Situated amongst the sprawling suburbs of Dublin, Ireland lies a new development that is capturing its fair share of international attention.  The 15-acre Elm Park mixed-use project designed by Bucholz McEvoy Architects is helping to redefine how density can be successfully brought into areas that are predominantly spread out.  Featuring 3 office buildings, health care and fitness centers, a restaurant, hotel and 400 apartment units, the Elm Park development packs a lot of punch… in all, its density is six times that of its surrounding area.

photo via


A huge benefit of high density is low energy consumption.  Tenants share walls, minimizing their exposure to the elements.  Active systems were utilized to cut Elm Park’s utility bills, but before those were implemented passive means were considered.  Each building was oriented on a north-south axis to catch westward winds, passively cooling the interiors with natural ventilation.  Residential units, as pictured above and below, received their own balcony for personal ventilation control and shading.


Elm Park’s architecture is progressive and diverse, engaging its multi-use needs with modern sensibilities.  Prefabricated steel assemblies and laminated timbers provide the majority of the aesthetic weight while offering structural support.  Glazed windows help bring ample natural light into the heart of each building while neutrilizing glare.

The design team also placed a strong emphasis on maintaining open space for residents and workers.  900 parking spaces were built below ground, opening up the street level for lawns and pavilions that absorb rainwater.


There’s a magnitude of attention being focused on the suburbs right now with many people feeling that they’re a lost cause.  The carbon footprint of a suburban lifestyle is astronomical compared to urban alternatives, relying heavily upon polluting fossil fuels for survival.  Homes are oversized, spread out and far from accessible resources.  Projects like Elm Park are important experiments in revitalizing areas that are stretched thin and carbon intensive. Organizing mass transit to city centers becomes significantly easier and more effective with a suburban hub.  Bordering neighborhoods gain a destination that they can walk to for food, entertainment, or work.  Pretty much everyone wins, and such is the power of good design.


Pictures via Michael Moran


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.