Sustainable living Cork

Things are Looking Up for Cork’s Sustainable Future

Sustainable living Cork

We all know the image. In 1932, amid the Great Recession, eleven construction workers sit with dangling legs high above Manhattan’s skyline, enjoying lunch atop a skyscraper. Staged to promote the construction of the Rockefeller Centre, the photo has since become synonymous with Irish immigrant workers and the development of downtown New York.

Some 90 years later, if recent planning applications are anything to go by, it appears that construction workers will soon be working on tall buildings across our own evolving skyline.

Encouraged by new planning guidelines, in which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government called for councils to “lift overly restrictive maximum heights” and actively pursue tall buildings in city centres, exciting applications have been submitted for new types of developments which boldly re-imagine the look of Cork Docklands.

Cities Re-imagined

Following in the century-old footsteps of cities across the USA and recently those in emerging economies, high-rise buildings are experiencing a resurgence across Europe in places as diverse as Manchester, Rotterdam, Milan and Barcelona.

Back in Cork, in the past six months, planning has been granted for Prism, a 15-story elegant office development inspired by New York’s Flatiron building, directly behind Parnell Place bus station. Across the from the Elysian (currently Cork’s tallest building), Railway Gardens – a 17-story apartment block centred around sustainable transport – has been given the green light. In the Docklands, JCD Group’s application to develop a state-of-the-art apartment scheme with 25 floors awaits a decision from An Board Pleanála. Meanwhile, Tower Holding’s proposal for a landmark 34-story hotel, warehouses and public plaza on Custom House Quay is also pending go-ahead.

Similar changes are happening in Dublin. A landmark ruling in April by the planning authority paved the way for high-rise construction on Tara Street, while Project Waterfront in the North Docklands includes a new 44-story tower.

Building Up Instead of Out

It is incredibly existing to have this scale of transformational development in Ireland within immediate proximity to existing city centres.

Building up instead of out has long been advocated to optimise our urban footprint. As an example, better spatial planning and delivery of high-density can play an important part in reducing traffic congestion and avoiding sprawl. In fact, improving core density is the first and foremost principle championed by City Regions Ireland; an urban voice representing the five cities of Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

Compact development is also supported by national planning policy and endorsed by both Cork City and County Councils in a joint strategy for the future growth of Cork. Under Government’s Project Ireland 2040, a key focus is that 50% of all future urban population growth takes place in existing brownfield locations.

Looking ahead to 2031, Cork Metropolitan Area’s workforce will grow by 65,000 people. To facilitate this employment growth, we will need 27,300 new housing units, investment in our transport network, additional social infrastructure, places to play and spaces to ride a bike.

Quality of Place

In this context, it is welcome that Cork’s proposed tall buildings are all planned right next to public transport hubs to minimise the need for additional car-based commuting or investment in the road network. Equally important is the engagement of world leading tall buildings experts to ensure proper placemaking and appropriate design. The more people that live, work and socialise in an area, the more vibrant a place will be.

The 2019 Human Development Index Ranking by the United Nations places Ireland third globally for quality of life. Marrying our future economic growth and opportunity with delivery of high-density, placemaking, well-designed communities, and integration of sustainable transport is essential to maintain Cork as an attractive place to live. Quality of life is an increasing priority for anyone deciding where to invest. As a city and country, we need to plan for, and continually improve, quality of place; forever keeping an eye to the world and attuned to the evolving preferences of people.

High Density vs. High Rise

We are at a pivotal point in Cork with development at a larger scale than ever seen before. However, high-density does not exclusively mean high-rise. Well-designed and appropriately located tall buildings can become game-charges for Cork and further identify our Docklands and as a vibrant international location. But we must also continue to value and invest in our historic core. Within our current city centre, the goal of high-density could mean many things: A return of vacant units to city centre homes, above the shop living, or construction of six to eight story apartment buildings that blend well with the architectural style of the surrounding area.

The construction activity on Horgan’s Quay, Penrose Quay and Albert Quay provides a sneak peek of what’s to come. Cork’s Docklands will become a focal point for commercial activity. We must ensure that high-quality public places, sustainable and public transport, and integration of tall buildings at street level are incorporated into the City Docklands rejuvenation from the outset. Public realm upgrades such as the €6.5m Albert Quay investment passed by Cork City Council in September and now subject to a legal challenge, must be developed without delay or we may undermine the advancement of our city.

No one wants to retrofit neighbourhoods in the future when the opportunity is there now, to do this right.

A city rising is, indeed, a beautiful thing. Who knows? Maybe the next iconic photo will be of eleven ironworkers eating lunch atop a skyscraper, high above the River Lee.


This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on 26 December 2019 as part of its Cork on the Rise series. 

Our Sustainable Future - Insights from Our Ocean Wealth Summit 2019

Our Sustainable Future – Insights from Our Ocean Wealth Summit 2019

On Monday 10th of June, Cork played host to what was an incredibly exciting and thought-provoking day. The Our Ocean Wealth Summit is Ireland’s flagship event for the marine sector. This year the Ocean Wealth Summit had a focus on small island nations, with the theme ‘Shared Voices from Small Island States’. With representatives from across 30 island nations, global leaders and over 750 delegates, Monday’s Ocean Wealth Summit was a convergence of inspirational leaders from both home and abroad. Speakers relayed with passion their determination, their hope, and their belief in a sustainable future.

When is the last time you read about acid rain?

The keynote address at the Ocean Wealth Summit was delivered by Former US Secretary of State John Kerry.  He left attendees in no doubt about the immediate need for global action and concerted political will to catalyse the pace of global decarbonisation. As he put it: “there will be no ocean wealth without ocean health” and climate action. Very much airing on the side of man’s potential to act, to solve a man-made problem with a man-made solution, Mr. Kerry drew the audience’s attention to previous global environmental issues that were addressed successfully by working together. “When is the last time you have read or talked about acid rain?” he challenged the audience, adding that climate change can be tackled if we decide collectively to collaborate stating “It’s not whether we can do it, but whether we decide to do it.” Adding, “We have no right to rest on the laurels of commitments made at the last meeting, commitments that aren’t being met”, referring to the national targets (pathways) under the Paris Agreement for greenhouse gas emission reductions to 2030, and prior to that the 2020 targets. Mr. Kerry concluded that step change is pivoted on the adoption of sensible energy policies. We have the means, we have the knowledge and capacity, but we need to seize the opportunity to adopt new technologies, to make brave political decisions and in his own words “to get the job done.” He added that the “greatest danger is futility, the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do”, rallying for innovation, insight and investment and encouraging global action and collaboration to meet this challenge.

Island Nations can be the incubators of change

An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney referenced how our history and our people are shaped by events in the oceans. Sadly in 2019 “our world is shadowed by crises, nearly all of them man-made.” Mr Coveney commended multilateralism among the small island nations as a key tool in protecting our oceans’ health; “Acting together, we have a voice.”

In 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) released a special report with a stark planetary health warning to us all, with a powerful call to action stating the world has just 11 short years to curb a climate catastrophe.  The report highlights the imperative that action is needed now, and fast, to cut the risk of extreme heat, droughts, floods and poverty. The IPCC Special Report outlines the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Beyond 1.5°C by even a half degree, we are opening wide the planetary front door to increasing our risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for millions upon millions of people.

The cost of Inaction

Currently Ireland is a laggard, consistently missing national and international carbon emission reduction targets. Our greenhouse gas emissions are nearly three million tonnes outside the pathway identified to meet 2020 targets. The cost of inaction is far off balance with the benefits of action when you consider the financial penalties payable of up to €150 million per annum. We are missing out on opportunities to shift to a clean energy and tech society and the benefits that this could bring to our wider economy, society and environment. The pathway to 2030 is our chance to make this shift and how we approach this will be our talisman of good fortune or missed opportunity. A report from EuroFound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, highlights the positive economic and employment benefits of a green transition for the EU as a whole, highlighting that governments must implement policy measures now to ensure that all of society can benefit from a move to a low carbon future.

The Earth is Our Home

Preceding John Kerry’s address, 17 year old youth activist Alicia O’Sullivan from Skibbereen, West Cork took to the stage at the Ocean Wealth Summit engaging the audience with her determination and leadership. Alicia spoke passionately about the need to refocus “across all institutions, policy, laws and economic structures on the core values of people, culture, home and our environment” winning the praise of both John Kerry and An Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Alicia had the full attention of the all attendees when she summed up young people’s frustration about the global climate inaction amongst leaders, saying “we are scared that we will not have what you had.”

Island Voices: The Ocean Wealth Summit

The Permanent Representative of Palau, Ngedikes Olai Uludong, to the United Nations had encouraging words for her island nation counterparts highlighting the scale and capability of island nations to make the difference, to act as ‘small incubators for change’. Ngedikes proudly talked of the efforts in Palau to conserve marine life and territories with 80% of their marine territory designated as fully protected marine reserve with no fishing or mining permitted. Palau, an archipelago of over 500 islands is smaller than New York City, and has the sixth largest marine  reserve  in the world, larger than the US state of California, a clear statement in recognition of the criticality of the ocean to their nation’s future survival.

The business and innovation potential in sustainability was highlighted through the success story of CuanTec, whose founder and CEO Dr Cait Murray-Green recounted the growth of CuanTec as one of Scotland’s leading companies in the bioeconomy area. CuanTec have developed a circular economy approach to using technology from the marine environment to prevent further ocean pollution and also to reduce food waste.  Dr Murray-Green emphasised the importance of innovation, and the potential for new technologies and processes.

Changing tides

Across the breadth of speakers at the Ocean Wealth Summit, the audience were left in no doubt about the opportunities for change, and the need for a step change in how we interact and counter climate change and environmental degradation to ensure a sustainable future. A future that protects our ocean’s health, and its vast and largely undiscovered and unexplored potential. As eloquently concluded by Mr. John Kerry: “There is no blue economy, there are no fisheries, if we cannot protect our oceans”.

This overview is but a brief snapshot of the summit, the full line up of speakers can be found here.

Seafest and the Ocean Wealth Summit will be back in Cork in 2020 and 2021.

View the Ocean Wealth Summit website here.

You may be interested in the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport draft plan, view here.

Read more about the our 8 main focus areas here.

photo cork city

Cork: The Best Place to do Business

With a proud reputation as a creative, innovative and vibrant city region, Cork continues to go from strength to strength, capturing the interest of those seeking to be part of a city region firmly focused on leading and innovating.

Project Ireland 2040

Project Ireland 2040 recognises Cork as Ireland’s second City region, with Cork set to take 20% of the expected national 1 million population growth. The City and region at large is changing at pace. We have new office spaces under development and in the pipeline, new housing and apartment developments and the ongoing implementation of the Cork City Centre Movement strategy which is proactively seeking to improve traffic movement. We have a quality of life and a quality of environment in Cork City that we would find hard to match elsewhere.

Cork is set to be the fastest growing city in Ireland over the next 20 years with the metropolitan population expected to hit half a million, and over the next three years our city centre will see more than 5,000 extra jobs across a range of sectors.

We Are Cork

Cork is the capital of the South of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s second largest city region and economic engine. It is a thriving and ever-expanding hub of economic, industrial, research and business development activities. Indeed, over the last 30 years, Cork has consistently attracted many of the world’s largest companies and is now home to global market leaders in pharmaceuticals, healthcare, ICT, cybersecurity, biotechnology, professional services and international financial services. It is no coincidence that such major corporations as Dell EMC, Pepsico, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lily, Amazon, and Apple have chosen Cork as their European base to their worldwide operations.

Just as importantly, Cork has also succeeded in thriving from within with the growth of indigenous homegrown businesses such as, Ballymaloe and Musgraves. This entrepreneurial spirit has undoubtedly added to the unique flavour and ‘can do’ attitude of the region.

photo business networking

Cork has the track record

With a population of over half a million, Cork is a strong performing region across a range of indicators. It is a complementary growth region to the overheating Dublin centred growth on the East Coast.

It is widely recognised that based on its natural advantages such as scale, availability of natural resources and critical mass, Cork has the strongest and most immediate possibilities as a growth centre.

Cork has the skilled graduates

It is a dynamic, research orientated University City with a third level student population in excess of 40,000 students ensuring an influx of highly skilled and highly educated graduates to the jobs market each year.

Cork offers world class higher education institutions, with Cork Institute of Technology recognised as a world leader with a first class reputation for fostering a culture of innovation. University College Cork is recognised internationally for its scientific excellence and its world class research teams and as a result is the best funded research universities in Ireland.

Cork has the Research and Development

Cork possesses world renowned research institutes with:

  • Tyndall National Research Institute focusing on photonics, electronics, materials, nanotechnologies and ICT.
  • the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre pioneering the disciplines of gastrointestinal health.
  • Moorepark Dairy and Food Research Centre is one of the world’s leading research centres specialising in pasture based systems of milk production.
  • MaREI, the marine and renewable energy research, development and innovation centre.
  • The NIMBUS Centre for Research in Networked Embedded Systems, based in Cork Institute of Technology, is Ireland’s only research centre devoted to the field of embedded electronic systems and,
  • The Rubicon Centre, Ireland’s premier Business Incubation Centre established to assist the formation and growth of early stage, knowledge intensive businesses.

There is no doubt that the technologies, services and systems developed through the work of these dedicated centres will be pivotal in shaping future progress.

Cork has the infrastructure

Cork has the connections both nationally and internationally ensuring it’s positioning as a key influence in the economic growth and diversity of the island of Ireland. With an international airport, large sheltered deep-water port facility, Cork enjoys direct access to the US and over 50 European destinations. With principal hubs such as London, Boston, Amsterdam and Paris making it strategic and convenient.

Our road and rail connections enable travel between Dublin and Cork in less than two and a half hours, with the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway redevelopment getting the green light most recently, bringing Ireland’s second and third City closer than ever.

Cork has the entrepreneurs and the innovation culture

The entrepreneurial spirit of the Irish people is highlighted time and again as a trait that impresses our global counterparts and Cork has recognised this potential. Cork Innovates was established in 2011 offering guidance to support entrepreneurs on all services available in the region, and is driven to ‘offer entrepreneurs globally and locally the best environment to start, grow and stay their business successfully’.

What’s more Cork has established and growing clusters in ICT, pharma, life-sciences, cyber security, energy, marine, agri-food, and financial services.

Cork has the digital connectivity  

From a digital connectivity perspective, the Metropolitan Cork area boasts vital high capacity Tier 1 Express fibre connectivity. This offers the lowest latency in the EU to the East Coast of the US, connecting Cork with vital digital and financial markets in the US and UK.

Our digital infrastructure enables the Cork area making it ready to attract, accommodate and grow Ireland’s national capacity for next generation digital and financial companies.

Cork has the natural resources

Cork has leapt forward in its approach to harnessing the potential of its abundant natural resources with the potential of natural gas, hydroelectric, onshore wind, biomass, geothermal and solar energy.

In 2018, EirGrid announced Cork as the likely location for a new subsea cable connecting Ireland directly to mainland Europe. This will enable the ability to import and export 700 megawatts (MW) of electricity, the equivalent of supplying power to around 450,000 homes. Energy security is what is needed for the future, and the best route to this is via supply diversification.

Considering the agricultural, food and drinks sector, Cork has naturally rich resources including dairy, beef, fish, shellfish, artisan foods, brewing and distilling. Cork is home to the gourmet capital of Kinsale, the English market, Ballymaloe, Ireland’s only seafood development centre, Jameson distillery, Musgraves and Dairygold, to name but a few.

Cork has the lifestyle

It is not by chance that Cork is the second most visited domestic tourism destination in Ireland after Dublin, consistently ranking within Ireland’s top three international tourism destinations. Cork has a rich cultural heritage and is home to two of the top ten most visited tourism attractions in Ireland, Fota Wildlife Park and Blarney Castle, as well as being the gateway to the Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Cork offers an attractive quality of life

The Cork City region is compact and free from urban sprawl with mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches and the spectacular Atlantic coastline just a short drive from the city.

photo city street bicycles

Come and see for yourself

And so, the doors are open and the scene is set.

We invite you to learn more about the region of Cork and what it can offer to you and to the future growth of your business.

We look forward to meeting you.