Belfast Opera House, Air Conditioning

We completed the design, installation, testing and commissioning of a Toshiba Air Conditioning Systems across multiple areas at the Grand Opera House in Belfast; Northern Ireland’s most iconic theatre. It is a historic Grade A listed building designed by the most prolific theatre architect of the period, Frank Matcham, and opened in 1895.

Our works formed part of the £12.2 million restoration and development of the Grand Opera House and spanned approximately six months. The restoration project was supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Department for Communities, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation. We used a mix of Toshiba Split and VRF Air Conditioning Systems throughout this project. The VRF Systems provide best in class efficiencies utilising high efficiency DC inverter driven twin rotary compressors.

The project was unusual as it was made up of two separate sites. The focus of the work was the extensive restoration of the 1895 listed building, and the reimagination of the 2006 extension to make it more sympathetic to the Matcham building.

With 60 specialist subcontractors engaged on the project, a key consideration was consultation and co-ordination of safety matters, as well as planning and programme management. We had to be extremely careful working within the roof spaces of the building, particularly around brazing. In particularly fragile areas we opted to use a press fit system for our joints rather than brazing to eliminate any fire safety risks. Due to the vertical nature of the building our pipework routes were very challenging, sometimes passing through multiple service cupboards and pathways. We overcame problems trying aligning pipework alongside existing services through good communication with the main project team and the expertise of our on-site team.

Works were paused at the height of the pandemic but quickly got back underway once restrictions eased. The Grand Opera House was last restored 40 years ago, and we are delighted that this vital project for the Belfast arts scene has been completed for its full reopening in line with the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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