Green Buildings

The Daintree Building

Pleasant's Place, Dublin 8

The Daintree Building is a mixed-use, sustainable urban building on Pleasant’s Place, just off Camden St. Dublin. The project was awarded the Building Design Award in the 2005 Sustainable Energy Awards and has been exhibited in The Royal Institute of Architects 2006 Awards. The building is home for the residents of 7 apartments, Daintree Paper Company, The Cake Café, Solearth Ecological Architecture (the building's designers) as well as other commercial and craft space.

Sustainability is at the core of the design of this building. The building is a combination of masonry and timber frame. The type of concrete in the basement and ground floor contains recycled blast furnace slag (GGBS) reducing CO2 emissions significantly. The timber construction allows vapour and humidity from both inside the wall and inside the space to spread outwards while preventing air leakage. This breathability is critical in green buildings to ensure healthy interiors.

The environmental impact of all materials was a prime consideration in the design and construction of the building. The design team chose low energy and sustainable materials, although value and cost were also key considerations. Natural, reused, recycled or recyclable materials were given preference. The building thus aims to reduce indoor air quality problems and health concerns for residents that can be caused by pollutants in construction, paintwork and fittings.

PVC was avoided (it is used in wiring/conduits and some pipe work only), formaldehyde glues were reduced and high-energy materials like aluminium and stainless steel were designed out. The covered bicycle parking in the courtyard, called the ‘green gantry’, is topped by trailing plants. The back wall of the gantry houses an art piece commissioned from Bette Melo, made entirely of found and recycled materials. The bamboo here, and elsewhere, was salvaged from the Nissan Art Project (on the old Carlton Cinema in O'Connell St) of 2001. The walls, structure and cladding make primary use of Irish (as a preference), or FSC certified, timber. Internal materials and finishes were chosen to be healthy (benign and breathable): natural paints; sheep’s wool and wood fibre / cellulose insulations, and salvaged timber floors finished in natural waxes and oils. Walls are super-insulated with the natural insulations, while careful use of membranes allows vapour to diffuse through them.
Most of the apartments are designed to make use of heat gains from sunlight through classic passive solar design approaches; larger windows to the south, less glazing to the north. Space heating is generated by ground source heat pumps. Six solar thermal panels integrated onto the building’s elevations and terraces contribute to meeting the hot water needs. A gas fired high efficiency boiler provides backup to both the heat pump and the solar hot water systems.

The Daintree Building's extensive green roofs are made with an Alpine succulent plant called sedum, which changes colour from winter to summer. They act as attenuators - keeping much of the rainwater that falls on them off the streets (to help avoid urban flooding) and also absorb urban dust and unwanted heat. The courtyard and sun terrace are planted with fruit and vegetables harvested by residents. The roofs, together with the green gantry, help absorb C02 and provide habitat for birds and insects in the city.
Water conservation in The Daintree Building is first addressed by minimisation; using concealed cistern dual flush toilets to reduce demand. Most of the rainwater collected on the terraces and courtyard, as well as any runoff that comes from the green roof, flows along a sculptural gutter designed to edge the solar terrace and be stored in a ‘green’ water tank for use in the building's toilets and gardens.

The building encourages residents to live in a more sustainable manner with bicycle parks, recycling areas and composting units on site. Sharon Jackson was one of the first residents of The Daintree Building. She was attracted by the ecological construction and unique features of the building. She has found her apartment to be healthy and airy, but also warm and cosy. Her previous apartment was a similar size but it didn't have adequate insulation, double glazing or efficient heating, so it was cold and cost a fortune to keep warm. She likes that the building is mixed-use, and that the residents, developer and architects are all involved in managing its systems, creating a sense of community without it being invasive. Having an environmentally friendly home doesn’t have to change the way you live, but can be more efficient and save money in the long run.
The Daintree Building has been designed to comply with the country’s highest environmental standards and has been recognised by Sustainable Energy Ireland as reaching the Best Energy Practise rating in its House of Tomorrow programme. The Daintree Building is an example of proven innovation. Each ecological feature has been tried and tested before in other countries or here in Ireland. All innovative systems are backed up by conventional technologies or duplicate systems. It's an example of what can be achieved in an urban setting on a relatively small scale.


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