• 03 May 2020

RIAI publishes Old House New Home – a free online guide on how to understand, reimagine and conserve an older home or protected structure

To support the owners of older residences, including historic houses and protected structures, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), with funding from the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht and Creative Ireland, has published a free online guide to conservation and renovation, Old House New Home.

The Minister for Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, TD, welcomed the RIAI publication of Old House New Home. Supported by her Department and by Creative Ireland, this is as an innovative e-publication, offering free guidance and advice on repairing and reusing historic buildings. It explains how to understand your home, conserve period features and reimagine it for contemporary living, while maintaining the character and craftsmanship that come with historic properties. The guide includes a wealth of case study projects representing different sizes, conditions, characteristics and locations – from homes in urban and suburban settings to the adaptation of farmhouse complex, their yards and outbuildings.

It also includes video footage telling the remarkable stories of five different built heritage scenarios– two urban residences above shops, a Cow House within a farmyard, a subdivided Georgian Town House and an Officers’ Mess that was the focus of a former military complex. These projects are of different scales, settings and complexities, but all have been reimagined for 21st century living, whilst retaining their unique architectural character. The success of many of these case studies is not just in the design of new works but also in the repair and conservation of historic fabric and retention of character.

These concepts,’ the Minister said,  ‘of high quality design, reuse and good repair are of paramount importance to urban and rural regeneration alike, but of particular relevance to informing how to reimagine the historic building stock that lies vacant at the heart of our towns and villages. As well as making distinctive homes’, the Minister continued ‘the reuse and repair of existing buildings is an important response to climate change and urban revitalisation. Consideration of reuse and reimagining of existing building stock, their embodied energy and craftsmanship is a carbon neutral option, which is part of sustainable development.”

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through various polices and strategies on architecture and the historic built environment seeks to promote awareness and understanding of heritage-led regeneration with well-considered design as a benefit to the environment and to society as a whole.  Old House New Home – supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Creative Ireland Programme, which supports the creative potential of people, organisations and government departments working together, sharing expertise, to catalyse ideas and action – hopes to encourage more people to consider the repair and reuse of vacant or under-utilised buildings in our urban neighbourhoods and towns and in rural settings’..

Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO added: “Old House New Home is an important new online resource for the owners of existing properties, including protected structures. It provides best-practice architectural advice and beautifully illustrated case studies to support and inspire homeowners in reimagining these buildings. The adaptation of derelict or vacated buildings offer distinct and unique opportunities but can be daunting, where their original qualities are masked by poor condition or previous alterations. Conserving or adapting an existing building is a complex process that requires architectural advice from the outset. A Registered Architect has the necessary skill-set to unlock the potential of your project. With protected structures, architects with expertise in conservation can provide the advice and guidance needed. These buildings provide exciting opportunities and with the right advice and guidance can provide beautiful homes for generations to come.”

Old House New HomeOnline Publication is available for free download on the RIAI website.

Old House New Home includes a wealth of case study projects by RIAI Registered Architects, from beautifully restored homes in urban and suburban settings, including examples of ‘living above the shop’, to the adaptation of farmhouses, outbuildings, schools and military buildings. Also featured is the winner of RTE’s Home of the Year, the conversion of a former carriage house and stable to a contemporary residence by MVK Architects. 

Case Study Highlights

Conversion of a former carriage house and stable to a residence in Dublin by MVK Architects: The successful adaptation of these outbuildings arises from good conservation repair, small-scale interventions, and the utilisation of original features such as the large-scale openings to light new living spaces. Winner of RTE’s House of the Year.

Renovation, adaptation and extension of a 1890s National School in Killygarry, Cavan by Craftstudio Architecture: The former school house was due to be demolished but now accommodates living spaces for a young family, with a striking new extension to the rear.

Repair and extension of a Dairy Farm in Co. Wicklow by Studio Red Architects: A 400-year-old disused farm cottage was carefully repaired and sensitively extended to provide a modern family home on a busy dairy farm.

Garden room extension to a Victorian house in Dublin by David Flynn Architects: This fine Victorian house had gone through many changes since being built in the 1870s. This elegant project opens up the back of the house to the garden without creating internal rooms beyond.

Reimagining two Apartments within a 1840s House on Pearse Street, Dublin by Horan Rainsford Architects:  This ‘living above the shop’ design comprises of the repurposing of an historic city building for residential use with an award-winning coffee shop at street level. It demonstrates the possibilities for our cities and towns.

Film: Old House New Home What the Buildings Told us
Five of the case studies in Old House New Home also feature in a short film – Old House New Home - What the Buildings Told us – made by architectural photographer and filmmaker Ros Kavanagh with support from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Creative Ireland and the RIAI. The film tells the remarkable stories of five different built heritage scenarios – two urban residences above shops, a Cow House within a farmyard, a subdivided Georgian town house and an Officers’ Mess in a former military complex. The projects are of different scales, settings and complexities, but all have been reimagined by their Registered Architects and owners for 21st century living, whilst retaining their unique architectural character.

Film: 18 Ormond Quay – Restoration of a Dublin Street Building
This film focuses on the benefits to the wider community and public of conserving and enhancing historic structures. It tells the story of how Dublin Civic Trust restored its 18th century building by undertaking an rigorous investigation of its surviving significance and by revealing its cultural significance from beneath layers of time. The film includes before, during and after footage and interviews with craftsmen and tradesmen at work, highlighting the skill with which they work and the importance of having appropriately-qualified tradespeople to carry out such work and the importance of keeping these traditions alive. This project demonstrates the potential of reuse for every historic town centre that would provide a significant and sustainable outcome for its community.

The intention is that these complimentary videos and publication may be widely shared as a public resource through the RIAI’s and the Department’s websites and their respective events programme, as well as those of other key stakeholders i.e. Irish Architectural Foundation, The Heritage Council, ICOMOS, Dublin Civic Trust, SPAB, Irish Landmark Trust and The Buildings Lime Forum.


For further information, please contact:
Dr. Sandra O’Connell, RIAI Director of Communications. RIAI PR Consultants, Fiona O’Connor and Anna Kilpatrick.

About the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht oversees the protection and presentation of Ireland’s heritage and cultural assets. Our goals are to promote and protect Ireland’s heritage and culture, to advance the use of the Irish language, and to support the sustainable development of the islands. @DeptAHG

About Creative Ireland
Creative Ireland is a five-year Programme which connects people, creativity and wellbeing.

We are an all-of-government culture and wellbeing programme that inspires and transforms people, places and communities through creativity. We are committed to the vision that every person in Ireland should have the opportunity to realise their full creative potential. @creativeirl

About the RIAI 
The RIAI is the registration body for architects in Ireland that work to drive excellence in built environment for the benefit of everyone in society. The ambitious Town and Village Toolkit along with initiatives by the Department are involving more people in the recognition and preservation of early urban buildings in our historic cities and towns; and creating innovative schemes for contemporary living. Follow us on Twitter @RIAIonline