In 2001 Dundalk Institute of Technology acquired the cigarette factory with the objective of converting 10,000 sq m into a third level educational facility for the departments of Informatics and Creative Arts. The brief included classrooms, PC laboratories, lecture theatres, radio, sound, film and art studios, screening room, dark rooms, a diverse range of music practice and performance spaces, and associated student and staff facilities.
The original building, designed in 1967, is a protected structure. The design objective was to establish an architectural response that was in unison with the original design. The original concept for the building was of a repetitive free-standing structural bay, supported at each corner, and capable of expansion in any direction. The first strategic decision was to organise the significant number of offices around three atria. Three bays (each 20m x 20m clear spanning roof trusses) were jacked up by a meter in order to create the two storey accommodation. Due to the original cruciform column design, this was achieved without interfering with the adjoining bays.
The next principle was to align the circulation routes with the structural gridlines of the building; this gave the overall internal space planning a strong discipline. Due to the deep plan nature of the building, a social space and wintergarden were created to bring light and air into the heart of the building. Conservation works included analysis of the brickwork, steelwork and addressing the issue of tobacco dust and asbestos. Modifications to the envelope consisted of removing only brick panels adjacent to the cruciform columns and replacing them with glazing. This generated an elevational composition of four brick faced panels framed on both sides with glazing and above by clerestory glazing. This expresses each bay as a free standing structural entity.
The subdivision of the glazed units match the existing, as the existing façade has an inherent mathematical relationship with the overall form of the building. Materials A limited palette of new materials was used and the conservation principle that all new works should be reversible was adhered to. Externally aluminium curtain walling with a bespoke capping system was designed. Timber acoustic panelling was employed where required. Sustainability The aim was to take advantage of the embodied energy of the existing buildings fabric by minimising the modifications to the envelope. Renewable energy systems include the Institute's wind turbine to create ice banks at off peak times. Windcatchers are employed to bring natural ventilation into the building. An air tightness of 8.2m3/sq m/hr was achieved which is a considerable achievement as the 45mm deflection of the roof trusses required bespoke wall to ceiling details. The building improved its energy rating from a G to a B1.