In an effort to tackle the housing crisis and expedite the construction of social homes, the Department of Housing is set to embrace rapid-build, prefabricated technologies. This innovative approach aims to deliver approximately 1,800 social homes over the next two years, revolutionising the traditional construction process. The department’s latest Housing for All update unveiled a comprehensive “Roadmap for increased adoption of modern methods of construction in public housing delivery,” signalling a shift towards more efficient and sustainable housing solutions.
Modern methods of construction encompass a range of cutting-edge techniques that promise to streamline the building process. The private sector has already embraced prefabricated timber frames in nearly half of all new homes. By leveraging these and other modern methods, the Department of Housing anticipates accelerated delivery times, reduced costs, and the creation of energy-efficient homes.
By using design-built modern methods of construction, the department believes it can shrink delivery times for typical social housing projects from 18 to 12 months, resulting in significant cost savings. With this in mind, officials have confirmed that 1,800 new-build social homes will be constructed using these new approaches within the next two years. The long-term goal is to apply these innovative technologies to the majority of the 9,000-10,000 social housing units to be delivered annually under the Housing for All strategy.
To support this transformative shift, Minister of Housing Darragh O’Brien has established a €100 million fund to alleviate local authority loans on sites suitable for social housing projects using modern methods of construction. Currently, local authorities carry €300 million in land legacy debt, accumulated from loans taken to acquire land for housing development. In a groundbreaking move, the department has already refunded land debt totaling €94 million on 26 sites. These refunds are contingent on local authorities embracing the new technologies and design-built procurement, with construction expected to commence by 2024.
The department has earmarked 35 sites across 12 local authorities for development using prefabricated technologies, identifying 10 specific housing types that can be efficiently delivered on these sites. The advantages of employing these new technologies, or even standardised designs, are evident, with various reports suggesting potential reductions of 20-60% in delivery time, 20-40% in costs, and a staggering 70% in on-site labour and embodied carbon.
Recognising the potential of modern methods of construction, the department stated, “These innovative methods have the potential to dramatically improve construction sector productivity, innovation, speed of delivery, sustainability, and ultimately costs.” By incorporating these methods into its public housing program, the government aims to lead by example and foster a culture of innovation and efficiency within the construction industry.
Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan, commenting in an Irish Times article, also expressed enthusiasm, stating, “The adoption of modern methods of construction has the potential to significantly improve construction sector productivity and sustainability while also reducing costs.” He emphasised that the “roadmap for increased adoption of modern methods of construction in public housing delivery” represents a major public sector innovation and transformative initiative. Ryan further highlighted the importance of complementing this roadmap with the forthcoming Timber in Construction Working Group, which aims to leverage home-grown materials and build sustainable housing at a lower cost.
The adoption of modern methods of construction presents a clear roadmap for accelerating the delivery of public housing. By including prefabricated technologies and design-built procurement processes, the Department of Housing is spearheading a transformative initiative that promises improved productivity, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. With a strong focus on innovative construction techniques and the incorporation of local resources, the roadmap paves the way for a brighter future in the new era of public housing delivery.