The Biosciences Research Building (BRB) is a success story in Ireland’s sustainable architecture and economy. Built to integrate the campus of the National University of Ireland in Galway, this project was a real challenge, as it was designed and built during the depths of the economic depression in Ireland.

The BRB provides a high technology science research space dedicated to cancer research, regenerative medicine and chemical biology. It has become a pioneering research center on energy efficiency and sustainable architecture.

The big challenge was to accomplish such an energy excellence project on a budget. But the goal was successfully implemented: it was also constructed for an extremely low cost per square foot as compared to similar facilities, with a significant energy return. An example of resilience in one of the most troubled times in the Irish economy.

There are several factors that highlight BRB within the sustainable architecture world. This simple but extreme and rare approach is based on principles related to the efficiency and optimization of resources.

Natural ventilation

This building has been designed to take advantage of ventilation and natural warming for most of the year. The project is supplemented with radiant heating for only one mont during the whole year. Due to this approach, 45% of this intensive research building is able to function without mechanical ventilation. High operable windows are controlled by the building automation system to maintain comfortable temperatures and minimum ventilation, while lower casement windows are controlled by the occupants to allow adjustment to meet individual comfort needs. On the western façade of the building, the automated windows build a “thermal corridor” which maximizes access to daylight and air supply as well as it provides the building façade with a dynamic feature.

Lighting Strategy

Daylight and natural ventilation were some of the biggest drivers in the shaping of the BRB. All rooms have access to natural light, with the exception of laboratories that are sensitive to light. 52% of the building area uses only natural lighting during the summer months.

Water use

Every year in Galway it rains about twice as much as it rains in the nation’s capital, Dublin. This can be a great asset when it comes to sustainability practices.
To deal with these large quantities of water, the team designed a stormwater management system with a series of treatment options. Porous paving and bioswales are some of the instruments that minimize the building’s demand on potable public water system to 25% only.

Important details

From the choice of materials to finishes. Nothing was left to chance and every detail respected the highest principle of sustainability. The precast concrete superstructure was pre-fabricated off-site to reduce the carbon footprint and minimize construction waste. All products were all locally sourced, to favor the national economy.
About 70% of BRB’s employees and visitors arrive in the building by public transport, bicycle or on foot. This reflects the awareness of sustainable practices that originally inspired the project.

For these reasons, the Biosciences Research Building was selected as one of the 10 most sustainable architecture and ecological design projects highlighted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Environment Committee (COTE) in 2016.

Find all about the sustainability practices implemented by ARCH Valadares.