was to create a campus-style development that would facilitate and promote the inter-departmental, multi-disciplinary approach necessary for the provision of efficient and effective services. Prior to this, staff were based in four separate locations around Dublin. The requirement was one fully-integrated building accommodating all 300 staff.
The eighteen month construction phase, on what was previously a brownfield site, was completed on time and despite the difficult winter conditions of December 2010 and January 2011, with staff occupying the building in January 2012.
Commenting on the significance of the BREEAM rating and the large number of industry awards received, Sean Casey, Acting Managing Director of Bord Gáis Networks said: “These awards acknowledge the commitment of the Bord Gáis Networks Project Team, Denis Byrne Architects and Walls Construction in pursuing our vision for a sustainable building and modern working environment whilst meeting the challenges of incorporating the critical functions that are carried out in the building. The result is a sustainable, adaptable and innovative solution for a modern, contemporary place of work.
“As in many other responsible businesses, sustainability at Bord Gáis Networks undoubtedly supports a strategic objective, but it also enables us to build upon the foundation of good corporate citizenship that has been part of our business culture for over thirty years. Very ambitious targets were set from the outset and through teamwork, innovative thinking and a commitment to the vision, the building is now a highly-rated, nationally-recognised example of sustainable development – and a building our staff are very proud of.”
Sustainable Design Components
The Design Team defined sustainability targets early on in the design process, formulating an integrated sustainable design approach. This approach combines microclimate, biodiversity and landscape, water management and use of renewable energy technologies, within a compact building featuring a low energy design concept, to establish a service facility with a high quality and permeable work environment.
The low energy design and fit-out of the NSC was targeted to deliver a saving of at least 40% relative to current low energy usage office using prevailing technologies, delivering a comparable CO2 emission offset of 109,000 kgs per annum. In terms of energy use and environmental control, the building is responsive to user needs, employing a system based on the principles of high thermal mass, natural and displacement ventilation, maximized natural daylight, and space conditioning using radiant cooling and heating supplied by a ground source heat pump and chilling device.
Microclimate. A solid noise barrier is placed along the adjoining M50 on the northern perimeter of the site and the natural sloping topography and terraced car parking provide landmass for further acoustic buffering. New trees and hedge “pods” create wind screening and natural grass areas between the car parking tiers provide natural filtration and attenuation. Within each hedge pod, columnar beech trees provide additional wind attenuation and some shade within a compact footprint.
Biodiversity and Landscape. A new landscape integrates the required car parking and loading areas with a new articulated landscape and connects the existing brownfield site and the anonymous green along St Margaret’s Road to an extended parkland. The landscaped roof and internal landscaped gardens of the building extend the external landscape into and onto the building providing every workspace with a landscaped environment.
Water Management. The water management of the landscape strategy seeks to treat as much surface water run-off on-site as possible with a series of natural attenuation and filtration areas for the car parking and a large attenuation pond to the south of the building.
Building volume, layout and orientation. The highly efficient and compact volume of the building with good volume to skin ratio reduces potential heat loss area and allows for strategic distribution of the building’s program in relation to thermal and solar requirements. The super insulated envelope of the building with a target U-Value of 0.15 exceeds current guidelines set out in Part L and achieves an Airtightness of 1.8m3/m2.hr.
Ventilation – Displacement Ventilation. The Open Plan layout of the office accommodation requires a controlled fresh air supply to avoid draft and insufficient supply. A Displacement Ventilation system is therefore proposed for the office areas with natural ventilation for the canteen, workshops and Stores. The Displacement Ventilation relies on natural air movement between the assisted fresh air supply at floor level and a controlled extraction via a central chimney at the apex of the folding roof. The chimney is contained within a Plant Tower and uses a natural stack effect for extraction and contains coils for heat recovery.
Natural Daylight. Artificial lighting can be a significant proportion of a building’s running costs, and maximizing the use of natural daylight is one of the main drivers of the design. The internal gardens provide natural daylight to all areas of the compact volume. All artificial lighting is controlled by detectors and dimmers responding to the external conditions and keeping electrical energy for lighting to an absolute minimum.
Space Conditioning – Radiant Slab. The heating and cooling of the building are supplied by a closed loop ground source heat pump feeding into the radiant slab system of the building. The heating and cooling pipes set in the exposed concrete ceilings of the building dampens temperature swings through the working day and reduce the overall ventilation requirements.
Heat absorbed by the concrete ceilings is released at night reducing the heating requirement at the start of the working day. The radiant slab, similar to a tiled stove, enables lower ambient temperatures compared to conventionally heated office spaces. A Data Centre precision cooling system provides temperature and humidity control, integrated within the rows of the primary data centre racks providing cooling close to the server heat source for efficient and effective data centre management.
Integration of Renewable Energy Technologies. The Plant Tower integrates and displays the various components of the building’s low energy system. The southern elevation clad hosts 126m2 of photovoltaic panels supplying up to 15% of GSHP electricity requirement. Similarly on Level 3 of the plant tower there is 20m2 of solar panels installed to provide 50% of the buildings hot water demand through a buffer vessel located on level 3 of the tower.
Energy Management & Controls. The NSC uses an integrated Building Energy Management System (BEMS) Trend 963 controlling all aspects of the building. Throlux adaptive lighting and shading controller is linked to the BEMS to determine the most energy efficient requirements with regard to lighting, heating and cooling. A detailed energy metering system comprises of 40 electrical meters, 3 gas meters, 1 heat meter and two water meters – all broadcasting to the Cloud based Cylon AE. Data Centre precision cooling system providing temperature and humidity control, integrated within the rows of the primary data centre racks providing cooling close to the server heat source for efficient and effective data centre management.