Monday, December 10, 2012


warm, bright, cosy and spacious
It was a delight to get the opportunity to design a sun room which was tall enough to have a first floor bedroom window open into it. I featured this country project before (see here) but it was recently completed and the daylighting effects are truly magical. The conservatory faces south but because it projects out it catches morning and evening light also thus giving both a wonderful atmosphere and a high level of passive solar energy. A pair of sliding glazed doors between the kitchen and the front dining room afford new views to surrounding landscape also. In addition to all this the heating system is hardly needed as the insulation upgrades are having a significant beneficial effect.
view from bedroom

Monday, November 19, 2012


View of the architect's kitchen

Although the works to our own kitchen were carried out a few years ago it is only recently that it has been professionally photographed by our esteemed and highly skilled photographer Denis O'Farrell ( ). The country style kitchen relies on much traditional loose furniture and the floor has a natural untreated spanish clay tile which we finished with linseed oil and floor wax. The small window to the left was originally a glass single door to the garden, before we put french doors in  the bay window, and the cat still, to this day, scratches the wall below the window when she wants to go out. A green Aga cooker (not seen in this photo) completes the picture. The central table is a real treat for dining, pastry making, homework and, on occasion, table tennis!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Work on the extension and alteration to a Victorian cottage in the midlands is approaching completion and the Ballymore Eustace based contractor Pat Doran is doing a sterling job. Many design modifications were made pre-contract but since the work started it has been relatively plain sailing. Watch this space for completed photos in a month or two. The main feature of the design is the interlinked Dining, Kitchen and Garden room with the 2 storey high conservatory. The house itself has undergone a serious energy retrofit also including Gutex breathable dry lining boards (thanks to  MacCann and Byrne in Athboy aka Ecological Building Systems, great chaps to work with).

Monday, September 10, 2012


When, as an architect, I walk on site and see the side of a house taken out (as planned) you would normally detect a faint smile on my face. I love the cut and thrust of the building process as I am always looking ahead to the final result when the altered or extended property is completed, looking well and enjoyed by the client.
But what does the client think at this shocking appearance? Probably a feeling of terror and anxiety and a strong feeling of  "Have I done the right thing?". This of course is their dear house, their castle, their private domain and it's half demolished!  Also it is normally the first time they have had such  an invasion on their life. Perhaps I should hide that smile a little more in future but the one thing I won't do (and don't need to thank God) is share their deep felt anxieties.
As an architect I put trust in the builder, the chap who is actually doing the work, and this explains why at the first or second meeting I have with the client I explain to them that I reserve the right to not work with certain contractors, those being the ones I have neither worked with before nor can get good professional references for.
We can never be in complete control of every process but we sure can avoid obvious errors and lack of judgements. The picture is of a Terenure project in Rathdown that scary stage.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Deep reveals conceal night time shutters.
Work has just completed  on a simple but effective extension to a semi-detached house in Collinswood off Collins Avenue in Dublin's northside. A pair of roof windows centrally placed over the french doors give a semi-conservatory effect while minimizing heat loss. The ceiling profile in the extension area was raised to further contribute to the spacious and bright effect. A pair of window seats were created at either side of the french doors to facilitate daytime book reading. The increased view of the rear garden has the added effect of increasing the perception of space and helping the Indian sandstone terrace feel part of the extended room. The project also involved the construction of a front porch and refurbishment of 2 bathrooms. The clients expressed delight at both the design and the overall efficiency and skill of the contractor Karl Gray Construction.
New rear elevation
Former rear elevation

Monday, July 30, 2012


In just under a year we have completed the extension and refurbishment of a Shankill bungalow for a young family with a special accessibility requirement. The tight budget framework meant that we engaged a particular contractor (Mick Duggan of Dugmon Construction) early and had him with his quantity surveyor work through detailed cost estimates. The design had to go through 2 major alterations in order to match both the budget and the client's needs and aspirations but the result is one all are proud of. The house was dark, dilapidated and poorly laid out but the end result is bright, modern and highly functional. I trust the photos speak for themselves.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

UCD O'Reilly Hall WC makeover

On this site I previously published the gents refurbishment in the O'Reilly Hall at University College Dublin (UCD), Belfield, Dublin 4 but here is the recently completed ladies WC. In the design I thought it would be interesting to move away from the traditional blue for boys and pink for girls to the more sophisticated black for men and red for ladies. It think it worked but as always I am open to comments.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


We recently completed a kitchen and garden room extension in Ballinteer. With a combination of external insulation and the installation of a solid fuel stove I think we are in for a dramatic reduction in the gas bill down the years. The roofs of the extension elements, at 2 levels, were kept flat so that the view from bedroom upstairs is preserved. Roof edges are in green copper while roof surface is in a matching colour of seamless flexible resin material (Polyroof).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Does integrity have a chance in the construction industry?

Anthony Brabazon made a presentation at the Conference entitled “Does Integrity Matter?” The 2011 EBEN Research Conference was held at Chartered Accountants House in Dublin, Ireland, from Wednesday 8th to Friday 10th June 2011. The event was hosted by EBEN Ireland, a newly founded chapter and registered charity with three experienced business people as its founding directors, in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin Business School and Chartered Accountants Ireland.
Anthony Brabazon is a professional architect, CEO of ABA Architects and founder of  He served as Honorary Secretary in the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland and sat for four years on their Professional Conduct Committee.  Anthony is known for his integrity in a construction sector not universally applauded for the highest ethical standards.
Anthony opened by stating that “Ethics is the oil that flows between business relationships to stop sparks flying.” He suggested that ethics are regulated by two policemen:
The first is the internal policeman or conscience, which may or may not be effective depending on how the conscience is informed and the second is the external policeman comprising Contracts, Regulations and Enforcement as well as the fear of reputation loss.
He observed the effect of regulatory failures with the quotation: “When the sentence for a crime is not carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong” and then noted that ‘light-touch’ regulation is not a recent development, as the quotation was taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes written by King Solomon a few millennia earlier!
Anthony then contrasted the construction industry with manufacturing where a tested product can be seen before purchase.  In construction the outcome, in most cases, is not seen until the end of the process, which raises the requirement for trust between parties involved in each project.  The architect applies professional judgement on matters of quality at each stage to get the end ‘product’. While construction may not be a precise business, it can be a fair business.
He then discussed a variety of ethical issues facing the construction industry.
Ethics of tendering Due to costs associated with preparing prices it is important in an open economy to limit the number of tenderers in a transparent manner.  He noted that the depressed economy has been exploited by some clients in casting the net too wide when seeking tenders.
Ethics of architects Until recently anyone in Ireland could call themselves an ‘architect’.  The title ‘architect’ is now protected after a long campaign, the final push coming after a TV documentary concerning a fake architect exploiting customers.  While the ‘function’ has yet to be protected the ‘title’ protection is a good first step.
Architects are independent of Contractors and operate under a professional Code of Conduct which outlines duties to the public, clients and the profession.
Ethics of contractors A number of issues arise with building contractors.  One is tax compliance and Anthony explained that  tax inspectors have started inspecting plant hire firms to build true profiles of contractors’ output compared to declared accounts.  Another issue is sub-contractor payments.  He said ethical relationships must pass down the line as payment delays can prove dangerous to sub-contractors. He cited the collapse in Ireland of a major main contractor which affected over 1,000 sub-contracting firms.  The final example was customer care which the industry isn’t always renowned for.  Anthony said clients know when they are being “looked after”… but it is a two-way street requiring fair behaviour from all parties.
Ethics of clients  Anthony discussed a number of ethical issues relating to clients of architects, the first being tax compliance and “cash” deals which he described as not only being ‘illegal and immoral’ but also ‘foolish as they remove legal protection in an attempt to save 13.5% value added tax’. Another issue is ensuring that projects are adequately funded, both for construction and for professional services.  This, sadly, is often not the case.  He also said a clarification of roles was required, especially when a first-time, non-expert client was engaging an architect.  It can happen that the client has unrealistic expectations of the architect’s duties, especially in the case where the building contractor fails to perform. Anthony said that ultimately a degree of trust was required between both parties, as he had already stated, the ultimate end product can be ‘invisible’ until the project is complete.
Anthony then proceeded to describe a range of new pressures which had arisen over the last thirty years ranging from the proliferation of new materials, technologies and regulations in buildings, the speed of procurement, a stripping back from full service levels and below cost tendering.  Whilst these issues affect professional architects around the world, he said a number of issues are particular to Ireland, some as a result of the construction industry now accounting for only 8% of the overall economy, a recent fall from around 25%.   More difficult economic times have resulted in a high proportion of work, notably residential and small commercial projects, being directly procured with contractors without professional advice from architects, engineers or surveyors.
The final issue Anthony discussed was the question of how professional architects view themselves – do they see themselves as stewards or owners?  He suggested that, if the answer was as stewards, they were accountable to someone else, but if as owners then they do not see themselves as accountable.  Employees of large firms like IBM or GM, BBC or NBC are like stewards and have their ethical behaviour guided and regulated by the ethics of their companies.  Small business owners are without this constraint. However, even without accountability fear of loss of reputation can be a compelling influence.
Anthony concluded with a photo of the Empire State Building in New York which he cited as an example of what ethical co-operation could achieve, even in difficult circumstances such as the prevailing depression in 1930. He included a copy of a note typed at the time whereby the project was described as having been completed in 21 months from inception of design to completion. Co-operation indeed, the very essence of business being conducted with integrity!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

O'Reilly Hall UCD WC Refurbishment

The glazed black feature wall at the end of the refurbished gents WC (just completed) was the driving idea in this upgrade I designed. In the 1920's and 30's some shopfronts had a black shiny bakelite finish which gave a dramatic appearance. This was the inspiration. With the upgrade of certain fittings including floor tiling the utilitarian look was banished and a new freshness introduced. Have a look (if you are male!) next time you are at a conferring ceremony or event in the O'Reilly Hall. And Ladies, don't panic, your WC is being shortly upgraded. Thanks to contractor Pat McMahon of Greenboro Construction for an excellent job (and photos)