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Primark Belfast | Bennett (Construction) Ltd : Fit Out or Refurbishment over €30m Finalist

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Category: Fit Out or Refurbishment Over €30m
Project: Primark Belfast
Contractor: Bennett (Construction) Ltd
Client: Primark
Engineer: DBFL- Structural Engineers/ BL- Conservation Engineers
Architect: JCA Architects – Executive Architect / HBD – Conservation Architect

JCA Architects were executive architects on this flagship store for Primark, located at the Bank Buildings in Belfast. The project involved the refurbishment and restoration of this stunning listed building which had been partially destroyed by fire in 2018. The store has now merged with the existing Castle Street shop to create a new flagship retail unit, which is 76 percent bigger in size compared to the original site. The store features 88,200 sq ft of retail space, including a new Disney experience.


The Bank Buildings was designed by W.H.Lynn and built between 1895 and 1900 and is a seven storey grade B1 listed retail building located in the heart of what is now the Belfast City Centre Conservation Area. Owned by retail giants Primark since 1979, it stands on the site of an older bank building after which it was named. In 2018 the building was devastated by a fire which left only the facade still standing. Due to the level of destruction, the ensuing work consisted of a conservation-led redevelopment and restoration.

Led by Main Contractors, Bennett, this complex project included the removal and reinstatement of upper floor structures from Bank Street, Royal Avenue and Castle Street façades. A wall built in the 1970’s was replaced with one that has ‘more appropriate brickwork’.

The reconstruction work was not without implications for the commercial viability of the area as the area immediately around the building had to be cordoned off with public safety a priority. The Dept. for Communities’ Historic Environment Division worked closely with Planning Service and Belfast City Council to move the scheme through the process, knowing that the restrictions placed on the traders located close to the Bank Buildings during the build were economically difficult.


Conservation Architects, Hall Black Douglas were appointed to work with the wider professional team to ascertain if the remaining structure could be stabilised and restored.

Working with Byrne Looby, Conservation Structural Engineers, the walls were stabilised using ballasted shipping containers. Every stone was numbered in advance of the removal of the upper two storeys. The conservation–led strategy was followed by public consultation for the statutory processes of securing Listed Building Consent to ensure that any changes would be appropriate and sympathetic to the building’s character.

Bennett established work packages covering all the disciplines needed for the rebuild – stone, roofing, leadwork, timber windows etc. The stone and marble on the new facade was sourced from quarries in Finland, Scotland and Portugal, the same quarries from where original materials were sourced in the 18th century. Over 20 stonemasons from all over Ireland were brought in by Creggstone, the specialist contractor, due to the scale of the rebuild.

A team of copper and lead craftspeople worked for over a year to install mouldings and carvings on the roofs, walls and ledges to restore original details to the building.

An original ornamental window fitting, maintained throughout the restoration is now displayed permanently as a symbolic memory of the original building.

DBFL were appointed by Primark to provide structural and civil engineering services on the re-development of the existing Primark store in Belfast City Centre.

DBFL were responsible for the complete refurbishment of the existing store in a century-old protected structure, including the provision of new escalators, lifts, roof mounted plant and infilling of existing escalator openings.

Additionally, DBFL were responsible for the demolition of the adjoining 6-storey office building and construction of a new 5-storey retail/office building linked to the existing Primark store, construction of new goods lifts, stockrooms and new sub-station.


There were many technical challenges to overcome in the design and build of the new structure. The design and detailing of the new internal 6 storey structural steel frame, concrete floors and reinforced concrete stability cores was then connected to the historic façade to provide permanent support to the outer walls.

The underground culverted Farset River, which flows beneath the building was rerouted , to facilitate the construction of a basement plant space, and piled foundations to support the new structural frame

The façade retention system and design of temporary works structures to support the damaged masonry during the significant repair and replacement works by the specialist stonework contractor.