The Hex Building
Dylan O'Connor,
South East Technological University

Sustainability in modern times is of utmost importance, with rising temperatures and global warming throughout our beautiful planet - even making a small change in construction materials can make the world a greener place. Architecturally the idea was to create a one-of-a-kind structure that looked like a great blanket of stone and moss fell from the sky and landed on a glass shell. Being constructed to the BREEAM principles, the building was designed to look as natural as possible while still being quite modern in terms of the materials and products used throughout.

The Hex Building was designed entirely with sustainability in mind, The building’s innovative façade is made of low-carbon concrete, green walls, and recycled plastic panelling. The titanium oxide paint on the recycled plastic panelling, which has a 25-year lifespan, converts carbon dioxide into oxygen in a manner similar to how the green wall acts as a carbon neutral element thus making the building not only greener but alive. The green walls and recycled plastic titanium oxide panels act as the building’s lungs, cleaning the air within and around the building. The idea was founded on a combination of BREEAM and creative facades. The entire carbon footprint of the building was lowered to virtually zero by using sustainable materials, such as those described above and recycled composite cladding. The building’s BREEAM rating at project’s completion was 82% (excellent) by just using four of the BREEAM principles – water, energy, health and wellbeing and materials got the building just 3% shy of the prestigious 85% outstanding BREEAM rating.

ICF, which is particularly outstanding in terms of buildability and assembly, is used to create the building. The use of ICF allows the structure to be as airtight as possible, and if it were theoretically constructed, it would be incredibly quick and simple to put together, with other similar projects only requiring a few months to complete even with the scale and intricacy of the building. With the use of a 200mm upstand within the ICF walls, the building’s entry points were all built to have level access due to the diversity and wide range of sizes and forms of ICF. This enables everyone, regardless of ability, to utilise the building freely as they see appropriate. As a result, the building is level with the surroundings, nearly creating the impression that it has just erupted from the earth.

Since the building is part of a university, the flow and circulation around the building needed to be of major importance. Seating has been thought through with many places for students to sit and study or just to relax.

The university’s main campus has sufficient amounts of seating for the students and lecturers who pass through the main lobby, so this inspired the design of the seating and furniture plans of this building.

The building’s interior design had a significant role since it related to my dissertation, which I wrote about the effects of remote working on office-based construction industry professionals. As can be seen from the designs and renderings, the interior of the building was planned to encourage good health, productivity, and stress reduction. Materials, plants, and HVAC systems that regulate air quality all play a part in this. Due to the project being based around BREEAM - finishes are limited in the building, most of the materials used are natural and or water based such as the paint used in the building’s main office spaces. BREEAM’s material principles allow for certain materials to be used, these materials must be locally sourced and have a low carbon footprint.

The interior walls were constructed of ICF due to the structural requirements needed, while they were finished in earth plaster which gives the building its unique interior aesthetic. The decision to use this interior finish was not just by choice, it was decided not to use paint or other harsh materials on the interior to keep the building as natural as possible while also abiding by one of the BREEAM principles which is to limit the use of harsh finishes. The floor finish in the building is all polished concrete to limit materials used. The ceilings in the building are proposed to be made from repurposed or recycled timber, most suspended ceilings are made from either gypsum or plasterboard which is very bad for the environment. Recycled timber on the other hand is greener and more sustainable since its re-uses timber that would just be thrown out and never used again.

Due to the site orientation, the construction technique, and the appropriate material usage, the building’s services were improved in many ways. There is natural stack ventilation in the crucial sections, such as the lobby and robotics laboratory. HVAC systems are utilized to generate excellent indoor air quality in smaller spaces like studios and administrative offices, which promotes productivity and good health. PV arrays on the roof produce over 35% of the building’s energy requirements, thus making it greener. The drip pipes that connect the ICF wall to the concrete façade and feed the building’s green walls with water come from the rainwater harvesting tank as well as extra water that collects on the roof and the nearby pathways. The pumps that are used to get the water from site level back to the roof are powered by the PV array again reusing resources that are of great abundance in Ireland.

The proposed building will form part of the existing built environment department of SETU but will act as an extension to the existing college campus also. The main purpose of the building is for research and teaching of students in the built environment.

Entry boards




Judges' comments

Dylan’s proposal takes an innovative approach to façade design in combining low carbon concrete, green walls and recycled plastic panelling coated with a titanium oxide paint which over its 25-year lifespan turns carbon dioxide into oxygen. Using these and many other innovative sustainable features and an exceptional level of detail devoted to thermal bridge mitigation, the proposal hopes to reduce the buildings overall carbon footprint to almost zero. Judges commented on the exceptionally high standard of the model, and the presentation sheets are effectively utilised to complement the plans, showcasing various angles that highlight the architecture. The plans have been developed with immaculate attention being paid to the spatial layouts and organisation. Equally the sections and elevations are lively and included in the process of the design development, with the approach to developing the detail very well-thought and well-linked to the BREEAM score system.

It was also good to see the care taken in developing the running details. Judges made particular comment on the quality on the feature handmade detail and how this provides a link between the initial design development and the final detail presentation. All of this alongside the use of 3D visualisation inside and out is a great plus, making this submission technically robust and exhibiting thoughtful design considerations. Dylan should be proud of this project and for his inclusion of a range of sustainability initiatives with its unique design functionality.