Former army barracks are transformed into an
impressive community facility with military precision…
Patience is not generally viewed as a virtue in today’s fast-paced construction sector, but it was a quality O’Hare & McGovern had to display in abundance during the development of the stunning Girdwood Community Hub in Belfast.
A state-of-the-art EU-funded community and leisure hub, the £11.7million investment is the first development on the former Girdwood Barracks site in the north of the city. Funding was provided by the EU’s PEACE III Programme, managing by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), Belfast City Council and the Department for Social Development.
A multi-use building, Girdwood Community Hub has been developed to cater for a range of community, leisure and educational purposes.
Following a design that utilises the materials used in the building’s structure, the main contractor, O’Hare & McGovern, worked closely with Michael Whitley Architects and specialist sub-contractors to achieve a high level of finish.
Central to this was the extensive concrete formwork in the main foyer area and the widespread use of brick, with both of these elements having to be completed at an early stage of the project.
The eye-catching board marked concrete and the stunning coffer ceiling, in particular, required preferential treatment.
Jason Glasgow, Contracts Manager for O’Hare & McGovern, explained, “The brick and concrete formwork were some of the initial sections of the building that we had to complete and, as they were all going to be exposed, we wanted to ensure we could deliver the right finish, first time.
“We worked closely with the architect and we had Advanced Concrete & Formwork create anywhere between 10-12 different samples as part of this ongoing process. Once we had agreed the final finish, then it was a case of replicating this on site. It was a time-consuming process that required a lot of patience, but it paid off in the end.
“The sandblasting technique has recreated the grain of the timber boards within the concrete. However, as this was one of the first aspects of the project completed we had to make sure both the formwork and the brick were suitably protected.”
The team faced similar challenges when creating the coffer ceiling within the reception area that also required a patient approach.
“Each individual space in the ceiling is a scaled replica of the room but, in its entirety, it has been created so that the walls carry the weight of this ceiling slab, rather than the other way around,” added Jason. “This meant that we had to wait until the walls had developed sufficient strength before we could remove the temporary supports. As the project used GGBS (Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag) concrete to help us meet our BREEAM targets, that again meant a longer than usual wait before the required strength had been achieved.
“As we were working within a strict timetable, elements such as this provided us with a few extra challenges, but I think the final result proves that the patience we displayed in the early stages was worth it.”
The brick and concrete formwork coupled with an extensive use of glazing all work together to successfully integrate all the various elements of the community hub into one cohesive building.
These integral features alter slightly as you move from one section of the building to the other, again testing the quality of craftsmanship delivered by O’Hare & McGovern.
“We enjoy challenges like this,” concluded Jason. “We utilised our experience of working on similar projects to make Girdwood a success and I’ve no doubt we will take the lessons we learned on this project and implement them in the future.”