Apartment buildings surrounding a courtyard garden, with a tower on the right hand side.; Apartment buildings surrounding a courtyard garden, with a tower on the right hand side.;

The Elysian, Cork

Landmark mixed development anchors Cork’s south docklands

With a vision to redefine city living in Cork, the Elysian is a landmark development in the renewal of the south docklands area. Six to eight-storey buildings make up the majority of the complex, housing a mix of apartments, retail and commercial space arranged around a central garden courtyard. At 68 metres-high, the 18-storey tower was Ireland’s tallest building upon completion in 2008 and remains an iconic marker for the surrounding city and suburbs.

Arup’s civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and geotechnical engineers, environmental consultants and transport planners worked with our client, O’Flynn Construction, to redevelop this brownfield site into a sustainable, mixed-use complex. With 211 apartments, one acre of landscaped gardens, 4,000m² of retail space, 2,000m² of commercial office space and 550 car parking spaces over two basement levels, the completion of this contemporary development marked the rejuvenation of the southern entrance to the city.

Redeveloping this brownfield site brought this prime location south of the River Lee back to life. The former uses of the site, a railway terminus followed by a post sorting office, posed numerous challenges for the design team, causing varying ground conditions. Driven to maximise sustainability, our geotechnical engineers divided the site into 10m x 10m grids and undertook a detailed investigation to classify the 100,000m3 of excavated material. By using this detailed method of investigation, our engineers were able to ensure that the majority of the material could be re-used in a sustainable way, while providing the best value for our client.

Project Summary


18-storey tower

211high-quality apartments

2008year of completion

Designing a landmark development

The design team faced numerous structural and geotechnical challenges on this three-acre, centrally located site. Given the development’s mixed use – a basement car park, ground floor retail and upper level apartments – optimising the building grid for each of these spaces ensured an efficient structural scheme. Cork’s high water table posed another challenge for our geotechnical engineers when designing the basement and foundations. Groundwater levels and quality were monitored throughout the design and construction stages.

In addition to providing civil, structural, mechanical and electrical design, Arup was the lead engineer for the public realm. Enhancing pedestrian and cycling connectivity is a priority on all city centre developments, with Arup also creating a new pedestrian lane linking Eglinton and Albert Streets.

Our role included the paving design for traffic and pedestrian areas and the engineering design for the amenity garden – a complex design to accommodate the high-quality planting and water features in the courtyard above the basement car park.

Night-time photo of apartments around courtyard garden, showing lighting around sculptures and on the paths. Night-time photo of apartments around courtyard garden, showing lighting around sculptures and on the paths.

Consistent with the landmark status of the development, Arup designed a lighting scheme for the landscaped garden, with a mixture of low and high-level bollards that illuminate the various pathways, as well as tree and feature up-lighters, LED step lights and blue LED pathway marker lights. The waterfalls are enlivened with colourful lighting shows produced by Color Kinetics’ LED lighting technologies.

Human-focused design: user comfort

Our building services engineers created a unique design to ensure that the apartments, retail, office and car parking facilities all delivered a high-end living experience. Our mechanical and electrical engineers worked closely with Wilson Architecture to optimise the utilities distribution routes, which were integrated with the architectural layout.

Ensuring safe and secure management of communal areas within the apartment complex, Arup’s electrical engineers designed the landlord electrical systems to maximise operational efficiencies and minimise running costs. It includes full building management system (BMS) monitoring of all energy uses and control of the landlord lighting using an iLight lighting management system. The full oversight helps maintenance activities and enables the regular tracking of energy consumption to ensure the building is being run as sustainably as possible.

Arup’s mechanical engineers designed a district heating and cooling system for the tower, located on the roof to increase efficiencies by supplying each apartment with metered heating and cooling energy from this central distribution network. The height of the tower and variances between floor layouts required careful services design to account for pressure and expansion of the service shafts.

The day-to-day mechanical ventilation system for the large car park – over 24,000m2 spanning two levels – was designed to ensure high-quality air, removing car fumes and providing smoke extraction in fire mode. The scheme consists of exhaust and supply airshafts with zoned induction fans to move air throughout the basements. A carbon monoxide monitoring system was also installed, which allows for optional fan operation and energy savings while maintaining indoor air quality. Arup’s computational fluid dynamics (CFD) experts analysed the system to confirm its effectiveness, including cold smoke testing during commissioning.

Optimised design enables innovative construction methods

In collaboration with the contractor, PJ Hegarty, our design minimised the materials required through the use of post-tensioned slabs at basement, ground floor and first floor levels, reducing the thickness of the concrete and enabling longer spans between supports. The first-floor slab is subject to heavy loads as it acts as a transfer structure for the residential units and the central landscaped amenity areas.

The slender 18-storey tower was designed with a central core, providing stability, as well as coupled shear walls. Following a wind tunnel test, a canopy was added above the retail space to prevent a down draft from the tower. The tower’s core walls were constructed using the slip forming method, whereby the concrete is poured in a continuously moving form 24/7. This innovative method of construction is particularly useful for tall buildings.

Through our multidisciplinary engineering services, Arup is proud to have realised the client’s vision of a high-quality brownfield redevelopment – instrumental to the rejuvenation of Cork’s south docklands. ” James Duggan James Duggan Director