RPS-Consulting Engineers has provided complete civil-structural design and environmental impact assessment/monitoring services for the University College Cork Environmental Research Institute (UCC ERI) Building project - which is a dedicated research facility, purpose built to accommodate an inter-disciplinary group of UCC Researchers in the field of environmental, marine and coastal engineering.
The ERI Building is situated on an extremely environmentally-sensitive site on the floodplain and river-edge of the River Lee close to the existing Cork City Council Waterworks intake.
Sustainability is the main principle to underpin the design, construction and operation of the ERI Building. It was designed and constructed as an eco-friendly 'green building' utilising the current best available design features, specifications, fittings/materials, construction methods and control systems that conform to the principles of sustainable development and minimisation of environmental impact.
The site for the Environmental Research Institute is situated to the west of the City Council Waterworks site and is bounded to the north by the Lee Road, and to the south by the River Lee. The original site was reasonably flat, with the ground level varying from approximately 3.6m OD. close to the River Lee edge rising to approximately 8.2m OD. at the north-eastern corner of the site.
The proximity of the River Lee and its tendency to occasionally flood part of the proposed site was the key factor in determining the finished floor level of the building. Some foundation and trenching construction work had to be carried out below the variable groundwater level, which necessitated the use of pumps to control groundwater levels during construction.
Ground investigations in the ERI site indicated a sub-soil layer of soft silty sands, approximately 5m deep, overlying a gravel bed on bedrock. Design assessments and life cycle analyses for various foundation options (using the Building Research Establishment's "Envest" software package) indicate that concrete piled foundations onto bedrock were the most suitable foundation type.
The building structural frame was proposed as an exposed reinforced concrete frame of columns and beams with concrete floor plates, all of which provide a significant thermal mass capability for increased heating and cooling efficiency. The floor plates have flat soffits, with few down-stand beams/drop panels which allows for free and uninterrupted distribution and routing of building and laboratory services.
The ERI entrance/parking area is a shared facility between the ERI site and the Cork City Council Waterworks development area incorporating the recently completed Sustainable City Campus-Lifetime Laboratory project. A section of dedicated cycleway has also been developed as part of the entrance and road-widening plans. The shared entrance facilitates access to a shared parking facility to cater for 50 cars.
A unique aspect of the ERI Project is the proposal to equip the building with environmental sensors providing real time data on lighting, heating, energy consumption etc along with external environmental and climatic changes such as wind speed, air temperature etc. The building will serve as an interactive demonstration, teaching and research facility for the design of future 'green buildings'. A living integrated computer model of the building will be developed to address information gathering, monitoring and control features (e.g. energy use, waste management etc).
As part of the ERI project design approach it was decided to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment/Report. Whilst the scale and nature of the project did not formally necessitate that an EIA be conducted to satisfy statutory requirements, it was entirely in keeping with the project concept of sustainable design that a comprehensive environmental impact review be carried out. The assessment evaluated the impacts and mitigation measures for aspects of the project such as air emissions, climate, construction, ecology, geology, material assets, noise, transportation, vibration, waste, and many more.
The RPS-Consulting Engineers environmental impact assessment scope included production of a complete EIA Report highlighting likely impacts, necessary mitigation measures and residual impacts for the design, construction and operation phases of the project. Ongoing monitoring of site-environmental issues during the construction phase was also carried out by RPS-personnel with formal monthly reporting at progress meetings etc.
This unique "up-front" approach to addressing the environmental aspects of a building-development type project greatly assisted in the statutory Planning Permission process - thereby minimising subsequent adjudication delays with requests for any additional information etc.
A dedicated ERI Commuter Plan was also developed to examine the transportation elements aspects of the ERI project. The aims were to ensure consistency with the existing UCC Commuter Plan and to promote the concept of transport sustainability as a central theme of the ERI project. This plan involved issuing a questionnaire to each of the staff operating in the ERI building. The plan examined many options such as park and ride facilities (current and future), public transport facilities, car sharing incentives and parking facilities for non-car users.
A dedicated ERI Building-Waste Management Plan has also been developed, as part of the ERI project, outlining the objectives and policies relating to the waste management over the lifetime of the project. This document sets out the philosophy to be followed from initial design stage through to construction and operation with regard to waste management. The design philosophy for the building was one of waste minimisation at each stage of the project. This includes practical initiatives ranging from recycling of paper to possible energy recovery in the building, minimising wastewater production from the building and utilising building materials that are recyclable. The Waste Management Study involved issuing a materials and waste questionnaire to each of the identified ERI personnel representatives in order to accurately determine details of likely materials-in and the building wastes produced. The Waste Management Plan is a whole life evaluation of the waste arising from/within the building. This plan sets out the requirements with respect to waste management at each stage namely construction, operation and potential future decommissioning.
For more information please contact:
RPS Dublin Cookstown
T: +353 (01)404 5700