River House, Belfast

Dynamic construction by mac-group transforms River House into one of Belfast’s leading office developments

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Specialist construction and fit-out company, mac-group has completed one of the largest city centre commercial refurbishment projects undertaken in Belfast to create a new office complex that wouldn’t look out of place in the heart of London.

The 14-storey River House, on High Street in the Cathedral Quarter, was built in the 1960s but has now been transformed into premium Grade A office space, including five floors for shared workspace specialists, Clockwise, that is dedicated to SME and start- up businesses.

The Newry-based specialist construction and fit-out partner has completed projects for Castleforge Partners in the past, and that relationship proved key to the success of this major refurbishment project.

In essence, the building was stripped back to its shell. Work carried out by mac-group included internal core demolition and structural reinforcements as well as the installation of new seamless glass curtain walling, high speed lifts, double-height reception areas and new raised floors and ceilings. The company’s specialist interiors division, mac-interiors, carried out the full fit-out.

“A new build project offers you a blank template to start from but a project such as this offers its own unique set of challenges,” explained Ronan McGrath, Contracts Manager at mac-group.

“This was a real team effort and our specialist sub-contractors and supply chain played an important role in the success of this project. “We’ve completed projects in the past for Castleforge Partners, so we understand their expectations. The emphasis throughout is on high quality finishes, which gives you an idea of the standards that the client expected.”

Delivering that high quality finish remained at the core of the project, with mac-group creating numerous mock-ups and building a dedicated sample room to show the client, architect and sub- contractors a clear look at the end goal.

“This was vital,” said Ronan,” and ensured everyone was aiming for the same end result. In particular, it worked perfectly for the client and the architect while providing us with a benchmark for quality.” The biggest construction challenge of the project was the reconfiguration of the entrance/ reception area to create a new double height ceiling.

“The logistics and health and safety considerations on this were complex,” added Ronan. “We were carrying out heavy demolition work in a busy, city location surrounded by businesses and just a short distance away from the general public walking past the building, so there was no room for error.

“It went smoothly and I doubt many people realised the scale of the works taking place on the other side of the hoarding, while they walked past the site.”

The focus on maximising the floor to ceiling heights proved a challenge for the M&E installation, with the 60’s design not lending itself easily to modern-day requirements of high speed internet, quality lighting and fully controllable heating and cooling systems. The decision to leave the services exposed, however, created a practical solution as well as matching the overall aesthetic that the client required.

The M&E challenges also included having to avoid disrupting a number of existing mobile phone communication systems in the building, including the rooftop masts and the cables running through the building. While mac-group prides itself on forward-planning, projects of this type have a habit of throwing up a few curve balls.

Ronan explained, “At the rear of the building we discovered an old tower crane base. Basically this was a huge chunk of reinforced concrete which held up the piling process for the new extension and meant that we had to work with the structural engineer to come up with a viable solution.

“Then, half-way through the project, the client decided to take five floors of the building for themselves. This turned that aspect of the job into a Design & Build contract for Clockwise, which added a lot of additional co-ordination challenges. “But we’re well accustomed to reacting to changes such as this while ensuring the project remains on schedule.”

River House reflects why mac- group has quickly developed such an enviable reputation within the industry for high standards. The company was founded in 2002 and has rapidly evolved into a leading construction and fit-out specialist, with this project just one of a long line of notable successes that mac-group has completed across the UK and Ireland.


mac-group, 4 Downshire Close, Downshire Road, Newry, BT34 1FD
T: 028 3083 3533
W: www.mac-group.com

Sub Contractors

Through careful co- ordination and expert planning, Harte Demolition got the River House refurbishment project off to the best possible start. With a confined site on the busy High Street in Belfast and with neighbouring businesses in full operation, Harte Demolition had little room for manoeuvre when working on this 14-storey building.

The company completed the removal of the existing façade and the full soft-strip of the building, including the removal of floor screed and the plant room. Working in tandem with other specialist contractors, Harte Demolition was also involved in asbestos removal and the major structural alterations to the ground floor. Some internal reconfiguration required a number of walls to be demolished as well as work on the staircases – all of which was completed by Harte Demolition.

“We have a lot of experience on projects of this size, so we didn’t face anything that we couldn’t handle,” explained Conor Harte, Director. “It’s a city centre location, so health and safety was a priority throughout the project but, in our line of work, that is something that is always important anyway, so it’s second nature.”

As the contractor responsible for the initial stages of the project, Harte Demolition faced significant time pressures to get completed so the next stage could start.

“We already have a great working relationship with mac-group and have worked with them on much bigger and more complicated jobs than this across the UK and Ireland, so this one ran smoothly. It all came together well and we look forward to working with mac- group on future projects.”


Harte Demolition, Omagh Enterprise Centre, Gortrush Industrial Estate, Omagh, BT78 5LU.
T: 028 8224 9494
E: [email protected]

Cole Groundworks Contracts Ltd carried out a wide range of work to keep the River House refurbishment project on track.

“Initially, we were involved in altering the service locations and creating new drainage points to allow for the reconfiguration of the ground floor area,” explained Johnny Connolly, Construction Engineer at Cole Groundworks Contracts.

“The reworking of the ground floor led to a lot of work, which included the remodelling of a section of the carpark, which was then tarmaced and had a new sliding gate installed.

“We also were involved in paving the way for the installation of new gas lines, fibre optic cables and the external lighting and cameras as well as the installation of the two new double tier cycle racks.”

Johnny added, “This was a big project for us and working on such a confined site brought a rank of challenges. But mac- group was well organised and it all ran smoothly.”

Cole Groundworks Contracts Ltd was established in 2005, solely as a solid small team of professionals providing services to domestic and small commercial building contractors. Since then, the company has grown to provide all groundwork and civil engineering services covering the entirety of the UK and Ireland.

The company has worked with some of the biggest names in the construction industry on a variety of notable projects in the domestic and commercial sectors. These have included schools and universities, electrical generation sites, telecommunications, and projects within the water industry.

Key to the success of Cole Groundworks Contracts Ltd is the company’s talented staff. Highly knowledgeable and focused on finding solutions, the team works in partnership with contractors to deliver the highest possible standards and provide a niche service to the industry.


Cole Groundworks Contracts Ltd, 135 Kilbroney Road, Rostrevor, Newry, BT34 3BW
T: 028 4173 8883
E: [email protected]
W: www.colegwc.co.uk

KM Technical provided a bespoke mechanical solution to meet the requirements of the refurbished River House in Belfast.

The project included the complete design and installation of the mechanical systems throughout this 80,000sqft state-of-the-art modern office building, meeting the needs of both Grade A and Grade B standards, as specified by the client.

One of the main challenges on the project was the lack of space within the voids for the mechanical installations, requiring the KM Technical team to utilise the M&E contractor’s expertise to find viable solutions throughout the building.

This type of project, however, is second nature to KM Technical, building on the company’s reputation for delivering value and service on every job.


T: 028 90453777
W: www.km-technical.com

David Jameson Roofing has completed a roofing upgrade at River House that has increased the building’s energy rating and helped the company to a major award.

The company worked on the various roofs throughout the building, starting by cleaning the existing roof membrane and then installing a new warm roof high-performance waterproof membrane. The ‘warm roof’ is the installation of rigid insulation board to upgrade the building’s energy saving potential.

As specialists in roof refurbishment the experienced team planned and executed the work without any major issues. David Jameson Roofing’s work at River House formed part of the winning entry that saw the company named as Construction News Roofing Specialist of the Year 2018 in London last year.

The company has again been shortlisted as a finalist this year. At present, the company is working on two major Dublin projects – the encapsulation of a 8,000sqm asbestos corrugated roof for Musgrave Marketplace, and a high performance warm- roof waterproofing system onto 125 new-build apartments at Mount Angus.


T: 028 3833 9366
E: [email protected] or [email protected]
W: www.davidjamesonroofing.co.uk

Cunningham Stone Masonry Limited designed, supplied and fitted the polished grey granite cladding on the ground floor facade of River House, including the plinth, jambs, heads, soffits and sills.

The company has over 40 years’ experience and by combining traditional skills with the latest technology, Cunningham Stone Masonry Limited is able to produce bespoke high quality natural stone products. Offering design services, Cunningham Stone Masonry also uses the latest CNC technology combined with highly skilled stonemasons and carvers.


T: 028 9751 1414
W: www.cunninghamstone.com

Painting the newly refurbished high-rise River House Building took Patrick F O’Reilly Ltd, along with foreman Paul Vint, approximately 13 months to complete. The most challenging aspect of this work was meeting the tight guidelines across all phases of the project whilst maintaining the high standard specification required for these bespoke offices.

All the walls, ceilings and woodwork were completed in all the offices along with two stairwells, which required a Class 0 spread of flame finish, to a high standard. Patrick F O’Reilly Ltd is delighted to be associated with the management team and this prestigious project.


T: 028 3025 0853
W: www.patrickforeilly.co.uk

AER Access provided mac-group with a fast and efficient hoist solution for accessing the high levels of River House.

The Alimak Scando high speed hoist was used for the transfer of personnel and materials to the high levels when refurbishing the 14-storey, city centre building.

Formed in 2003, AER Access is a specialist in this sector, supplying mast climbers, material hoists, cradle systems and high level access equipment rentals to projects across Ireland and the UK.


T: 028 9024 3846
W: www.accesserental.com

Omagh Aluminium Systems Ltd replaced the existing individual rows of windows on the front façade at River House with one large high rise curtain walling screen. Concrete panels between each existing row of windows had to be site cored to allow the impressive new curtain walling screen to be fitted, with each element having to be tested to meet strict structural requirements.

The system had a specifically designed feature cap running vertically at each existing column. The glass used was a highly specified solar neutral with spandrels used to blank out existing floors. Omagh Aluminium Systems Ltd was also responsible for creating a new front and rear entrance and for the upgrade of the rear windows with thermally enhanced windows to meet modern specifications.


T: 028 82246871
W: www.oasltd.net

River House perfectly demonstrates the design, manufacture and fit-out solutions from BPJ Group. The well-established and highly reputable fit-out specialist worked closely with mac-interiors to provide a bespoke specialist joinery solution throughout the 14 floors of Grade A office accommodation.

Gareth Rowell, Director, explained, “We enjoy the challenge of customising our work to meet the needs of the client and the high standards that this project demanded matched the attention to detail that we bring to every project.”

BPJ Group is a specialist in the design, manufacture and fit-out of tailored interiors for discerning clients in the commercial and luxury residential sectors.

Providing specialist joinery expertise for high-end commercial developments and consistently delivering a winning combination of design excellence and high- tech manufacturing capacity, BPJ Group has over 40 years’ industry experience and has completed a range of projects for clients developing high-end hospitality, retail, leisure, office and other commercial environments.


T: 028 9073 9168
E: [email protected]
W: www.bigpicturejoinery.co.uk