Over 100 planners, architects, local authorities, policy makers and home builders gathered in Dublin on 26th October to look at the future of home building in Ireland.
Pat Barry CEO at the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) opened the conference highlighting the need to build more homes without creating another bigger crisis down the road: “The risk is to throw up the wrong type of houses in the wrong places with the wrong skills and the wrong materials”. Mr Barry added: “It is important that we all work to a quality standard for new housing development. Beyond energy efficiency, we need to look at a wider range of issues that impact the quality and sustainability of our communities. The IGBC has developed the Home Performance Index to future-proof our homes and cities, thus protecting buyers, investors and the environment”.
Jerry O’Sullivan Deputy CEO at ESB subsequently said that the steps necessary to achieve a low carbon future will bring greater comfort, cost and convenience to consumers, as well as much better air quality. However, Mr O’Sullivan expressed his concerns that Ireland is still adding to its carbon inventory daily by installing new thermal heating systems: “It will be much less costly not to lock carbon in in the first place, than to try to remove it later on”.
British architect Bill Dunster talked about building climate neutral communities through some of his practice most ground-breaking projects – e.g. Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED), Zero Bills Home and ZEDpods. In particular, he highlighted the need not only to reduce energy demand but the environmental impact of building materials.
Copenhagen-based architect Mick Forde Bradley of ZESO closed the first session with a presentation on the Danish experience on density and universal design. As the size of the average Irish household shrinks and as our population ages, it is clear that we do not only need more housing, but we need housing for the future. Through Danish examples, Mr Bradley highlighted the need to talk about high quality of life in much denser developments and to ensure our housing stock can be adapted to an ageing population.
Their presentations were followed by two Irish case studies: Cherrywood and Silken Part. The vision for Cherrywood is to create sustainable vibrant community of 25,000 people in South County Dublin. Located in City West, Silken Park by Durkan Residential was the first private development to achieve the Home Performance Index certification.
Energy Efficient Mortgages
The Irish Green Building Council as part of the World GBC is currently working on developing energy efficient mortgages. As part of that process, the IGBC launched 4 report on that day. The reports review the state of play in relation to energy efficiency, valuation, finance and probability of default in the context of the EU’s building stock. These documents as well as a short summary of the key recommendations to date are available here.
Quality, Skills and Compliance
Eoin Leonard of i3pt Certification closed the day with a presentation on quality, skills and compliance. Mr Leonard stressed that “increasing the quantity of new homes should not be achieved at the expense of their quality”. He added that skills shortage is real and present and that construction employment needs to increase significantly by 2020. However, barriers to entry (e.g. CS cards) should be raised to create sophisticated demand for higher risk trades.