Limerick Opera Site design changes to meet sustainability rules

Computer generated image of the original Opera Site plan

DESIGN changes to the main elements of the Opera Site development in Limerick City centre are the subject of a planning amendment submitted to An Bord Pleanála by Limerick City and County Council on Friday.

The application to the planning appeals board was made by the Limerick Twenty Thirty company on behalf of the council and involves changes to the main Opera Square building, the Central Library and the public realm area.

The submission states that the changes are required to achieve latest sustainability requirements and deliver enhanced design standards in keeping with the city’s Georgian heritage.

A four-week public information period will continue until Friday, December 2 when information boards will be on display in council buildings at Merchants Quay and Dooradoyle, as well as Limerick Twenty Thirty’s office at Gardens International on Henry Street.

The planning amendment for the main Opera Square building is necessitated by latest Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) statutory regulations that were introduced since planning was granted in February 2020.

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As a result of the new regulations, the fully glazed design for the 14-storey building no longer meets sustainability requirements and must be replaced.

The amendment also sees a range of other improvements to buildings and public realm areas to deliver higher sustainability standards across the 3.7acre site.

These include facade design amendments to the Limerick Central Library building, as well as reconfigured building cores, stairs and lifts. Allowance for renewable sources of energy for heating and cooling in the building is also included in the amendment.

Other changes include relocation of the café from basement to ground floor to improve activation of the square and the external terrace, as well as widening of the circulation-only bridges to create usable galleries overlooking the atrium and public realm.

Amendments will also be made to the Four Opera Square office building in the centre of the site, including facade design amendments to meet sustainability regulations in addition to reconfigured building core, stairs and lifts.

Public Realm amendments will also include increased social amenities, biodiversity, and sustainability measures in the public spaces as well as an upgraded mirror pool, increased vegetation including greening of walls for improved biodiversity complete with native and pollinator friendly planting.

There will also be management of stormwater using Sustainable Water Management strategies including rain gardens, water attenuation and rainwater harvesting.

Meanwhile, the final phase of the 18-month enabling and demolition works – the largest ever undertaken in Limerick – are ongoing and will culminate with a special programme aimed at securing the two most vulnerable of the 16 heritage protected buildings being retained on the Opera Square site.