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2008 – Commissioners of Irish Lights, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin

Architect: Scott Tallon Walker

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The headquarters of the Commissioners of Irish Lights is designed as a beacon along Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront. This site has been the home of the Commissioners of Irish Lights since 1875. From its early planning, a conscious decision was made to produce a building of contemporary design: a modern structure reflecting the ethos of the client, using the most modern technologies that provide aids to the marine industry. This structure also provides a counterpoint to the various historic structures nearby, which, in their own right, are prominent landmarks.

There are two main structures in this development: a circular open-plan administration office linked to a rectilinear functional workshop building. While both share a certain commonality in finish and detail, there is a striking contrast between the two.

The rectangular workshop building fills a practical need. It provides a place for the maintenance services required by the whole complex. In design, this workshop is clad in granite on the east and west gable ends. The southern façade glazed with a series of cedar breis-soleil protect the glass from overheating. Glazing on the northern facade takes advantage of soft natural light and the views along the harbour. In addition, north-facing skylights were added to enhance the working environment in the first-floor offices and workshops. These workshops are all under one roof to provide the maintenance needs of the complex and as a work-base for the maintenance and repair of lighthouses and buoys around the coast of Ireland.

An elegant glass enclosed bridge links the workshop to the administration complex. This building complex is three stories high, with a distinctive “lantern-like rooflight`, mimicking the top of a lighthouse. This lantern provides abundant natural light to the center of the building. Moreover, there is a dramatic helical staircase directly under the rooflight, which links all floors of the interior.

The building itself is shrouded in a double-skin façade allowing full-height glazing, which results in the maximisation of internal natural light and provides views in and out of the building. This facade provides environmental control over the internal office space in an attractive and sophisticated manner. The open floor plan of the office space further contributes to a sense of transparency both from within and from outside and enables the entire structure to become a beacon of light in the evening.

The double skin facade, mentioned above, uses a controlled deep cavity, which permits the use of floor to ceiling glazing which reduces the overall heat loss. This facade also provides an acoustic buffer to the traffic on the adjacent Harbour Road and to the workshop facility. The extensive use of glass ensures that the interior is bathed in natural light, which promotes a high sense of well being on the part of the building’s occupants. In addition, the automatic dimming control of the artificial lighting harnesses this natural light to reduce the building’s electrical energy demands. Automatic blinds, controlled by a sophisticated facade management system (FMS), within the facade cavity, likewise respond to external sunlight conditions to prevent unwanted glare while permitting maximum natural light to reach the interior. Moreover, individuals can each override the BMS should they want to control the glare or views independently. At three points during the business day, the FMS will reset to deploy the blind in the optimal position to keep the building from overheating.

Integral to the facade design is a user-controllable ventilation system, which draws natural air into the office building. The fans associated with this system are powered by the glass-to-glass photovoltaic breis-soleil, which shroud the top-level boardrooms on the southern elevation. As a result, the sun helps to maintain pleasant internal working conditions. The photovoltaic (PV) technology used in the breis-soleil is the same as that which is used to power the daymark navigation buoys around the Irish coast. These PV panels also double to provide shading of the glazed walls at the second floor level to reduce the cooling load demand.

The architectural and building service design are woven together seamlessly to provide optimal thermal comfort to the staff. The mechanical and electrical services within both buildings are a direct expression of their marine environment. In fact, both buildings are highly dependent upon the adjacent sea for both their heating and cooling needs. For example, the exposed pre-cast concrete coffer slabs within the administration building contain embedded coils. Through these coils, water-cooled seawater is pumped in to maintain a pleasant working environment. All of these services are controlled by a sophisticated interactive building management system (BMS), which “talks` to the facade management system (FMS) to ensure the optimum condition for the Commissioner of Irish Lights staff.