The National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) has been a centre for teaching and research in engineering since 1849. The new Engineering Building now houses the five departments of civil, electronic, industrial, engineering hydrology and mechanical and biomedical engineering under one roof.
Opened in July 2011, the development includes heavy and light laboratories, offices, teaching space and lecture theatres. Situated on the banks of the river Corrib, the building was designed to complement the curves of Galway's most famous river.
The four-storey architectural gem and its 400 rooms accommodate some 1,100 students and 110 staff. The 14,600m2 building supports an emerging generation of engineers, engaged in a new wave of technologies, embracing innovation and entrepreneurship.
One of the key objectives for the project was that the building itself would act as an exemplary design of sound engineering principles and practices. To this end, the design team produced a design that reflected a number of engineering principles in form, function and material choice.
An educational tool
The overall design of the building has been driven by sustainability objectives to achieve a 'state of the art' educational building. This design principle has been carried through in the choice of a suitable structural scheme for the project. The main criteria for the assessment of the structural solutions were cost effectiveness, compatibility with building finishes, ease of construction, sustainability and market availability.
The scheme also reflects the requirement to maintain maximum flexibility for future use of the building, ensuring that internal re-planning can be easily incorporated. One of the key objectives for the new building is to act as an educational tool, where possible, through its fabric and systems, encompassing as many of the engineering disciplines to be housed in the new building as possible.
The design and construction of the project proved to be technically challenging as the facility houses a range of advanced engineering laboratories, a bio-diverse green roof, a climate façade, a number of Low to Zero carbon technologies, along with a range of consciously exposed structural and services elements which act as visible learning devices to be utilised as teaching tools for students.
The building is used as a teaching tool and a living laboratory in its own right, with glass panels in the floors allowing students to see the foundations, the pile caps and the voided slab construction. The building also makes it possible for the students to physically touch the reinforcement within the concrete walls, to engage with the bio-mass boilers, the CHP units and through imbedded sensors, to observe how the building is working structurally and environmentally over time.
The structure is among the first in Ireland to employ the use of voided slab systems.
The architectural/engineering language of the building with 'cluster columns', 'floating structure' and exposed services, challenges the student and visitor to engage in and to understand the engineering principles behind the building's design.
This on-going surveying is essential for the development of the building as an interactive teaching tool for the students. The building itself contains a range of such 'green' technologies which will add to the hands-on learning experience for students.