THE administration and student centre at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), which ran €6 million over budget has been chosen as one of the world’s best-designed education buildings.
The project is one of just seven third-level facilities included in the latest Designing for Education, the OECD’s salute to exemplary educational facilities produced every five years.
The three buildings are constructed around a circular green and were opened in 2006, accommodating the college’s student centre, administration offices and CIT’s tourism and hospitality studies block.
The 10,000-square metre complex was designed by two architectural firms, de Blacam and Meagher, and Boyd Barrett Murphy O’Connor Architects.
CIT development director Michael Delaney, said that the college authorities are delighted with the accolade which places it alongside designs of universities and other higher education settings in Belgium, China, France, Poland, Britain and the US.
"It’s a really timeless building, as well as being an iconic design, we’re really pleased with it. It will still look great in 20 or 30 years time," he said.
The jury of six distinguished architects for the OECD’s Centre for Effective Learning Environments reviewed 166 projects from primary to third level in 33 countries and selected 60 of them based on innovative design, fitness for purpose, sustainability and safety.
The three-page entry on CIT in the just-published compendium says the buildings give the campus in Bishopstown a distinctive character, gravitas and sense of place, with the predominantly brick construction giving permanence and a sense of solidity.
The construction time for the project was almost twice as long as expected when various delays saw it take almost three years to complete. A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) last year showed that the cost ran to almost €20m, compared with a €13.7m budget.
The reasons for the overspend and delays included requirements to divert power cables and a water main, unforeseen changes to the foundation structure and disputes over the delay costs.
Almost €1m of the additional cost was spent on conciliation, although far higher legal costs could have been incurred if the issues in dispute with the main contractor had gone further.
The Department of Education told C&AG, John Buckley, that CIT could not have predicted the various delay and cost factors.
Meanwhile, work could begin on a new library building at the CIT campus before the end of the year, after a recent planning decision by Cork City Council.
Solas Education for Life Ltd has appealed a condition, believed to relate to development levies, but no third parties have objected to the permission. The company is involved in a public private partnership to build the 6,800sq/m, three- storey facility, to include book collections and reading areas, IT workstations, learning café, group study and postgraduate research areas along with a lecture theatre.