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Brett Martin Roofing for Euro Rugby Champs

Corrugated Polycarbonate Rooflights, Thomand Park Limerick

Stadia architects AFL have used rooflights from Brett Martin Daylight Systems on a multitude of soccer venues, ranging from Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge to Anfield and Goodison Park. But it was a rugby venue that threw up a distinct challenge.

Thomond Park in Ireland is home to Shannon and UK Bohemian RFCs as well as Munster Rugby which retained an intimidating 12-year unbeaten run in the Heineken Cup between 1995 and 2007. It was also at Thomond Park that Munster celebrated their legendary 12-0 victory over the All Blacks in 1978.

So when AFL Architects with Murray O’Laoire Architects were commissioned by the Munster branch of the IRFU to redevelop the ground, they not only had to bear this history and tradition in mind but also its location on the brow of a hill in Limerick City on the banks of the River Shannon.

The renewed 26,000-capacity stadium therefore had to be an iconic landmark that could also handle the wind loading element of its location. Step up 2,000m² of Marlon CS Longlife, profiled polycarbonate rooflight sheet from Brett Martin Daylight Systems.

The Marlon CS Longlife profiled sheets were performance-specified by AFL Architects to form a peaked cap effect to the front edge of an area of metal profiled sheets, with the join emphasised by the steel lattice king truss spanning 146 metres over two new 7,500-seat stands. The Marlon CS sheets were fitted to a non-fragile specification on site by Colum Breen.

Available in clear or in a range of tint options to provide differing levels of solar control, AFL specified transparent Marlon sheets for Thomond due to the high levels of light transmission provided by the material which at almost 90% not only provides a light, bright environment for the spectators below but also provides the necessary light to aid rapid pitch recovery after matches.

Co-extruded Longlife protection on the outer surface of the sheet significantly reduces the effects of UV weathering on the sheet, protecting it from discoloration and degradation to maintain the sheet’s mechanical properties.

Of all glazing materials, polycarbonate exhibits the greatest resistance to impact over a temperature range of -20° to +60°C and is up to 200 times more resistant to impact than glass.

John Roberts, director with AFL Architects, said: “We've used Brett Martin rooflights on most of our stadia for their light transmission qualities which are essential to keep the pitches looking good as well as for their ability to minimise the transition from light to shaded areas which can be problematic for TV cameras. We didn’t have to look at any other system.”

Seamus Hanrahan, associate director with Murray O’Laoire Architects said: “The materials used at Thomond Park were selected for their self-finished qualities and natural pigment. The key materials used vary from solid to translucent and transparent. The transparent polycarbonate roofing material emphasises the visual lightness of the steel roof structure. This material also changes in appearance with different natural and artificial lighting conditions which adds to the overall atmosphere.”

The €26 million redevelopment has retained the standing terraces on all four sides that were instrumental to Thomond Park’s atmosphere and tradition but also added two stands of seating which incorporate executive boxes and lounges and cutouts for wheelchair users.

“The roof was a major element of the building form. It is certainly one of the stadiums we have worked on that doesn’t nestle or hide behind other buildings and its position on the brow of a hill means it is certainly a landmark in Limerick,” added John Roberts.

The 18-month build had to facilitate partial occupation for several Heineken Cup fixtures and the massive roof truss had to be lifted prior to one of these.

“This was the most memorable moment. It was a very significant event because all of a sudden everyone could see the intent. The sweeping arches of the two new stands have already become the image that all rugby fans associate with this famous ground,” he added.

Seamus Hanrahan added: “Thomond Park is now a fitting theatre for the many great occasions yet to come. The new home of Munster Rugby befits their status as the best supported and leading rugby club in Europe. The redeveloped Thomond Park can be as intimidating, intense and overwhelming as the more modest venue that it replaced.”