Old Building, New Beginning

Structural Engineer Paul Halpin explains how a protected building structure has been safeguarded and reimagined as an exclusive apartment complex.

Verville, Dublin, Ireland

The Verville Retreat in the leafy suburb of Clontarf in north Dublin is named after the wealthy Vernon family, who arrived in England from France in the 16th century and were bequeathed the estate following Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland.

The building had previously been used as a hospital but was unoccupied since 2005 and had suffered significant deterioration and structural damage. Purchased for redevelopment, the original historic Verville Retreat has been conserved as part of a larger, modern residential development of 73 apartments in two four storey blocks set around a landscaped courtyard.

The building has been the product of repeated additions and alterations over a period of more than 250 years. As part of the conversion to modern living, a comprehensive programme of repair and renewal works has retained the historic fabric wherever practicable, including the repair and reinstatement of windows, joinery and plasterwork and cornices.

Extensive areas of the timber roof structure were beyond repair and unstable due to water ingress so had to be demolished, although we were able to salvage and re-use much of the original timber roof trusses for additional strengthening works and localised repair. Some timber floors were also deemed beyond salvaging, however in large areas throughout the building we were able to re-use the existing timber floors by using localised strengthening methods, glue and screw plywood insertions and by introducing steel to timber flitch beams.

The beautifully finished open-plan kitchen, living and dining room

Due to extensive water damage, large elements of the masonry wall throughout had to be locally rebuilt and in locations where cross walls required removal, new steelwork beam supports were introduced at each floor level. Extensive structural cracking to masonry walls meant that crack stitching methods were used from the roof down to basement level. Structural underpinning works to the eastern wing of the building were necessary as rubble foundations were uncovered during the restoration. Brick cleaning, lime mortar repointing or re-plastering were used to treat all elevations.

The extent of structural works only became evident as demolition progressed and inaccessible areas were opened up; this is precisely where our collaborative approach really adds value. We were able to balance new and old design techniques and bring legacy and new materials together to create something truly outstanding.