Building a community- The properties that bring people together

Community buildings serve a very important role in our society. From playgroups to town halls, and community centres to sports complexes, they provide us with a place to meet up, take part in hobbies, share our experience and meet new people.

The power of these buildings can not be underestimated. Yet, we rarely take the time to stop and appreciate their importance and the benefits that they bring to local residents. The KPMG Irish Independent Property Industry Excellence Awards hope to change this.

They are the only all-encompassing national awards that recognise excellence across all sectors, including community projects.

This year they hope to highlight important local initiatives with the Community Benefit Project Award. This accolade will be awarded to a project that has had a positive impact on its local neighbourhood and has delivered positive benefits to that community.

Last year the award was won by Bredagh Old School, an important renovation project in Co Leitrim.

Bredagh Old School

Built in 1840, the building was in use up until the 1970s; however, after this time it was derelict for several years.

Unhappy with the situation, a local committee decided to apply for funding and renovate the building. Given its age, special care had to be taken to make sure that all renovations were in line with the historical nature of the building. This included hiring a heritage architect and using traditional lime mortar to plaster the building.

“We have finished it to a very high standard at this stage,” explains committee Chairperson Neville Patterson. “It is in use now as a community hall for the people in the area. It is constantly in use for things like yoga and Pilates, meetings, karate lessons, music lessons, etc. You name it, it takes place here. It’s flat out.”

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The Bredagh Old School was a real community project with multiple committee members donating time and equipment to get the project finished. When they scooped the coveted Community Benefit Project Award last year, they decided to have a party with all the volunteers to celebrate.

“About a month after the award we had a party where we invited anyone that had been using the Bredagh Old School as a community centre, or was a patron or had volunteered their time to the building to come back. We had about 70 people and we had a great night. It’s a great morale boost,” explains Neville.

“We would definitely recommend that community groups like us should have a go and enter the awards. It’s definitely worth your while to compete to see how you get on. If we can do it anyone can do it.”

Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena

This sentiment is echoed by the team behind the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena in Dublin who won the same award back in 2017.

“We really liked how the awards were set up. We even went again last year. They’re definitely becoming more popular,” explains Shane Kelly at Tobin Engineering, the consulting firm behind the build.

Speaking about their 2017 win, Shane believes that the building’s inclusivity is what sealed their victory.

“The reason why it ticked so many boxes with the Community Benefit Project Award is because the whole campus is geared towards high performing athletes but also the general public. Normal everyday people can come in and out and use the facilities there,” he explains.

The Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena is used for various activities from active age clubs to kids’ summer camps and birthday parties to national athletic meets. All these different uses had to be factored into the building’s design which was no easy feat. The great thing about this complex is that it is highly adaptable meaning that it can serve a large cross-section of the public for various activities.

“The key with this building is that it is multi-purpose,” Shane enthuses. “The whole design is highly adaptable. If a new sport started up tomorrow morning they would probably be able to change things around to suit it. Nothing is set in stone in that building.”

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Have your say

If there’s a building in your locality that deserves to win the Community Benefit Project Award then nominate them for free online now. The category will accept nominations and be judged under two areas of investment; civic projects and initiatives in excess of €1m investment and local projects up to €1m investment.

Projects that involve the community reusing, refurbishing, or preserving historic buildings, building new sites or designing public realm schemes will be considered for nomination. Judges will be on the lookout for key indicators such as community use, design and quality of construction, visual impact, level of community involvement, future development potential and how the project has benefited the community so make sure you include these points.

Award winners will be celebrated at a glamorous gala with over 1000 property professionals this November. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate their achievements and network with industry players.