Old stone, brick and other materials from the Limerick Opera Square development site that would otherwise end up as waste are now being reused across the city and county.

Limerick’s Opera Square development is breaking new ground in the construction industry’s sustainability drive thanks to its unique reuse and repurposing programme that is giving new life to stone and brick that would otherwise go to landfill.

In addition to the retention of 16 buildings deemed to be of historical importance on the site, conservation is also stretching to diverting huge volumes of materials from the demolition programme over the past 12 months into other projects elsewhere in the city and county.

In a novel, three-way partnership overseen by the Southern Region Waste Management Office and in conjunction with Limerick Opera Square developer Limerick Twenty Thirty and demolition and works contractor John Sisk & Son, over 1,000 tonnes of stone and brick materials alone that would otherwise have been destined for landfill have been salvaged and are being put to good uses.

Limerick Opera Square
L to r: Philippa King, Coordinator, Southern Region Waste Management Office; David Conway, Chief Executive, Limerick Twenty Thirty; and Marcus McCarthy, Apprentice Block-Layer and Stonemason, John Sisk & Son.

Pre-demolition audit

The ‘reuse’ programme commenced with the country’s first pre-demolition audit, which identified what materials could be reused in advance of demolition works.

Among the projects, the materials have since been diverted to are the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, the Canal Harbour Building and bridge and old stone wall repairs around the county. Significant volumes also have been diverted to training programmes for young stonemasons, which have been supported by the Economic and Social Intervention Fund through Limerick City and County Council Regeneration programme.

It’s not just brick and stone that’s getting a new lease of life as other ‘reuse’ materials include palisade fence panels, which have been sent to Richmond Rugby Club; the metal gate and stone pillars from the entrance to the Granary Building, which are currently with the Civic Trust and items such as the historic limestone doorcase at 6 Rutland Street and cobblestones retained on site for future use.

Modern materials have also been segregated for reuse on the development, including carpet tiles, ceiling tiles, timber, and glass.

Limerick Opera Square

The materials have been drawn from the site since the demolition and enabling works on the 1.62-hectare project last year. Opera Square is the largest single commercial property development undertaken outside the capital. The construction programme will see up to 500 people employed at peak output on the site. When fully developed, the site will have the capacity for up to 3,000 employees across a 550,000-sq foot campus accommodation plus car parking and ancillary areas. The programme will take up to six years to complete at an estimated cost of €250m.

Reuse template for major projects

Philippa King, Coordinator, Southern Region Waste Management Office, said that the recycling and reuse programme has the potential to be a template for major projects involving large-scale demolition.

“Outlets for construction and demolition waste are limited, so we had to explore alternatives to waste creation and did this from the outset with the Opera pre-demolition audit,” Phillipa King explained. “The focus has ultimately been about diverting as much as possible from waste, and we were not just talking about reuse alone but also repurpose and remanufacturing as well. Our goal was to maximise resource recovery on site as the buildings were demolished, and I think we’ve achieved that. A key objective for Limerick today is to embrace international environmental best practice on the circular built environment and what’s happening at Opera is a great example of that.”

David Conway, CEO, Limerick Twenty Thirty, said sustainability is integral to all its projects.

“We have already set a new standard in terms of sustainable development with our first project, Gardens International, and we are going to maintain that standard with the Opera Square site and with the Cleeves Riverside Quarter and every single project we work on, big or small. However, what this project shows is that we are not alone going to have an environmentally proofed finished product, but every step along the way is going to be as sustainable as possible.”

Shane O’Donovan, General Manager – Special Projects, John Sisk & Son, said, “Pretty much anything we can reuse on site is staying here. Of the other materials, we’ve managed to recover over 1,000 tonnes. We’re delighted to see it being reused, and we’re also very happy that some are being used in training apprentices in the use of stone and stone masonry. The apprentices are cleaning and dressing the stone and preparing it for reuse on projects around the city and county, such as wall repairs and graveyards and the like. That’s a really positive output as well.”

Latest, Sustainability, Video