MDY Construction Seeing Double

Two projects executed recently by MDY Construction, Ballyroan Library and Presentation College Bray, have each won a 2013 RIAI Architecture Awards further bolstering the Kildare-based firm’s reputation for quality and professionalism.

Two projects executed recently by MDY Construction, Ballyroan Library and Presentation College Bray, have each won a 2013 RIAI Architecture Awards further bolstering the Kildare-based firm’s reputation for quality and professionalism. CIAN MOLLOY reports.

Architecture awards are primarily for architects, but there is a little reflected glory for anyone involved in a winning project, especially one that has won a prize as prestigious as an RIAI award, which is why MDY Managing Director Mel O’Reilly is delighted that Ballyroan Library won the Best Public Building Award for Box Architecture and Presentation College Bray won the RIAI Best Educational Building Award for Paul Keogh Architects.

“They were two great projects to work on where everyone involved was committed to achieving the best result possible,” said O’Reilly. “We are delighted for the two architecture firms and if we get any additional kudos, we will take it.”

Founded in 1985 and with offices in Staplestown, Co Kildare, MDY Construction tackles projects ranging in value from €1m to €50m. The company’s portfolio includes: Healthcare and nursing homes, schools and educational facilities, retail and commercial buildings, leisure and sports facilities, food  production facilities, public & private residential developments, large-scale warehousing and distribution facilities, waste-water treatment plants and a wide range of civil engineering work.

Brought to Book

MDY are described by Gary Mongey of Box Architecture as ‘the best mid-sized contractor that I have ever worked with’.  He told Irish Building: “I really enjoyed working with them, they were very positive – always progressive, never aggressive.

“We use an internet-based file sharing system and they were very quick to adapt to that and to adopt it themselves. We also use Revit, a building information modelling (BIM) software package, that they really took to and used in a way I hadn’t seen before.

“The BIM allows you to do mock-ups of what different renders and finishes should look like when complete and they took print outs of these and stuck them up on site so that all the subcontractors would know what the finished result would look like. As a result, there was a very high level of buy in by the sub contractors and a commitment to achieving the best quality result possible. Of course we had our regular site visits, but in between visits I never had subcontractors phoning me up so much to check on specific details if they had any doubt at all about what needed to be done.”

Before the new library could be built, its predecessor on the site had to be demolished by MDY. The new facility 1,400m2 facility offers almost double the floorspace of the old library and the €4m project for South Dublin County Council is the largest library build in recent years, which is fitting given that Ballyroan is one of Greater Dublin’s busiest libraries.  Notably, the new library is part of a wider community development that included the extension and ‘opening up’ of Ballyroan’s existing community centre and the construction of a new pastoral centre for Ballyroan parish.

The Library features the use of high-quality pre-cast concrete in its construction, with Concast providing wall panels, beams, columns, stairs landings and wideslabs all produced to a quality higher that specified in the Precast Code. There were 16m beams used to create the large open space that forms the reading room at the centre of the building.  There is an internal street, with a very high ceiling, almost like that of an atrium.  Where the pre-cast concrete forms part of the building’s exterior, an external insulated render system has been applied to provide a high-level of thermal performance.

“The building has been completed to a very high level of air-tightness so that it could achieve a BER A-grade standard,” said O’Reilly. “There is quite a complex BMS managing heating, ventilation, and heat recovery. It’s quite a complex building with occupancy levels that vary from two or three people in quiet periods to large crowds during events.”

The new library building is part single-storey and part two-storey with two new entrances: one to the North, accessed from Orchardstown Avenue, and one to the south, accessed via Orchardstown villas giving access into the new double height internal street. This new street can be used for group activities, larger exhibitions, readings, meetings, to read the newspaper and can adjust as needs change. The furniture is movable to allow these different activities to occur.


The lower section of the northern two-storey element houses cellular elements for more defined public uses. A timber lining snakes in and out of the public and private elements to clearly identify these public and private realms. The timber elements, within the exhibition area in particular, can be opened and closed to adapt to the library’s needs. A staff office is provided at ground floor for ease of access and monitoring. Two seminar rooms can be divided into separate rooms of varying sizes, giving the library flexibility and allows for organising individual internet access or for setting up the computers and desks in a classroom arrangement. Toilet facilities and other associated services elements are housed in this area.

On the other side of the internal street a large reading room is accessed through a series of fins where there is a change in the ceiling heights to denote a quieter area of the library. The layout of furniture can we arranged to suit the demographics of the users with loose furniture on casters positioned in varying layouts to suit the changing needs. It is an open plan room lit from above by means of roof-lights with more intimate reading areas off the main space in the form of pods that overlook the adjoining streets. These pods can be a place to study or sit and read. A children’s area is located on the south and is used for book readings, arts and crafts and other activities, and it can be closed off completely if required. Internet access is provided in this area for more concentrated studying.

Access to the first floor is by a public staircase or by lift to a more private area for local research and private study area. The main staff facilities and book storage are located on this level.

The car park to the south of the library has been remodelled to make it more friendly to pedestrians and it contains seating areas where people can go  and read al fresco, but to preserve the privacy of those inside the library there is a landscaped buffer zone between the car park and the windows looking out from the pod reading areas.

In the RIAI award citation, the judges said: “The best new libraries balance interaction and reflection, the book and the computer. Arranged around a high, colonnaded street, a satisfying sequence of flexible spaces offers degrees of enclosure, volume and view to facilitate differing dynamics of the individual and the group. Choice is reinforced by the quality of materials and detailing both contributing to the modest, but still decidedly civic, character of the library.”

Top Class

The Presentation College Bray project also involved an element of demolition, but the 21 month long work programme had to be managed in such a way that new classrooms were built before old classrooms were demolished so that all 600 students and staff could continue to be accommodated on the site.  Co-ordination of the works around the exam periods was critical as the Sports Hall, the final element of the complex, could not be built until the original building and examination hall were demolished.


The older 1960s buildings that were retained required general refurbishment that included upgrading of services, new windows, improved air tightness, insulation and finishes. There was also a need for an asbestos survey and a requirement to remove asbestos, used as pipe lagging, which was found on the site.

The complex was expanded with the construction of a three-storey building and an adjoining single-storey lean-to that contain general classrooms, specialists teaching areas and ancillary accommodation. Alongside this new block is a new single-storey sports hall with adjoining ancillary accommodation including changing rooms and storage facilities for multiple activities..

The various buildings – both new and existing – are grouped around and entered off a new school square. The existing rugby pitches are retained to the front and back and were augmented with new outdoor basketball courts and separate Sports Hall.

The central corridor of the three-storey main school building benefits from natural daylight via its triple-height atria. These atria also provide ventilation and daylight to the main circulation and classroom areas below. The main building also faces east to maximise the sea views from the classrooms and to enjoy the east light. The general purpose room is open to the main ground-floor central and this creates the public space within the school.

The school buildings are designed to the highest standards and principles of passive technology, using plan form and section and natural lighting and ventilation to best advantage.

O’Reilly said: “Being in any way associated with award-winning buildings is beneficial, not only for the company, but for the management team, the specialist subcontractors, and the craftworkers involved.  It is especially encouraging in the present climate when financial returns are minimal at all levels in the industry.  It is also rewarding that our general collaborative approach to contracting has borne dividends in both instances.”   Presentation-College-Bray