The Science of Building – Tallaght IT – Applied Science for Health (CASH) Building


The new Centre for Applied Science for Health Building at the Institute of Technology Tallaght is yet another indication of the growing importance of the Institutes of Technology in progressing Ireland’s knowledge economy. The Building is both literally and philosophically an extension of ITT Dublin’s Synergy Building and builds on the public/private relationships enjoyed by the institute with the private sector. 

The Synergy Building, which opened in 2008, is South Dublin County’s innovation centre, providing office space and business supports to early-stage enterprises with a particular focus on high-technology and knowledge-intensive sectors.

Funded under the Higher Education Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions with co-funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the €4.5m CASH research building provides some 1,500m2 of laboratory space, two-thirds of which will be used by ITT Dublin and a third of which are specifically designed to accommodate industry-led research projects.

Industry-led projects will be conducted in one of two ways: companies will have access dedicated laboratory space for a fixed period or laboratories will be used for collaborative industry-academia projects where companies can have a presence on campus while accessing the institutes expertise and/or technologies. In particular, research at the centre will focus on three areas: strategies for combating antimicrobial resistant pathogens; biomedical devices and translational molecular cell biology research.

“For ITT Dublin, the new CASH facility represents a step-change in the quality and coherence of research facility available to researchers,” says the centre’s manager Ken Carroll. “The co-location of CASH with the Synergy Business Incubation Centre brings together multi-disciplinary research teams in one location creating a more effective research space where researchers can work, meet, network, and interact with entrepreneurs.

“It provides a suite of new modern laboratories and high-level research equipment that will enable higher-quality research in focused areas aligned with those thematic areas identified under the recent National Research Prioritisation Exercise (NRPE).

“It also provides a number of laboratories specifically designed to support the co-location of industry-led research projects. These labs have a flexible design that facilities reconfiguration of spaces to suit a multiplicity of uses supporting short-, medium- or long-term projects.

“The facility is primarily directed towards research but will also have an educational aspect as final years undergraduate students regularly undertake projects linked to research activity. Outputs from research inform the ongoing development of taught programmes ensuring they retain currency and relevance to the market place. ITT Dublin also offers a number of taught Masters programmes in science and engineering and student projects from those programmes will also be accommodated.”

Designed by Taylor Architects, the construction programme was interrupted and delayed when the original building contractor, McNamara, became a victim of the economic downturn and went out of business because of cash-flow problems.  A new tendering process was conducted with BAM Building, a division of BAM Contractors, taking over the job with the project about 15% complete with 80% of the pre-cast concrete in place.   BAM site manager and project manager Liam Croke said, “Dealing with legacy sub-contractors was an issue that took some time to settle, particularly the issue of warranties, but there was an overall willingness to work together and to find the best way forward for all parties concerned.

“I think it was a help that BAM Contractors had worked quite recently with Taylor Architects on the NUIG Engineering School Building, which won the RIAI’s Public Choice Award 2012. It was a coincidence, but the fact that I had a good relationship with the architect’s project manager, Eamon McCarney, was a real help in moving things forward.”

BAM contractors and its operating companies, BAM Building and BAM Civil (formerly Ascon / Rohcon), have been successfully delivering projects in Ireland since 1958. Croke said BAM were delighted to be involved in this project, which has been delivered to a high-quality, on budget and within the projects program.

The three-storey building is rectangular in plan with a central atrium that links into, and expands, the atrium of the existing Synergy Building, includes many innovative elements including the structure which is a precast concrete sandwich panel which was prefabricated off site and then hoisted into place.  The external cladding is formed of a liner treatment of Tegral coloured panels, different shades of grey that together with the fenestration treatment give a greater scale and presence to the structure.  Within the building there is sufficient laboratory work-station space for 52 to 60 researchers, depending on their activities; a microbiology facility with walk-in warm-room, cold room and autoclave room; a biochemistry facility linked to a cell-culture lab and a confocal microsocopy lab; a synthetic-chemistry laboratory; three multipurpose innovation labs; facilities for materials & surface analysis, analytical instrumentation, biomechanical engineering and electronic engineering with a RF lab and an anechoic chamber; office facilities for centre management, research administration, postgraduate researchers and visiting researchers from industry. There is also a distinctive 14-seat ‘pod’ conference room.

ITT estates manager Paul Campell said: “Innovative environmental solutions include an ‘earth tube’ that uses the earth’s temperature to condition the air prior to providing same to a central meeting room providing pre-cooling of air in summer and pre-heating of air in winter.  This efficient system is further enhanced by the use of a cross floor Heat Recovery Unit that provides fresh air to the meeting room, building wide C02 and temperature monitoring system is interlinked with motorised windows providing automated ventilation throughout.  Further energy-efficient heating system allows for the heating in seven different zones to be individually controlled according to occupation.  The interior of the building provides bright, interactive spaces that we trust will provide inspirational environment for the research of the future.

“The central atrium acts as a meeting point/social node within the development and promotes the cross fertilisation of ideas between CASH and the Synergy Centre, which is so important to this building type.”

Within the atrium is a signature feature – the ‘pod’ meeting room, which has an exterior appearance resembling a large egg! This ovoid meeting room was constructed on site by a number of BAM Building subcontractors, including Con McGarry Carpentry & Construction. The light-coloured interior of the pod has three circular windows at a high level and an acoustic membrane incorporated into the structural wall.

“We were delighted to work on this project it was a good opportunity to showcase the expertise of the team,” said Con McGarry. “Eight experienced carpenters formed the staff that worked on the pod, it was a challenging project that required our craftsmanship and experience to showcase the architects’ design.  We worked closely with the main contractor, BAM Building, and with Taylor Architects throughout this element of works.”

Firstly, the curved structure of the pod had to be formed in structural steel by J&F Duggan Steel and then framed out in timber by McGarry Carpentry, who used a technique borrowed from boat-building to provide a smooth finish to the exterior of the structure.  Inside the pod,  it was decided to install poplar timber batten, fitted horizontally around the interior, to best express the design intent of the dome-shaped room.

Architect Eamon McCarney said: “The centralised pod within the three storey atrium acts as a focal point for the building, a meeting point where researchers can share and exchange ideas.  It also gives expression to the environmental credentials of the building with a glass pipe bringing air cooled and conditioned by an external ‘earth pipe’ into the structure.  It is intended that it will become the symbol of the project.”

In addition to the RIAI award for the NUIG building this year, Taylor Architects have won a host of architectural awards and international competitions. The practice was founded in 1966, is headquartered in Castlebar with a satellite office in Dublin and employs 25 architects, technicians and interior designers.

Despite its relatively simple exterior appearance, by its nature the CASH research centre is a complex building. “It is very highly serviced,” said BAM Contractor’s project manager and site engineer Liam Croke. “There are eight different gas lines going into the building from Aragon and CO2 to natural gas and compressed air and within it there are 22 fume hoods with extractor systems, all fitted into a building with very tight ceiling spaces.

“There was also the issue of it being linked to a live building that was to stay in operation throughout the construction period, but we worked closely with ITT to ensure that was achieved.”

Ken Carroll said: “The primary focus of the centre will evolve over time as new challenges emerge. The design of the innovation labs, in particular, offers significant flexibility with regard to possible applications and uses. For example, since the building process began, a new Bioengineering Technology Centre has been developed at ITT Dublin and this has been incorporated in the building with a dedicated laboratory area now housing a bespoke spine-related mechanical testing facility which is currently it is being used to research the characteristics of bone cements used in spinal injury repairs.  As other opportunities emerge, the centre will adapt to exploit those opportunities and the in-built flexibility of the new laboratories will allow for this.”