Louth County Council is the single local authority for County Louth in the Republic of Ireland. The strategic location between the capital cities Dublin and Belfast, the quality of state infrastructural services and the existence of a primed, skilled and well-educated workforce has attracted many long-running multinationals to relocate in the county. Albeit the smallest one in Ireland, County Louth is also one of the most densely populated (from the 2011 Census, the population counted 122,897 inhabitants).
Louth County Council is responsible for delivering key services such as housing provision and maintenance of social housing, road construction and maintenance, water services, land-use planning, environmental monitoring, and sustainable energy.
Dundalk is the administrative capital of County Louth and is the pilot town of VARCITIES. It has a population of 34,496, and growing. The town hosts a highly regarded third level educational institution, Dundalk Institution of Technology (DkIT).
The project proposal is the “Creation of an Outdoor Learning Hub” within the courtyard area of County Library / Museum Quarter. Both structures are identified as Protected Structures which have a rating of ‘Regional importance’. The regeneration of this area will assist in the creation of a diverse, accessible, safe, inclusive and high-quality green area that will increase well-being and health, and deliver a fair and equitable distribution of the associated benefits. The design proposes a continuation of the public realm and rationalisation philosophy (to improve all crossings and junctions in favour of the pedestrian), in line with the urban regeneration scheme of the adjacent Market Square, Clanbrassil Street and Church Street.
One of the biggest changes in Dundalk’ VARCITIES Pilot will be the removal of the car parking spaces, increasing the resultant open public spaces and the benefits deriving from reduced climate risk exposure, noise and air pollution, and environmental stress.
Several co-creation events were already organised: two full stakeholder events were undertaken to co-create the detailed design for the site. Arising from completion of the co-created detailed design, a Public Consultation Process was undertaken and Planning Permission for works for the project was approved. A further stakeholder event known as the ‘Town Hall’ event was undertaken to update stakeholders on progress and the plans to complete the project.
At present, the project team is on the point of initiating the construction phase. However, the present volatility in the Irish construction market has caused some concern about the likely costs and duration of construction so the team has engaged a firm of Quantity Surveyors to advise the Council prior to formally initiating the procurement of a contractor for the works.
The Visionary Solutions
VS 1: Outdoor Learning Pod
This new facility will showcase the newest technologies and host shared functions. Alongside will also be installed Virtual Learning Pod Sensors used to to collate data on visitor numbers and duration of stay. A new Software will also be installed to record PV savings from existing PV roof panels on the Museum roof.
VS 2: Outdoor Urban Green Learning and Sensory Garden
We will develop a Sensory garden and to enhance the area we will add new seating throughout the site and enhance public lighting with LED lights. Rainwater harvesting system will encourage visitors to be more sustainable in the use of water. A new touch screen monitor will display green learning’s and information on the project.
VS 3: Sensor-equipped bike-stations
We will install new bike-stations at the site, all equipped with sensors. The data collected on cyclist numbers will help us better understand the use of the space.