Purcell’s excellence elevated Dolphin House Regeneration

9 Nov , 2020  

Purcell’s celebrated construction expertise came to the fore once again on the outstanding Dolphin House Regeneration Project, which was delivered on behalf of Dublin City Council and scooped the prestigious Social Housing Project of the Year accolade at the 2019 Irish Building & Design Awards. Contracts Manager Damien Walsh gave us an insight.

In regenerating a 1950’s residential complex that had been designated for demolition and redevelopment more than a decade ago, Purcell Construction certainly pulled out all the stops at Dolphin House, which is Dublin’s largest remaining public housing flat complex.

Dolphin House & Park is a Dublin City Council estate located in Rialto, Dublin 8. Built in 1957, it sits on 18.5 acres in total and comprises 436 homes, which are made up of 392 flats in six blocks throughout the estate plus 44 senior citizen units in Dolphin Park.

The first phase of the ambitious Dublin City Council regeneration scheme was completed over a two-year period up to November 2018, and saw the existing blocks completely transformed to the highest levels of thermal comfort. The completion of Phase 1 of Dolphin House Regeneration marks the first step of DCC’s plan to completely regenerate this landmark 1950s complex located on the banks of the Grand Canal.

This initial phase of a wider masterplan consisted of deep retrofitting three existing housing blocks to provide 63 refurbished apartments and the construction of 37 new build homes (28 apartments and 9 houses, built using traditionally construction), totalling 100 units on the one-hectare site. The overall area of the development both refurbished and new is 8,450sq.m, representing the largest retrofit project ever undertaken by the City Council and serves as a template for other similarly planned projects.

With Purcell as main contractor, phase One of the redevelopment of the existing Dolphin House Estate has provided the local community with much-needed quality social housing complying with modern standards, the project was a worthy recipient of the Social Housing Project of the Year award at the 2019 Irish Building & Design Awards. The project provided Purcell with a great opportunity to showcase their abilities as a multidiscipline contractor on a prominent site along the canal and they grasped that opportunity with both hands.

The main challenge presented by the project, which also claimed the overall 2019 KPMG Irish Independent Property Industry Excellence Award and the Judges’ Silver Award at the Irish Construction Excellence Awards 2019, centred around the refurbishment of existing Blocks C, D and E, which were were poorly insulated and required significant upgrade works to comply with current Building Regulation Standards and to achieve the specified A3 Building Energy Rating.

Thermal efficiency has been vastly improved by externally insulating the external walls, increasing roof insulation to current requirements and by installing new highly efficient triple-glazed windows. In order to eliminate cold bridges, the existing walkways were removed and replaced with new, wider versions. In addition, a large array of photovoltaic panels have been placed on the roofs to supply a percentage of electricity to the new and refurbished dwellings and efficient gas boilers have also been installed.

Significant structural interventions were required to transform the buildings. Internal stair cores were carefully removed to provide additional floor space and increase the apartment sizes. Working within the existing concrete structures required the removal of the screeds to allow for suspended ceilings to house the new services while maintaining floor to ceiling heights. New lifts were provided to make all units accessible. Outdoor spaces were landscaped and play areas provided within the courtyard areas.

In his capacity as Contracts Manager, Damien Walsh was the focal point for the overall management of the project and was responsible for the liaison and control of all matters between the client, design team, specialist and domestic subcontractors, statutory authorities and all other relevant parties. Michael McCormack was Project Manager, Gavin Murphy was Site Manager, while Ger Hannon was Purcell’s Senior QS on the project.

“It was very rewarding to see these dwellings completely transformed and the reaction from both the client and the residents has been extremely positive,” Damien notes. “These flats were well past their sell-by date but the level of insulation and comfort when people moved back in was unrecognisable from what they had before.

The development has been completely transformed and we have had nothing but positive feedback from the residents who moved in. There is a very strong community spirit in Dolphin House and you can see the pride they are taking in their new homes and how the entire community has been boosted.”

Naturally, the project impacted significantly on the remaining residents in the rest of the Dolphin House complex. The 24-month duration of the works, which included demolitions, site development works and new build works, gave rise to issues such as noise, vibration, dust, traffic and safety of the public. These issues had to be addressed by both Dublin City Council in planning the project and Purcell during the construction phase.

To mitigate the increase in traffic, a separate entrance was created so that all construction traffic entered and exited the site onto Dolphin’s Barn Road, while no construction traffic was permitted to use the existing Dolphin House entrance at the South Circular Road.

Purcell appointed a Liaison Officer who was based on site and provided a link between contractor and local groups such as the Dolphin House Community Development Association, which represented local residents. A ‘Meet the Contractor Day’ was held prior to commencement of works on site to allow local residents to raise their concerns and provide an opportunity for both Purcell and Dublin City Council to outline the plans for the project along with mitigation measures to allay those concerns. 

Purcell also worked closely with Regeneration Board, which consisted of local Councillors and representatives from the HSE and An Garda Siochana.

The contract included a very successful Community Benefit Clause, which was an initiative to ensure that 10% of time worked on site was carried out by local people who had been unemployed for at least twelve months and who possessed the requisite skill-set for the particular task. In addition, at least 5% of time worked was carried out by persons on a registered apprenticeship scheme or on work placement. “For some of the local people to get this opportunity to work on the site and then move into the homes was quite an achievement. Everyone is really pleased with how the project worked out.”

Completing a project of this magnitude to the very highest industry standards with which Purcell is synonymous would not have been possible without the input of an exceptionally dedicated supply chain, all of whom met the exacting levels of excellence demanded by the main contractor. To this end, BRFS Roofing & Cladding installed the Soprema roofing system, while Aston Crean for supplied and installed all floor and tiling finishes. Kingscourt Country Manor Brick supplied the brick and NorDan Ireland supplied and installed the triple-glazed windows and doors. Mechanical services were provided by Murphy & Kelly Ltd, while Demesne Electrical Engineering Ltd. looked after electrical services. Paving and external render systems were supplied by Kilsaran, with James Doran & Sons installing the external render. Meanwhile, Precision Interiors were responsible for for all partitions and ceilings, while Essexford Joinery acted as joinery subcontractor and all landscaping works were carried out by Shaffrey Landscaping.

At the time of writing, Purcell – one of Ireland’s premier contractors, with offices in Galway and Dublin – are busy working on another major regeneration project for Dublin City Council at St Teresa’s Gardens on Donore Avenue, Dublin 8 comprising the construction of 54 new dwelling units.

Purcell Construction,

57 Briarhill Business Park,



Tel: 091 780800

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.purcell.ie

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, April 2020, Vol 6 No 2