'A vision for Trinity and Dublin' - Dublin Development Plans 2018

Built Environment Networking Conference

Blackhall Place, Dublin

12 September 2018

Good afternoon,

Thank you for this opportunity to talk about Trinity’s capital development initiatives and our vision for Dublin.

When I say ‘vision for Dublin’, that is not simply me being grandiose. As you know Trinity College Dublin is a city-centre campus, and has been for the last 427 years since it was founded in 1592.

In fact, it’s most accurate to talk about the city growing up around Trinity because if you look at early maps, when Trinity was founded in 1592 on the site of an old priory, it was outside the main city walls – in fact the official name of the university is The College of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity near Dublin. Here it is on this map, right at the edge – the centre of the city then was Wood Quay.

As the city developed over the next few hundred years, Trinity began to take centre-stage, I think not by accident. It made sense for businesses and government to locate themselves near the university which was a showcase of architectural design, a centre of research and education and also, continuously since 1614, has elected members to parliament.

And today Trinity is expanding outwards from our core campus.

We have buildings and developments on Nassau Street, D’Olier Street, Foster’s Place, Fenian Street, Westland Row, Custom House Quay, and all the way up Pearse Street to Grand Canal Dock. This map shows some our growth in the city centre, and outside the city centre we have Trinity medical centres in Tallaght and St James hospitals.

So when we talk about our vision for developing Trinity it is, de facto, a vision for Dublin.

This carries a responsibility, which we’re very aware of:

  • There is an aesthetic responsibility – we need our city centre to be a beautiful place to live in and visit;
  • there is a conservation responsibility – Trinity owns a number of Georgian houses in the area, as well of course as our historic buildings on campus;
  • There’s social responsibility: we share the city centre with long-established local communities and businesses and it’s essential that they are happy with our plans;
  • And of course there’s the responsibility, which all capital developments now share, to be green, sustainable, and energy-efficient. In Trinity we’re very aware of this responsibility because we do research into sustainability, and it’s intrinsic to our college mission that we implement our research findings, and also our students are particularly active in matters relating to sustainability.

These responsibilities co-exist with the prerogative to create buildings and spaces that enable us to educate, research, and innovate. The demands on universities only ever seem to expand. We are always in need of new space.

When we talk about our development plans and our vision for the university and for Dublin, we have to balance these needs and responsibilities, while finding resources against a background of falling state investment in higher education.

In Trinity we seem to be good at this because the past twenty years have been years of physical expansion that have included many greatly admired buildings like the Trinity Long Room Hub, the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute and the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation, which recently opened in a renovated Georgian house on Fenian Street.

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With all this in mind, I’d like now to look at some of our capital development initiatives, those near completion and in the pipeline.

In just six months’ time, in March, we will celebrate the opening of the new Trinity Business School on Pearse Street, that will also house Tangent – Trinity’s Ideas Workspace – and a 600-seat auditorium and a 200-seat café.

This will be the most exciting new Trinity building since the TBSI in 2011. It is going to raise the profile and opportunities of our Business School and it’s going to continue the transformation of that length of Pearse Street, already revamped thanks to Science Gallery and the Naughton Institute.

Here is what it will look like:

And here’s the view from the rugby pitch.

When it opens in March, the Business School will have taken just over five years to complete, from conception to launch. We’re happy with that timeframe and in the course of planning and building, we’ve developed ‘best practice’ which we’ll be using on current and future projects.

First, we started our consultation with the local community early. From the very start of the project, we invited representatives to meetings to discuss their priorities and red lines. I should stress that this relationship is not just project-based; it’s on-going. It’s not about us getting buy-in for our plans and then disappearing. Trinity gets involved in, and supports, local initiatives, and our staff and students are involved in various volunteering and community projects.

Second, we were clear from the outset that the Business School would need to be enabled by philanthropy. We started planning for the Business School in 2013 when, you’ll recall, Ireland was not yet out of recession. We knew we had to rely on alumni and friends to realise our ambition.

We were fortunate: they answered our call. We received €20 million in philanthropy for the Business School. This enabled us to leverage investment from the state and to raise loans for the further €60 million required.

This is now the model for our major capital development projects. We don’t expect our projects to rely solely on philanthropy. Donors do not, and should not, give money to replace exchequer money. They donate as part of a bigger investment plan.



In May this year we made the formal announcement of our plan to build E3, our institute for Engineering, Environment, and Emerging Technologies. This will be one of the first institutes, internationally, to integrate engineering, technology and the natural sciences, at scale, to address major challenges facing our planet including climate change, renewable energy, personalised data and sustainable manufacturing.

It will expand student numbers by 1,800 in the STEM disciplines. And it will harness new methods of learning and research at the frontiers of disciplines to educate new kinds of engineers and scientists.

Like the Trinity Business School, E3 was made possible by philanthropy. A remarkable donation of €25 million from the Naughton family allowed us to get immediate government funding of a further €15 million.

E3 will be developed in two stages. In the first place, the E3 Learning Foundry will be built on campus as a showcase of new learning methods. It won’t have lecture theatres, but it will have collaborative student-managed learning spaces.

The E3 Learning Foundry will go up at the east end of the campus, replacing buildings that are past their sell-by date, so to speak. When it comes to our historic campus, new buildings have to replace old ones: there can be no question of encroaching on the remaining green spaces. Here is a slide showing the buildings that will be replaced.


We hope to complete the E3 Learning Foundry within five years. The E3 Research Institute will then be developed as the lynchpin of a new Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus, as part of a national project: the Grand Canal Innovation District.

You may have seen press coverage of our plans for the creation of this innovation district, in July of this year, when it was announced by the Taoiseach. Trinity is the leader in this project, partnering with government and other Dublin universities. Our vision for the district draws on world-leading innovation districts in Boston and Amsterdam.

Innovation districts work by bringing together a critical mass of talent, finance, innovation and enterprise. Typically, they are located in a concentrated urban environment, close to a high-ranking university, and provide the proximity, density and scale of activities that are essential for international competitiveness. They are integrated in the local community, providing new employment and education opportunities, and are connected to local and cultural communities.

Grand Canal Dock is the natural home for an innovation district in Dublin because this is where multinationals, tech companies and start-ups are already located and of course it’s ten-minute walk from the existing Trinity campus. This slide shows the proximities that will enable the Innovation District.

6021_TCD_Ghala_DAC_Wall AW-01.jpg

This project has the potential to be as transformative for Ireland in technology and innovation, as the IFSC was for financial services. It constitutes Trinity’s most transformative vision for Dublin since the foundation and development of our original campus in the 16th and 17th centuries.

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The Grand Canal Innovation District is a stand-out vision. It’s important to think big and ambitious.

Equally, however, it’s important to pay attention to detail and to constantly focus on improvements that have to be made, large and small.

It’s great we’re planning for the TTEC campus. But we also need to continue making our principle campus work as well for us as efficiently as possible. This means: renovating historic buildings, replacing buildings that no longer serve a purpose, and ensuring that we’re making good use of the spaces we have.

In terms of renovation, we are currently looking into ways to upgrade and renovate the oldest building on college, the Rubrics.

I’m sure you all recognise the Rubrics.

It’s the oldest building on campus, one of the oldest in Dublin, built in 1700. As you can imagine, renovation will have to be very sensitive. Here is an impression of how it might look

In terms of replacement, we recently demolished a building on Pearse Street, called Oisin House – which was rented out to government for years – and in its place we’re developing student residents.

We’re calling the new development ‘Printing House Square’. It will have place for 300 student rooms, a new Student Health Centre, and sports facilities. This will be the first new square built in college since Botany Bay.

And in terms of making better use of the spaces we have, this is the focus of the College’s new Estates Strategy, just agreed at Board.

It’s the nature of universities that we all tend to under-use our spaces and facilities. This has to do with the multitude of activities that go on in universities and the separation of disciplines into self-contained schools and departments.

Globally, the universities that manage their spaces most efficiently still only manage to use 50 percent of their space. Here is a slide showing the situation in UK universities [Slide: Utilisation of Teaching Spaces] – as you see Edinburgh does best;

Cambridge only manages to use 11 percent of its teaching spaces! The average is around 28%. In Trinity I’m afraid we are closer to Cambridge usage than Edinburgh’s.

So our priority is to manage our spaces better. The new Estates and Management Strategy is aimed at increasing efficiencies. This is a technology issue – we need a central linked-in system which tracks all the information college-wide on available spaces and on activities, class sizes and the rest.

But it’s also a communication issue – making staff and students aware of the alternate spaces available, getting them to think about matching space to activity and class-size, getting buy-in for increased efficiencies.

This ties into sustainability. The core of sustainability is about using resources as efficiently as possible – whether that be food, water, energy, or physical space. Leaving rooms or labs under-used is as negligent as wasting heat and light.

In February Trinity became the first university in Ireland to join the International Sustainable Campus Network, the ISCN. The 80+ members of the ISCN represent top-tier universities from over 30 countries around the world. It’s a global forum to support leading colleges, universities, and corporate campuses in the exchange of information, ideas, and best practices for achieving sustainable campus operations and integrating sustainability in research, teaching, innovation and outreach.

Trinity was able to join the ISCN because our third annual Sustainability Report in 2017 could point to significant gains made in recent years in sustainability goals, including a decrease in paper use by 50 percent since 2011, a reduction in water consumption of 41% since 2010 and a 26 percent improvement on energy efficiency since 2008.

This slidedepicts the three principles of ISCN. As you see, sustainable buildings are a top principle. All our new builds will of course be energy-efficient. It’s more difficult to achieve sustainability with our historic buildings, but we are looking at ways to make improvements.

Principle 2 includes more efficient use of our existing spaces – the theme of our Estates and Management Strategy.

Principle 3 is where great ambition lies. Can we put our research at the service of our sustainability goals? And Principle 3 also emphasizes sustainability as an integrated activity across the whole college community.

This is very much the case in Trinity. Many of our most ground-breaking sustainability initiatives are student-led, including the divestment from fossil fuels campaign and the recent decision to end single-use plastic on campus. This decision will impact the physical appearance of the campus – we are will be putting in place more water fountains for people to refill their reusable water bottles from.

A sustainable campus is something staff and students are working towards together.

This community model, so to speak, is what works on campus and will work for our second campus. By working with partners who share the city centre with us, we can achieve a remarkable vision for Trinity and Dublin.

Thank you

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