Might offsite construction be key to tackling Ireland's housing crisis?
Ireland is currently suffering from a critical shortage of residential accommodation, and to address this deficiency, we need innovative, rapid and cost-effective ways to build new homes. To even begin to reach our common objective of providing homes for all, and to move towards a degree of market stability, a partial shift from our traditional and typical methods of home construction will be required. Offsite construction offers innovative, pioneering, high-quality solutions to this dilemma. Such solutions are not only currently manifestly optimal, but they can also provide a longer-term and sustainable house-building option for the future. And critically, offsite construction delivers a swift build, which is exactly what the market needs today to address the shortages in both private stock and social housing, not to mention the lack of emergency accommodation for homeless families.
"An offsite construction home is one that is manufactured in a quality-controlled factory environment, to impeccable standards, and then delivered to site for assembly by installation specialists, rather than being built brick-by-brick in the traditional way."
Offsite suppliers will ensure these homes are built in accordance with best practice, and fully compliant with current building regulations and standards. Significantly, offsite construction provides for highly energy efficient homes.
The continued and growing interest in offsite manufacturing outside Ireland can be attributed to its speed, sustainability and capacity to save costs compared to traditional building methods. Using offsite manufacturing, building can take place while the development site is being prepared. This saves a huge amount of time as traditional building can only begin after a site has been organised and adequately prepared. Furthermore, offsite manufacturing avoids building delays routinely triggered by poor weather or, in some cases, labour shortages due to the ongoing lack of skilled construction workers available, not just in Ireland but right across Europe. In short, using offsite construction will shave months off time spent on-site when compared with traditional building methods, and will provide a consistent robustness in terms of productivity, punctuality and reliability.
"Considering the current demand for residential, educational and healthcare buildings across the country, we need the Irish Government to follow the example set by the UK Government and to prioritise offsite construction as not only an immediately viable option, but a cost-effective one."
Precision engineered building systems can be used to deliver projects more economically when every aspect of the build is considered from quality, health and safety to construction programme efficiencies. To be able to take full advantage of offsite construction, the industry must quickly upskill.
"These Precision Engineering Building Systems (PEBS) can only be delivered by experienced professionals using the top tier of innovation and capabilities."
Technology must be used throughout, and strategic planning and precision design is key to making offsite construction work. With the prevalence of BIM, digitised information systems have been designed to enable a shared data environment, permitting live updates and producing relevant information. This helps all building and construction projects, but particularly those new homes built using offsite manufacturing. This is driven by the understanding that these new technologies - after a transitional development - will help create a more holistic approach to the construction sector.
New building system and building product development, incorporating cutting-edge technology, are also key to the development of the offsite sector, helping to bridge the gap between site and office activity, and making house-building more efficient for everyone in the supply chain. This will further improve the growth of offsite construction and help confirm it as a practical method of housing delivery which can make a significant impression on the property crisis in Ireland.