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Pictured at the Guaranteed Irish Construction Forum 2023 (L to r):Camilla Cullinane, Tax Partner, KPMG; Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Dara Calleary; Brid O’Connell, CEO, Guaranteed Irish; and Niall O'Connor, Managing Director, Kingspan Insulation.

The Guaranteed Irish annual construction forum heard from a panel of Irish Construction industry experts convened to discuss ‘Is Construction in Ireland Sustainable? – Can we really green build our way out of this housing crisis?’

Opened by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Dara Calleary, the forum panel of industry experts discussed solutions to housing, national infrastructure, and planning regulations.

Architect and RTE presenter Hugh Wallace hosted the forum. The panel comprised Niall O’Connor, Managing Director, Kingspan Insulation Ireland; Lawrence Bowles, Associate Director KPMG, Future Analytics; Patrick Phelan, Managing Director Ireland, Ballymore Group; and James Nugent, Senior Director, Head of Commercial Agency, Lisney.

Minister of State Calleary highlighted the momentum in home building in his opening address and was optimistic about meeting the housing target of 29,000 homes this year. He said that the Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in public housing and R&D will be game changers for delivering our housing requirements faster.

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Guaranteed Irish Construction forum panellists (L to r): Hugh Wallace; Niall O’Connor, Managing Director, Kingspan Insulation; Lawrence Bowles, Associate Director KPMG, Future Analytics; Patrick Phelan, Managing Director Ireland, Ballymore Group; and James Nugent, Senior Director, Head of Commercial Agency, Lisney.

Energy Performance Building Directive

Lawrence Bowles, KPMG, addressed the question on the 2050 Energy Performance Building Directive plans to build a carbon-neutral building stock. He said, “The real estate industry needs to fully embrace the new reality, which is not just NetZero, but also Nature positive. The climate and nature agenda will have a material impact on all future infrastructure, including buildings. However, a long-term approach for our construction infrastructure with a masterplan beyond successive governments will be necessary.”

Kingspan Insulation’s Niall O’Connor commented, “These ambitious targets are essential since together, the building materials/construction sector and building operations account for almost 40% of carbon emissions. They present an enormous opportunity for the sector to raise industry standards, increase collaboration between design and construction, and, in particular, drive growth in Retrofit. However, there is a significant shortage of qualified people in this sector, and there is a need to employ over 25,000 people.”

Hugh Wallace asked the panel whether we are creating “boring cities” that lead to social problems and how they, in the construction industry, aim to eliminate the “architectural blandness” of our cities.

Lisney’s James Nugent responded, “I believe part of the problem is that we think too small.  We tend to look at an individual planning application for a single site.  That building or scheme must comply with planning requirements, sometimes with little regard for the surrounding area.  To plan cities or urban areas properly, there needs to be a more cohesive view or vision of what we want the city or urban area to be like.”

Ballymore’s Patrick Phelan gave his perspective on those who wish to dwell in these potential new homes. “It is important that in creating buildings, places, and spaces, we consider the people who will use them. Places that have been considered in terms of landscaping, protection from the elements and which have animation at street level – these spaces will be successful and won’t be boring.  Buildings, places, and cities should be sociable environments where people want to gather, visit, and stay.  This should be the starting point for the industry and where the focus should be. The emphasis should be on cultured and educational facilities, on creating community engagement, not just a design.”

15-minute cities

The concept of the 15-minute city was explored, with the panel agreeing that Waterford is leading the way with the development of the North Quays. A call for additional incentives to do the same at a faster pace should be put in place across the country, especially in higher-density locations such as Cork, Galway, Limerick and Dublin.

Addressing other areas, the panellists were unanimous in opinion on the following issues:

  • We need to build up, not out, in our cities, as is being done across Europe
  • We need to incentivise the repurposing of our existing housing in our cities
  • New homes must comprise more recycling materials, preferably supplied by Irish companies. Government incentives are needed to develop this sector to help these companies be more competitive
  • We need to significantly increase the pace of the planning process by reducing the bureaucracy within the planning process.
Guaranteed Irish
Guaranteed Irish House.

Guaranteed Irish House

Attendees at the event also heard about, a portal to drive business to Irish manufacturers for specifiers such as architects, engineers and quantity surveyors.

Guaranteed Irish House is an initiative that acts as a one-stop shop for specifiers that includes all the elements of the supply chain required for a building, from raw materials to final furnishings, that can be sourced locally from Guaranteed Irish members and help reduce the carbon footprint while supporting jobs and businesses here in Ireland.

About Guaranteed Irish

Guaranteed Irish is a not-for-profit membership network that has been championing businesses based in Ireland since 1974. The iconic Guaranteed Irish symbol is the national symbol for trust and provenance. Guaranteed Irish supports a network of over 2,000 member businesses employing over 120,000 people across Ireland, generating an annual combined Irish turnover of over €14bn. The licenced mark is only awarded to businesses based in Ireland, both homegrown and international, that sustain jobs and local communities and are committed to Irish provenance.

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