Balanced Solutions for a Better World: The Sustainable Aims of the E3 Foundry

by Ruaidhrí Saulnier

The Martin Naughton E3 Learning Foundry is about to become Trinity’s newest building. The project involves the schools of engineering, natural sciences, and computer science and statistics. But what is it, and how will this enhance Trinity College going into the future?

What is E3?

E3 stands for Engineering, Environment and Emerging technologies. Per trinity’s website, its mission is to develop the knowledge, technologies and aptitudes to design and shape the planet’s natural resources through its unique integration of engineering, natural and computer sciences. It has a vision to strengthen the interdependence between technological innovation and our natural capital stocks through world-leading research, education, and entrepreneurship. The central theme of E3 is ‘balanced solutions for a better world.’

The E3 Vision:

The E3 vision enables the creation of a purpose-built, multidisciplinary foundry for the delivery of innovations in research and teaching within the involved schools. It enables a future-proofed education for new graduates who will enable society to live on this planet in a way that is sustainable and equitable. 

 E3 will position Ireland at the forefront of fields of research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, in line with the government’s plans to have Ireland become a European leader in STEM education by 2026. The building will allow for the education of new engineers and scientists for employment in existing and new technology sectors and will equip them with the skills and attributes to lead in the creation of new businesses.

E3 Education:

“The new building will enable Trinity to increase the number of students studying stem subjects and hire excellent academics in emerging disciplines” – Dr Martin Naughton

As part of the E3 plan, a new STEM curriculum will be introduced, emphasising enterprise, creativity, teamwork and critical thinking. The building is set to provide 1,800 new STEM places for students, addressing skills shortages in the economy. This is a 50% increase in STEM places over ten years. Of these places, 1,152 are for undergraduate students, a 64% increase, and 648 are for postgraduate students, a 36% increase. The total number of students across the three schools involved will exceed 4,800. An expansion of this size without providing additional, suitable accommodation has sparked doubt about the sustainability of the project. 


As well as its research into new sustainable technologies, the building itself is slated to attain both WELL Building standards and BREEAM Excellent certifications. These will enhance the relationship between the building and the health of its occupants. It is a near zero-energy building (NZEB) and will feature a thermally active building system, using the structure’s concrete mass to provide radiant heating and cooling. Solar panels, ‘green’ walls, recycled water and fresh airflow will also help in this regard.  It aims to set new standards for sustainable design in Higher Education in Ireland. 

What are these certifications?  The BREEAM Excellent certification is the second-best result obtainable, although if it were an exam, it would be a 1:1, with a score greater than 70%. The rating reflects the performance achieved by a project and stakeholders as measured against the BREEAM standard and benchmarks. This allows for comparison between projects, providing assurances on quality and value. The criteria used for this certification are Management, Water, Energy, Transport, Health & Wellbeing, Resources, Resilience, Land Use & Ecology, Pollution, Materials, Waste and Innovation.

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