School of Management, Queen’s University, Belfast

Principal contractor Felix O’Hare (FOH) has completed the extension and renovation of Queen’s University’s Management School at Riddel Hall, Belfast.

The extension to the Riddel Hall Management School included the creation of a new, purpose-built teaching facility housing state-of-the-art lecture theatres, seminar rooms, computer labs, office spaces, cafés and social green spaces. The interior boasts high-quality finishes, including board-marked concrete, oak panelling and terrazzo tile detailing, while the exterior works include an extensive sedum green roof, underground parking area, access roads and landscaping. The refurbishment of the existing Management School on the site, split across three existing buildings – one of which is Grade 2 listed – involved extensive room reconfiguring and redecorating. 

This complex project presented a logistical challenge, owing to the tight programme and constrained urban site location and primarily due to works taking place within a live university setting. The FOH team skilfully overcame these challenges through meticulous pre-planning and delivered this world-class educational facility.

Peter Erwin, acting Director of Queen’s Estates commented, “The development of this project by the university is another example of the investment we are making in the city of Belfast, and this contributes to the economy, especially to the local construction sector. Sustainability was a key factor in the building’s design and construction and will assist in our journey towards reaching the carbon emission targets within our recently approved Net Zero Plan.” 

The building is Net Zero-ready and future proofed for generations to come. 

The project assessed the carbon impact during design and construction to align with the university’s climate goals. Energy emissions were reduced through a renewable system: 40 geothermal boreholes (128m deep), PV panels on new and existing roofs and six solar hot water panels. This showcases the carbon-saving benefits of GeoExchange and highlights the capabilities of sustainable energy delivery in Northern Ireland.

FOH managed on-site emissions using Sustain IQ software. A ‘fabric first’ approach and embodied carbon assessment guided the procurement process. Over 71% of material suppliers were within 10 miles, reducing transport emissions. A Waste and Resource Management Plan minimised waste, generating only 1.65 tonnes per £100k. The project achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ accreditation, reflecting environmental commitment.

FOH prioritised biodiversity in the Stranmillis Conservation Area. Preserving wildlife habitats was fundamental, with a designated Biodiversity Champion ensuring conservation of badger, bat, swift and heron habitats. The team excelled in the Considerate Constructor Scheme audit, receiving an innovation award for bird nesting systems.

Stephen Morrissey, Contracts Manager on the project explained, “We set up exclusion zones to avoid encroaching on the badgers’ setts, installed temporary bat boxes during construction and permanent boxes upon completion, and monitored the heron nests weekly to establish if any disruption had been caused to their environment and wellbeing. Temporary swift boxes were installed during construction, and permanent boxes installed within the fabric of the building.”

Due to tree restrictions, a temporary road was created to ensure safe manoeuvring of articulated lorries trucks. Initially, the plan was to install foul and storm lines through wooded areas, but this would harm the ecology. Instead, directional drilling was proposed by FOH. After excavation and basement formation, it allowed for installing pipes without harming nearby trees.

Stephen commented, “This project showcased FOH’s ability to manage a high-end specification build with attention to detail while maximising positive environmental impact. The highest standard of site management and engineering requirements were crucial due to the complexity of the structural and finishing elements of the build. M&E coordination with a concrete frame building had to be on point as well as the requirement for expert commissioning management to satisfy the client’s needs. “Felix O’Hare, the supply chain and the delivery team deserve special mention as this was a testing job due to material and labour cost increases during the construction period. The health and safety team played a crucial role during the build, which began in late 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

Cathal Morgan, Bid/Contracts Manager for FOH, added, “Riddel Hall is another catalyst facility that FOH has been entrusted to build in collaboration with a full project team for Queen’s. We have a long-standing history with the university,  and this adds to our portfolio of high-quality and complex buildings, successfully handed over within the Queen’s estate.

Project team…

Client: Queen’s University, Belfast

Main Contractor: Felix O’Hare

Architect: Todd Architect

Mechanical Contractor: HTC Mechanical

Electrical Contractor: JD McGeown

For the full feature on School of Management, check out NI Builder 34-3 June-July here.