The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney, has hosted a construction sector stakeholder event focused on identifying ways to drive innovation and boost productivity in residential construction, including through the adoption of modern methods of construction MMC under Housing for All.
The event is part of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment-led cross-departmental and cross-agency initiative on MMC under Housing for All.
Stakeholders heard updates on various Government initiatives currently underway to speed up delivery times for new home construction, increase the use of off-site manufacturing and drive transformation in the sector, including:
- Enterprise Ireland’s new €5m Construct Innovate Technology Centre;
- Solas’s new Housing Modern Methods Demonstration Park at Mount Lucas Co. Offaly;
- Increasing digitalisation in the sector through TU Dublin’s Build Digital initiative;
- New innovation and productivity advisory and financial supports to the residential construction sector from Enterprise Ireland under its Built to Innovate programme; and
- Changes in procurement of social housing delivery under Housing for All.
MMC under Housing for All
Industry and professional bodies from across the residential construction value chain engaged in further steps that could be taken to remove barriers to MMC adoption and effective ways of encouraging innovation. Together with representatives from a cross-section of state agencies and bodies active in supporting the transformation of the sector, from certification through to procurement, digitisation and upskilling, they also reflected on the long-term vision for the industry.
Speaking at the event, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney said, “We all know that solving the housing crisis is a complex challenge that requires a collective effort to speed up delivery times. Government is committed to working with the construction sector to embrace innovation and boost productivity in house building to ensure it delivers the government’s ambition in Housing for All.
“Ireland has a track record of being an innovator in commercial and industrial building, and our abilities in house and apartment building need to be part of that reputation.
“We need to step up our collaboration between the public and private sector to develop and implement workable solutions to accelerate the adoption of innovation and modern methods in construction.”
Roadmap for MMC adoption
The feedback captured during the event will be used to inform the development of a roadmap for MMC adoption in publicly procured residential construction, a priority action the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is leading with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage under the updated Housing for All Action Plan. This work includes progressing MMC in procurement frameworks and addressing related implementation challenges across regulation, skills development, targets for MMC in public procurement, and capacity building/leadership in the construction sector.
Forging partnerships with industry stakeholders is an important output of the event.
This is the first in a series of construction industry engagements planned by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for 2023.
Construction Industry support from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
As part of the whole of government Housing for All plan, DETE is working to promote construction sector innovation and productivity, including through the adoption of MMC (an umbrella term used to capture a range of innovative construction processes like panelised housing or 3D volumetric/modular pods), to help in the faster delivery of high-quality (compliant), environmentally sustainable, and more affordable housing.
Examples of crucial Housing for All actions that DETE has already delivered to promote the wider adoption of innovative construction methods are:
- Launch of Construct Innovate, a construction-specific and industry-led research and development centre, which represents the latest addition to the joint Enterprise Ireland and IDA “Technology Centre” Programme that has been operating for over a dozen years.
- The expansion of the remit of Enterprise Ireland to work with the domestic housebuilding sector for the first time. As part of its ‘Built to Innovate’ programme, Enterprise Ireland is focused on driving productivity and innovation in housebuilding, including increased use of MMC, and it has opened up lean and digital grants and funding for research and innovation projects in the domestic residential construction sector.
- The introduction of comprehensive changes to the employment permits system in Ireland in October 2021. An additional eight categories of occupation within the construction sector were made eligible for a General Employment Permit. The number of construction sector employment permits issued in 2022 was over 140% higher than for 2021, reflecting the general increase in applications for employment permits. Notably, processing times for all employment permits have seen significant reductions.
- The tasking of the IDA with engaging its network to promote Ireland as a destination for innovative international construction firms to locate.
- The publication by NSAI of information on the certification process for Modern Methods of Construction and overseeing the onsite installation of such products to ensure that they comply with relevant legislation.
- The establishment and chairing (at A/Sec level) of a cross-departmental and cross-agency MMC Leadership and Integration Group to drive the development and greater adoption of MMC in residential construction.