Industry recognition for MOLA Architecture’s magnificent biophilic meeting spaces

22 Mar , 2024  

MOLA Architecture collected the prestigious Green Building of the Year award at the 2023 Irish Construction Industry Awards in recognition of their delivery of the eye-catching Sustainable Meeting Pods at The Campus, Cherrywood.

MOLA’s excellence in sustainability and a particular emphasis on biophilic design was duly recognised at a packed Mansion House on Thursday November 2nd when the Dublin-based studio picked up the Green Building of the Year award for the innovative Sustainable Meeting Pods at The Campus, Cherrywood. Located within Cherrywood SDZ, The Campus also features MOLA’s award-winning Canopy and Biophilic Sunken Garden, where the Meeting Pods form part of an overall enhancement programme of the business park’s extensive public realm.

The beautifully detailed, glass and timber pods offer biophilic meeting spaces for the tenants. Elevated above the tree canopy the three pods enjoy dramatic views over the central lake and towards the Irish Sea. Each pod is highly energy-efficient, producing 300% of its energy needs, with surplus energy redirected to sitewide external lighting.

A multi-award-winning studio, MOLA’s rich winning streak continued when they also took four prestigious awards at the 2023 Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) Awards and another at the Fit-out Awards a couple of weeks later. At the IDI awards the stunning Sustainable Meeting Pods, took not one but three awards – the Grand Prix Award, The Commercial Architecture Award and the Innovation in Built Structures Award – while MOLA’s Merrion Road residential development scooped the Multi Residential and Architecture Award.

MOLA Architecture is a progressive and conscientious architectural design studio led by Ralph Bingham and Michael O’Carroll, and is characterised by its dedicated, personable and collaborative 56-strong team of architects, interior designers and technologists, who deliver a enthusiastic and tailor-made service to each client whether in architecture, interiors or urban design. At the heart of all their work is an emphasis on advancing sustainable design processes. Working directly with design team members, they strive to provide a holistic and sustainable vision for all projects.

MOLA provide a diverse range of architectural services ranging from residential, urban design, masterplanning, education, hospitality, civic, cultural, interiors and infrastructural to mixed use developments, and have been involved in some of the country’s most important and prestigious projects. They are passionate about their work and the contribution they can make to the improvement of the built environment and society in general.

“It’s satisfying to have your projects recognised when you have put so much time and effort into realising them,” director Michael O’Carroll told Building Ireland after MOLA had collected the Green Building of the Year gong at the ICI Awards.

“An award that singles out sustainability may soon be outmoded as every new building will be green and sustainability will be part of every design. I anticipate that this award category may be gone as sustainability becomes integral to all design professionals’ way of thinking about their work. It’s where you should start, really.”

Located within a woodland green belt and adjacent to the lake at The Campus, Cherrywood the Sustainable Meeting Pods offer meeting spaces inspired by biophilic design principles for the business park tenants and visitors. The pods harness renewable energy through solar panels and wind turbines, acting as micro-generation power stations, with battery storage to deal with non-productive periods. They exemplify interdisciplinary collaboration, advanced design strategies, and

the use of the latest technologies.

Meeting the objective of fostering interaction and well-being in a biophilic environment, the pods demonstrate sustainable practices in harmony with their natural environment. Seeking to connect our inherent need to affiliate with nature in the modern built environment, biophilic design is intended to connect humans with nature through building design to improve their levels of health and wellbeing. Biophilic design means designing inspirational and restorative places that connect humans to their surroundings. Research has shown that incorporating direct or indirect natural elements into the built environment reduces stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, while increasing productivity, creativity and improvement in over-all wellbeing.

The Sustainable Meeting Pods at Cherrywood offer a welcoming space for people to meet and a focal point or destination within the campus, offering a tranquil space to pollinate ideas.

Sustainable strategies have been incorporated into the design of each pod and provide an energy surplus for the benefit of the campus, allowing it to reduce its overall energy demand. The footprint of each pod is a single concrete column, which substantially reduces its impact on the land and allowing the area around each pod to be landscaped to encourage flora to flourish and the green areas to remain uninterrupted – unifying the architecture within its environment.

Each meeting pod is elevated by a single concrete column and exposed concrete base. An insulated screed slab floats over the insulated concrete base and offers a large thermal mass to reduce the diurnal fluctuations in internal temperature. During the winter months the screed slab is electrically heated to warm the space. In the summer, high level louvres are positioned to provide natural ventilation and cooling.

Curved glass façades offer views into the woodland areas and beyond to the sea. Glue-laminated timber fins wrap around the facade to reduce solar gain – without interrupting the views. Each pod is accessed via a corten steel bridge, known for its distinctive rusted appearance. The alloy’s natural weathering process ensures longevity and reduces maintenance, minimising resource consumption. Each material has been carefully chosen as part of a sustainable strategy which involves a reduction of embodied carbon, while providing robustness and longevity.Sustainability and innovation were apparent at multiple stages throughout the project, including; material selection, form optimisation, modular construction, transportation of materials, connection detailing, health and safety during construction and maintenance strategies. The pods demonstrate what is possible at every level of design and construction.

An advanced computer model was created to encourage all disciplines to interrogate the form, materials and detailing. Environmental modelling was used to simulate environmental conditions which tested the design and allowed optimisation.

“It was a very interesting project and is part of the overall re-imagining and redevelopment of the campus,” says Michael. “When an American investment company, Spear Street Capital, purchased the business park in Cherrywood they recognised that it was past its best. They considered approaches to retain tenants and attract new ones. Interestingly they decided first to look at upgrading the existing spaces between buildings and in the public realm, rather than adding new space.”

The first phase of the rebirth of Cherrywood Business Park was The Cherrywood Canopy and Biophilic Sunken Garden, which provides an innovative and sustainable approach to the enhancement of the public realm by providing a place for colleagues to meet, and for people to interact and share ideas, while enjoying the benefits of being within a natural biophilic environment.

Double curved timber glulam beams support a curving bent glass canopy, which protects the beams from direct rain, while providing shelter for the occupants below. Rainwater flows directly off the canopy edge into the upper landscape planters, which are interconnected with the lower planters within the garden, allowing the water to cascade – forming a natural irrigation system under the canopy.

“Spear Street was prepared to invest substantially in the canopy project to engender a sense of community in the business park and it was refreshing and innovative to have a client thinking like that,” Michael continues. “The Sustainable Meeting Pods are simple umbrella-like structures, just

three pods sitting out in the woods – but again it has helped give people an entirely different and renewed perspective of the park.”

With such a forward-thinking client, was it an architect’s dream to work on the Sustainable Meeting Pods? “It’s certainly all too rare. There’s a real sense of freedom that comes with working with such a progressive client, who is prepared to go along with the kind of ideas we probably never thought would come to fruition,” says Michael. “Biophilic design has been a major component of our work in Cherrywood so far – on both the canopy project and this one; considering the wellbeing of the building occupants and their ability to create a sensory connection with nature. Biophilic design isn’t a new concept but it has relatively-recently been recognised for its benefits.”

Is this type of modern design an indulgence? Are most builders and developers looking for more practical solutions? “Well, it could be perceived as an indulgence but the benefits of these designs to the business park in Cherrywood are now there to be tested. Existing tenants are happy to stay and new tenants have been attracted. These projects have raised the profile of the park and made it more attractive to new and existing tenants” “The projects have improved the working environment, so while these interventions might appear at glance to be a little frivolous, both projects are very successful and have achieved exactly what they set out to.”

Michael believes retention and repurposing of buildings will be a primary pillar of building design going forward: “Due to the amount of embodied carbon in existing structures, there will be more retention, renovation and re-use of existing buildings rather than knocking them down and building replacements,” he concludes. “This shift in direction has gathered serious momentum already and is here to stay.”

MOLA Architecture,

2 Donnybrook Road,


Dublin 4.

Tel: 01 218 3923

Mohile: 086 8288111

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.mola.ie

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, March 2024, Vol 10 No 3