Retrofitting of public buildings could cost up to €9bn and take 30 years, Ryan says

Government has approved an action plan for the public service that will see it achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050

Retrofitting all the public buildings in the State to a high energy efficiency could cost as much as €9 billion and take as long as 30 years, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan on Tuesday published the Public Sector Climate Action Mandate 2023, which sets out a plan for net zero carbon emissions in that sector by 2050, and for it to play a role in achieving the target of reducing Ireland’s emissions by 51 per cent by 2030.

The plan proposes retrofitting public buildings, increasing their energy efficiency, phasing out car parking spaces, encouraging active travel and ending the use of disposable cups, cutlery and tableware.

Mr Ryan and Minister of State Ossian Smyth announced details of the scheme at Tom Johnson House in Beggars Bush, a public building from the 1970s which has been renovated to A2 energy standard (from a G rating) at a cost of €36 million and will accommodate 500 employees.


It becomes only the second of the 238 office buildings owned or occupied by Government departments and agencies with such a rating.

Mr Smyth said Tom Johnson House, which is to be the headquarters of the National Cyber Security Centre, would provide parking spaces for only 10 per cent of employees. “This is absolutely normal in the private sector. If you were hired for a position in the private sector in the city centre, you would not expect a parking space.”

Both Ministers said the plan was to gradually reduce the number of parking spaces in each building. The extent of the reduction would depend on the sufficiency of the public transport in the area. There would also be a number of spaces reserved for employees with mobility issues or those working unsocial hours.

“Retrofitting all our public buildings is going to cost up to €9 billion,” said Mr Ryan. “It is going to take two or three decades, but we need to do every building. We need to make sure the public service is net zero by 2050.”

Local authorities, schools and semi-State companies are not subject to the mandate but Mr Ryan told reporters that they would be subject to separate targets under climate change legislation, with a view to achieving a similar outcome.

Regarding Dublin Port, Mr Ryan said he would be meeting the board next month and expected the port company to set out how it was planning to help reduce transport emissions by half in Dublin.

“Transport is our hardest sector to lower emissions [in]. Within Dublin, the most difficult area is haulage and it’s not just about emissions. The M50 is full. The exit out of the port can only go through the Port Tunnel and on to the M50,” he said.

The only other building owned or leased by the Office of Public Works with an A rating is the Revenue Warehouse in Limerick, which scores an A2. Just 38 of the 238 buildings have a B rating and, of those, only two have a B1 rating – the Ionad an Bhlascaoid interpretative centre in Co Kerry, and the Central Remedial Clinic offices in Swords, Co Dublin.

In contrast, 14 offices and buildings have energy ratings of E or less. Of those, six have an energy rating of G. They are: Con Colbert House East and Con Colbert House West in Dublin; John’s Road Revenue office in Dublin; Balbriggan Passport Office; Goldsmith House on Pearse Street, Dublin; and the head office for Vehicle Registration Tax in Shannon, Co Clare.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times