PUNCH Consulting Engineers were commissioned by Limerick City Council in January 2012 to carry out structural condition surveys of the vacant structures located in the historic Georgian Opera Quarter of Limerick City. The site, commonly known as the Opera Centre, contains 30 buildings most of which are predominantly intact Georgian terraces located on Rutland Street, Patrick Street and Ellen Street. The terraces are historically significant in that the buildings incorporate some early features and are some of the few eighteenth century buildings that survive in Limerick.
Due to almost a century of neglect the buildings are all in very poor condition and in places they are in a potentially dangerous condition. Their multiple structural problems and fabric failures have been described in detail in “Opera Quarter: Conservation Issues” commissioned by Limerick City Council in 2012 from PUNCH Consulting Engineers in association with Healy Partners Architects and Judith Hill Architectural Historian. It was apparent that a number of buildings were in extremely poor condition and would require stabilisation works:
The condition of the buildings continued to deteriorate throughout 2012 due to the severe ingress of water damaging the fabric of the buildings, so PUNCH commenced a Stabilisation Works contract.
Although there are multiple structural problems associated with the buildings, expressed to different degrees within each building, they can be reduced to three main problems, which were intended to ensure the survival of the structural fabric. Firstly, a significant number of parapets are in an extremely dangerous condition. These need to be taken down and rebuilt, using existing bricks and stone where possible. Secondly, floors have decayed and required immediate propping and thirdly, many walls are no longer straight, with some walls significantly out of plumb. These elements needed to be strengthened and drawn together through the use of steel ties.
A conservation philosophy was developed to suit the situation: The primary conservation objective was to retain the structural fabric – the front and rear facades, the side and spine walls, and roof structure. The secondary conservation objective was to salvage whatever original fabric can be retained externally and internally – notably windows, doors, internal joinery and plasterwork – for repair and reuse. The third objective is reconstruction using new materials, retaining the existing plans and volumes within the buildings.
The works above are now substantially complete and are considered to be the first step in the regeneration of an important area of Limerick City.
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