University Hospital Limerick

Rapid response to create beds for Covid-19 patients

A new 60-bed ward block at University Hospital Limerick was built at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic despite both the UK and Ireland being in lockdown.

University Hospital Limerick serves a population of 400,000 people in Ireland and provides the only emergency department for the area. The Health Service Executive had been planning to upgrade and replace old ward blocks that were originally constructed in 1955 and to expand the number of beds at the hospital, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

The need to increase capacity at the hospital became even more urgent as the existing facilities were not suitable for the volume of patients that were expected nor for minimising the risk of spreading the virus.

Architects O’Briain Beary designed the new block using a conventionally built ground floor plant room as the base. A rapid build, modularised steel frame system (SFS) was then erected above the plant room to form a three-storey block, with three inpatient wards of 20 ensuite rooms which would help staff to isolate patients and improve infection control capabilities.

The main contractor, Western Building, had already started work on the design and build contract to construct the new block on waste land at the hospital site. Hospital buildings require many services to be installed so careful consideration was given to co-ordinate the requirements within the SFS.

Once the steel frame was erected and cement board installed, the modular design specified an efficient, certified External Wall Insulation (EWI) system that met all stringent safety standards.

webertherm XM was identified as one of the only systems available that fulfilled the requirements. EWI systems have huge thermal benefits for any building by conserving energy, minimising heat loss and reducing CO₂ emissions. In addition to this having a fully certified non-combustible solution offers great peace of mind, as well as a fast-track way to provide an attractive and durable façade.

However, as the UK and Ireland were in lockdown, Weber’s offices and manufacturing facilities were shut down. Shane Kehoe, Weber’s sales manager for Ireland, was contacted by the Health Service Executive who confirmed that the project was considered essential work and as such, operations to supply materials could continue.

“The problem was that one of our raw material suppliers was operating with a skeleton staff and had reduced their service making it difficult to deliver materials to site,” explains Shane. “After meetings at board level between contractors and raw material suppliers, we were able to put in place a production schedule to meet the fast-track timetable for this urgent project. It was a real team effort, and we were really happy to play our part in helping during the Covid crisis.”

Although the works were undertaken outside, social distancing was still required to keep the workforce safe. Clarke ECO Wall Ltd, a render and EWI specialist, was enlisted to install the EWI system. Michael Clarke, managing director of Clarke ECO Wall Ltd, said: “One of the biggest challenges was to be able to accommodate our team of 16 applicators locally within the safety rules we were under. While one of the advantages of working during the pandemic was that we had access to plenty of applicators as most other projects had to be paused.”

The EWI system for the 1300sqm project, was supplied through Murdoch Builders Merchants. The system included 160mm webertherm MFD mineral fibre insulation board to achieve a U-value of 0.14 W/m²K, followed by weberend LAC rapid, and then webersil TF, a highly weather resistance silicone decorative finish in Chalk.

Weber’s team made weekly site visits to support the applicators to ensure the system was installed in line with Weber’s recommended best practice. The project was completed in just 16 weeks with the first ward opening in November 2020 to enable Limerick Hospital to provide critical services to the surrounding community during the pandemic.

Click Compare to help you choose the right product for your project, if you need further assistance please email