Giant’s Causeway is a coastal area where about 40,000 basalt columns sprung up from the earth due to an ancient volcanic eruption. The remarkable collection of hexagonal rocks has been named the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The site is one of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist spots, so Heneghan Peng sought to create a visitor center that was informational, accessible, and respectful of the surrounding environment. The 1,800-square-meter facility consists of two levels, and its layout blocks the parking lot from most scenic views. The main building is made from the same quarried basalt material found nearby to seamlessly intertwine the building with its surroundings.
The visitor center’s BREEAM Excellent Rating (a British environmental assessment system similar to LEED) is due mainly to its strategically deployed systems. A geothermal heating system is installed throughout the parking lot, while a meter of earth pipes next to the main building helps to cool the center. The center’s recycled concrete walls also insulate the building, while rainwater recovery and a green roof make the best use of Ireland’s heavy rainfall.