The house built into the ground in Co Limerick

Ballyadam Pallasgreen, Co Limerick Selling Price: €495,000 Broker: GVM Limerick (061) 413 522

At first glance, Kevin Ryan’s home at Ballyadam in Pallasgreen in Co Limerick looks like a piece of classic 1930s cruise ship and marine architecture, somehow stranded inland after a mysterious receding seas. A cylindrical heart at the center of the building rises like a Martello tower over three floors with wings branching off on either side.

But this 2,780-square-foot residence isn’t close to either the sea or the estuary that meets the city of Limerick 25km northwest.

The Ryans are landlubbers and have farmed Pallasgreen for two centuries, so Kevin’s architectural inspiration for his home comes from the local area and the countryside.

The house is indeed designed to reflect a traditional monastic round tower and in particular a distinctive round stone silo which is part of the local peasant architecture and is situated close to the hill on which the house was built.

The silo is divided and built into a slope. Food was brought in and dumped in until the contents were flush with the floor.

“Then they brought in an animal that ran around in circles to hold it down. I’m now looking at this silo from my office at the top of the round tower in the middle of the house,” says Kevin.

He applied for planning permission in 2006 and the house was completed in 2008. The eclectic journey of his current career path is reflected in the design and construction features of this most unusual home.

Kevin began his undergraduate years at art school before studying interior design and then, still unsure of where to go, progressing to civil engineering. After the 2008 crash, he went back to college and became a product designer. He divides his working hours between design and production.

When it came to designing and building his own home he had no fears or inhibitions and has pushed the boundaries in a variety of ways to create an A3 building that includes everything from a cantilevered concrete staircase to the central circular tower.

Like the silo that inspired it, the house is “erdbermend,” meaning it’s built into the ground. From one side it appears to be a one and a half story house, from the other a three story building.

“If you approach it from the front, it is 6 m high and from the other side it is 9 m high. The earth serves as insulation and heat rises through the heart of the house,” explains Kevin. The tower structure acts as a funnel for the heat that travels up the stairwell from the basement to the top office.


A split level reception room opening onto a staircase and leading to a games room

In addition to paying homage to the round tower, Kevin wanted to make the most of the elevated location. It has 360 degree views that include the Galtees to the south, the Silvermines to the north and the Clare Hills to the west.

“The house faces south and the floor plan follows the path of the sun. You get a lot of solar gain as the house faces directly south and the rooms are named for sun exposure.

“The kitchen, my favorite room, is to the east where the sun rises and gets sun for most of the day. The rest of the rooms face south, south-east and south-west, and of the 32 windows in the house, only two face north,” he says.


The entrance to the tower

Among the many quirky design features is the office at the top of the tower section, accessed via an external steel spiral staircase. This feature was added when the home was built, well before Covid-19 and the requirement to work from home.

As an experienced home worker, Kevin firmly believes in the physical separation of work and living space. “In the morning I go out the back door and climb 17 steps to my office. It’s like getting in the car and driving to work. At night it’s like throwing away the tools and going home, even though you’re walking back into the same building. Technically, it is a three-storey ICF concrete building with reinforced concrete retaining walls on a slab foundation.

Kevin is a big fan of load-bearing concrete, which made insulating the house a lot easier. “You don’t have to air these concrete rooms, and what I wanted was a concrete box that could absorb all that heat from the sun.


The cantilevered staircase and the entrance hall

“Cast concrete also means that features like the cantilevered staircase can be easily supported by the main structure, and it allowed me to build into the earth on the lower levels and take advantage of the soil’s cooling and warming properties,” he says.

The original heating system was an air to water heating system which was refurbished in 2020 with a new heat pump and the whole system upgraded with some of the latest technological developments.

The windows are Danish Carlson, solid pitch pine, double glazed and argon filled.

Copper gutters are concealed and flow into aluminum funnels and downspouts.

The hipped roof is made from reclaimed Killaloe slate and the flat roofs are treated with a Bauder cold roofing system. The lower part of the front walls are faced with limestone and local stone is used to define the forecourt.


The kitchen and dining area

The entrance is on the lower level of the tower and a concrete staircase leads to the first floor and to the light filled kitchen and dining areas with great views. There are five bedrooms – the master has an ensuite bathroom while two bedrooms share a bathroom with Jack and Jill.

The office in the tower could be used as a bedroom and there would be room for an internal staircase.

A bedroom and sunroom were added in 2014.

The kitchen, the conservatory and the passageways are equipped with blue limestone tiles in “Jura Grey” and in the bathrooms with travertine floor tiles in “Café Mocha”.

The bedrooms have oak floors throughout with solid walnut flooring in the office.


A reception room on 2 levels leading to a games room

Other features include solid oak architraves, oak door frames and Shaker door panels. The kitchen worktops are in Angola Black Granite and fitted with an integrated fridge/freezer, double oven and induction hob with stainless steel extractor.

There is a wood-burning fireplace in the living area to support the heating. The house also has a central vacuum cleaning system.

His home sits on a 1.5 acre lot and is accessed via a sweeping driveway. It has been landscaped to include lawns and mature shrubs as well as stands of mature and newly planted trees.

There is an external storage shed and pump house whilst a raised peat bed with septic tank forms the sewage system.

House in Ballyadam, Pallasgreen in Co Limerick is for sale for €495,000 via GVM Limerick. The house built into the ground in Co Limerick

Fry Electronics Team

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