Case Study – Terra Nua Building Contractors

Subject Areas: Design, Lighting, Heating, Insulation

Sector: Construction


Terra Nua Builders have been based in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford since their launch in 2006. In late 2014 they decided a move from their small rented office into a larger premises they had purchased in Dungarvan’s Main Street was essential, and gave themselves just nine months to effect the move.

The new offices and shop front required extensive renovation and the opportunity was taken to carry out a complete re-design and internal re-shaping. In addition to providing comfortable office and meeting spaces, the aim was to use the premises as a showcase for their building business. This was to include an emphasis on energy efficiency in addition to innovative design and high build quality, all to be achieved within a limited budget.


Although substantially larger than the old premises, the site presented its own challenges, with a long and very narrow floorplan over two floors. The over-riding requirement was to transform a dark unattractive area into a bright welcoming and functional business premises. Effective use of space and maximising the limited available natural light were key considerations.

The solution was to open up the ground floor, allowing natural light to penetrate as deeply through the building as possible. The shopfront and reception desk are at one end, with stairs and storage in the middle, and kitchen and bathroom at the rear of the floor. The effect is enhanced by the installation of a ‘floating’ stairway constructed from Steel which is cantilevered out from the wall, with the main threads covered in local ash and a glass panel side also sourced locally. This feature is complimented by a glass panel set into the floor above. These combine to allow extra natural light into the deepest part of the building, and together create attractive architectural features in their own right.

The upstairs area, which benefits from the greatest access to natural light, houses the offices and meeting rooms, with a balcony that benefits from a south facing aspect to the rear of the property, a surprise suntrap feature!


All lighting throughout the building, and the exterior lights, are LED. These use 80% less energy than the fluorescent tubes which would traditionally have been installed in this type of premises. They are also well suited to sensor controls, as they are not prone to delay or flicker when activated. Terra Nua have installed sensor controls in many locations. These are most beneficial in low use areas, such a toilets, corridors or storerooms, where lights may often be left on accidentally for prolonged periods.

The lack of depth over ceilings meant that large downlighters were not practical as ceiling lights, and flat LED panels were considered too expensive to justify. The solution was to install conventional GU10 spotlights, fitted with 6W LED bulbs instead of the normal 50W halogen bulbs.

Insulation & Heating

Less visible, but no less important, was the insulation of the building. The exterior walls were dry lined with 50mm of Kingspan. Care was taken to ensure any gaps were filled with insulation foam and all joints were taped over to ensure an airtight seal. A further 25mm of insulated plasterboard provided the internal finish. Interior walls were also dry lined, with insulation matting packed between the battens.

Where space permitted, roof insulation was by 300mm deep matting. Where this depth was not available, preference was given to higher performing Kingspan insulation, to achieve the best overall results.

Various heating options were considered, including bulk gas central heating and electric radiant panel heaters. The option chosen was digitally controlled electric wall heaters.

This reflects the practical decision to use the limited budget on maximising the building insulation while spending less on the heating system, on which lower demands will be made.

Additional Features

Most of the built-in and free standing furniture, including the desks, was custom-made using varnished plyboard as the main surface material. While this helped to keep costs down, this gives the interior a cleverly co-ordinated look, with clean light lines which add to the brightness of the spaces with less natural light. The furniture will also be rather more rugged than more expensive alternatives.

The shop frontage was transformed with new doors and signage, and by the painting of the building exterior.