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Ballymun's boiler house is now a 3D textbook on reuse

Rediscovery Centre

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The Rediscovery Centre

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When the Dublin suburb of Ballymun was built during the 1960s in response to poor housing conditions in the city’s tenements, it was hailed as the future of living. It was Ireland’s first high-rise scheme and the estate included the first major shopping centre on the north side of the capital, its own swimming pool and a public library. But what became Ballymun’s landmark building was the towering chimney stack of its boiler house.

Capped with red and white stripes, it became an unlikely icon, but as much treasured locally as the Poolbeg Stacks are on Dublin’s south side. Completed in 1966, the boiler house was the largest civic heating scheme in Ireland and the UK, using a 200,000-litre reservoir to supply under-floor heating to Ballymun’s 3,000 flats. However, when the flats were scheduled for demolition as part of a major regeneration of the area, the boiler house became redundant and it too was set to be torn down.

In 2011 a local environmental project, the Rediscovery Centre, and Dublin City Council successfully obtained €3.6 million in funding from the EU's LIFE Programme to transform the boiler house with an imaginative, eco-friendly project called WISER (Working with Industrial Spaces to Exemplify Reuse). The written off building was repurposed into a prototype ‘3D textbook’ designed to stimulate curiosity and promote sustainable living.

Recycling is at the heart of the Rediscovery Centre’s mission so, fittingly, paint salvaged from local recycling centres was used during rebuilding work. Furniture and fittings destined for landfill were also upcylced and reused for the building’s finishing touches.

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The old boiler house is now a cutting-edge creative space connecting people, resources and ideas called the Rediscovery Centre. This centre of excellence for sustainable development organises creative workshops, education and training, but also includes an ecostore, an events space and a green café that exemplifies reuse and sustainability. There’s also successful community training programmes for local long term unemployed people and the centre is home to four social enterprises:

  • Rediscover Fashion, producing seasonal collections and 100% recycled eco product homeware and accessories
  • Rediscover Furniture, restoring and upcycling old furniture while also training furtniture makers
  • Rediscover Paint, collecting paint from recycling centres, recycling it and selling the repurposed paint for €1 per 1 Litre
  • Rediscover Cycling, collecting disposed bikes from the recycling centres and creating revamped bicycles