The Irish Examiner: Blend of mixed-use schemes using new tech needed to ramp up housing

Author: GPD Ireland | Date: 06/06/2019

A blend of mixed-use developments, and embracing new build technologies and AI, will be needed to ramp up Ireland’s housing output, with 60,000 houses needed to be built every year for the next three years.


That’s according to Munster-based developers GPD, who’ve recently been active in building and renovations for local authorities in Cork and Limerick, as well as for private clients. They express concern about land price/value for viability and say that indigenous and local developers are “struggling to see off the wall of cash from institutional investors – making residential development difficult.”


“We are on the cusp of another industrial revolution – the construction industry must embrace technological developments that could change the industry forever” says Aaron Willis, general manager of GPD, founded by third generation brothers Liam and Eamon Hetherington, in 2000, having worked in the UK and Ireland.


Developments in augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as 3D printing and the move to offsite manufacturing solutions “should be harnessed wherever possible to assist the construction industry, and may not only address some of the challenges brought about by skills shortages but will have added advantage on lifestyle benefits.” he states.


The country needs to triple its total new homes output of 2018 for the next three years, to 60,000 pa and once balance is reached should cut back to 25,000/30,000 units a year to keep pace with a growing population, an influx of workers, and changing household structures, they say.


Instancing Cork city’s current development phase, with jobs growth in tech, pharma, and finance, Aaron Willis says “the civic mission of the city is to attract more multinational corporations here – the cranes across the skyline demonstrate our commitments to building the offices in which to house these organisations. But where are these workers going to live? We need much greater numbers of mixed used developments in the region as a matter of urgency. We must put the infrastructure in place to attract both young workers and those workers in their 30s and 40s who want to live in the city with their families.”


GPD developed in the early 2000s in Skibbereen, survived the downturn by heading into renovations for local authorities and institutions among other niches, and expects to grow its turnover to seven million euro this year (up threefold from 2017) as it re-engages with the residential market.


Notably, given its business pick-up, it’s in an interesting position to comment on project procurement, and parameters around the pass/fail criteria in tenders which they say can be prohibitive.


“Procurement teams need to understand that by setting the bar very high in terms of previous experience, value of contracts, within the past few years etc, they exclude many SME’s. Not because of capability, but due to the fact that the projects were not built for the past decade, so very few companies can achieve said criteria.”



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