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Development work on the docklands are by the River Liffey in Dublin. Alamy Stock Photo
dublin skyline

DCC plans to update building height limits for Dublin city, with potential for 25 storeys or more

Currently, the tallest building in Dublin is the Capital Dock, which was completed in 2018.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has proposed updating the building height limits for the city, which could see some buildings reaching 25 storeys or potentially even higher.

The council has made the proposals in the Draft Dublin Development Plan 2022-2028

While there are no specific height limits within the draft plan, which means technically some buildings could reach any height, in practice the criteria set out by the council ensures that developers would not be given carte blanche to build as high as they want.

The plan has three separate height categories, including a landmark classification, which DCC defines as a building that is substantially taller than its surroundings and that makes a ‘significant’ impact on the skyline.

DCC City Planning Officer John O’Hara told The Journal that he expected landmark buildings to be between 20 and 25 storeys in height. 

Currently, the tallest building in Dublin is the Capital Dock, which stands at 79 metres tall with 22 storeys.

It has the same number of storeys as the Flatiron Building in New York City, but below the Flatiron’s 86 metre height.

flatiron-building-new-york-city-usa The Flatiron Building in New York City Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“In a Dublin context, 20 to 25 storeys would be a reasonable height for a significant building,” said O’Hara, but added that there is not a hard limit for the size of buildings in the landmark category.

“If it was a wonderfully designed 30-storey [building], of course, it would be looked at and analysed against those criteria,” said O’Hara.

However, he did couch these figures saying that there would need to be caution with taller buildings, particularly around the historic Georgian areas of Dublin city.

tcd 975 Capital Dock, the tallest building in Dublin Sam Boal Sam Boal

As well as this, considerations for tall buildings would be placed against specific criteria, rather than just height, said O’Hara.

These considerations would include how buildings contribute to making a neighbourhood, daylight permeability and respect for local and historical buildings. 

The draft plan says that DCC recognises that Dublin is a predominantly low rise city, and that these landmark buildings would be located in areas where large scale regeneration is needed, as well as centres of employment, where the existing character would not be changed by adding a tall building.

Clustering of tall buildings is likely to only happen in a “limited number of areas” says the plan, primarily within the city centre, Strategic Development Regeneration Areas (SDRAs) like Ballymun, key urban villages, and public transport hubs like Hueston Station.

The draft development plan is currently undergoing public consultation, with people able to view the plan in full and submit changes to the plan. Public consultation will remain open until 14 February.

These submitted changes will then be reviewed by councillors and council staff, before a final development plan is agreed upon.

Height classifications

The other two classifications for buildings in the city will be prevailing height, which will be the average building height in a given area, and locally higher buildings.

The locally higher classification would allow for certain buildings in local areas to be built higher than the prevailing height, to act as a landmark or statement for the area.

“The other one [height classification] is locally higher buildings which are buildings that will be local statements up to up to 12 storeys for commercial and 15 for residential,” said O’Hara.

O’Hara said that DCC had been criticised in its previous Development Plan for introducing a blanket approach to building heights, and that they opted to change it for the new draft plan.

Under the proposed plan, while higher buildings are being considered, the plan is further focused on increasing the density of the city. 

The plan states that this does not necessarily mean high rise buildings and that effective densities can be reached through mid-rise.

“Appropriate higher density schemes can often be achieved by using mid-rise typologies and key to the success of such development is high-quality design and placemaking,” reads the draft plan.

Speaking to The Journal, Noel Brady, architect and lecturer at the School of Architecture at Technological University Dublin (TUD) said that if Ireland is serious about sustainability, there must be a move to a more compact and dense city.

“Inevitably, density means, to some degree, going up,” said Brady.

It doesn’t mean going up in the same direction with the same sort of targets of very high, tall buildings but it is a key plank in terms of moving towards a sustainable future.

Brady said while there is a blanket proposal by the council to allow taller buildings, due to the criteria set down it will not be a “carte blanche” for developers to build up as tall as they like.

He said that not every building can be a landmark, and said that in Denmark, for example, there is a policy of only allowing specific cultural buildings to exceed a certain height.

“Obviously, not every building can be a landmark. That would just look like a kind of a Disney-esque landscape where everybody’s competing for attention. 

In Copenhagen, for instance, they have a very, very strong view in terms of what they call the discipline under which only certain cultural buildings can exceed a certain height in the city, so everybody else has to toe the line.

copenhagen-image-of-copenhagen-skyline-during-sunny-day The Copenhagen skyline Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Brady said that there can be pragmatic issues with high-rise residential, in particular, saying that after a certain height, the housing doesn’t work well unless it is for wealthy people.

He added that people are rethinking living in high-rise buildings following the Grenfell Tower disaster in London in June 2017, where 72 people died after a fire that broke out within the building.

While he said there are passive solutions being engineered, which would enable buildings to resist events like fire, these require higher levels of investment.

He also said that high rises within the city need to be designed with Dublin in mind, saying that it is important to critically examine plans to ensure they aren’t being designed for cities like Boston or New York, and that they are more in line with Dublin’s latitude to avoid issues with sunlight.

European-style city

Brady also said that the focus on one or two bigger landmark buildings misses the bigger problem within Dublin and that moving to a more mid-rise style model of housing like in other European countries could potentially move to help tackle the housing crisis.

“I think the focus on height, particularly in Dublin is exacerbated by the fact that predominantly most of the city is two stories,” said Brady.

When you go into the inner suburbs, like Crumlin, you’re into two stories, semi-detached houses and row houses in some instances. Whereas if you’re in Europe, most of the inner city and even the inner suburbs would be around about four or five storeys.

Brady said that this should be the area that is targeted and that focusing on landmark buildings misses the bigger issues within Dublin city.

O’Hara previously told The Journal that Dublin should seek to move to become a more European style city, sustainably increasing the density and moving away from solely providing traditional housing to help reduce urban sprawl.

While he said that traditional housing still had a role to play, there needed to be more upward building within the city.

“I think if we’re to pursue the principle of a more compact city, of reducing urban sprawl, of doing our bit for climate change, there’s got to be a quality densification of development,” said O’Hara.

“That’s not to say there isn’t a place for a three or four-bed semi… You must bear in mind, right up to the 80s and 90s, the three-bed semi was the predominant form of development at a very low density.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, the apartment developments are simply, you know, rebalancing that, but I have to stress I’d have to say that the apartments have to be of good quality.”

O’Hara said that there needed to be quality apartment accommodation provided, and that DCC would seek to ensure that higher quality developments would be approved, with particular focus on more storage space, common space and larger balconies.

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