Condition of Irish housing a serious concern – engineers
01 July 2019
Engineers Ireland publishes 100 actions to future-proof Ireland’s built environment in its State of Ireland 2019 report. A total of 52% of engineers believe Ireland’s infrastructure is not in good condition and lacks capacity for future development, while housing is given a ‘D’ grade, denoting serious concern and requirin
L-R Marguerite Sayers, president of Engineers Ireland; Fr Peter McVerry, founder of the Peter McVerry Trust; John Moran, chairperson, Land Development Agency; and Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland at the launch of the State of Ireland 2019 report in Clyde Road, Dublin 4.
With more than 600,000 people in Ireland living in poor housing conditions with leaks, damp or rot, Engineers Ireland has published 100 recommended actions to future-proof Ireland’s built environment and meet environmental, social and economic goals.
The recommended actions across housing, energy, transport, communications, water/wastewater, waste and flood risk, were published as part of the membership body’s ‘The State of Ireland 2019: A review of housing and infrastructure in Ireland’ report.
Overall infrastructure not in good condition
The report found that 52 per cent of professional engineers surveyed believe Ireland’s overall infrastructure is not in good condition and does not have capacity for future development.
This year’s report, for the first time, focused on Ireland’s housing sector which was allocated a ‘D’ grade – highlighting the engineering expert view that the capacity, condition and connectivity of Irish housing is of serious concern and requires immediate action.
Engineers Ireland director general Caroline Spillane said: “We, like many others, are seriously concerned about Ireland’s housing. Immediate actions are needed to overcome challenges in the capacity, condition and connectivity of our housing stock.
“Climate action and housing action must be intertwined if we are to meet our environmental, social and economic goals as a country.”
‘Focus on retrofitting Ireland’s existing housing stock’
“In this regard, it was extremely positive to see the government’s strong focus on retrofitting Ireland’s existing housing stock and commitment to upgrade 500,000 homes by 2030 in its Climate Action Plan last week; however, to achieve this target, we need much more clarity and a roadmap, including financing and skills development.
“We must also acknowledge that in the longer term, almost two million housing units in Ireland need to be retrofitted to achieve the energy performance levels required.
“Furthermore, and as alluded to last week by chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John FitzGerald, there continues to be an acute skills shortage in the construction sector, so we have to better develop the pipeline of skills and expertise needed to convert housing and climate goals into reality.”
The report also highlighted that a current constraint to delivering housing is in many cases the unavailability of public infrastructure, such as transportation, water and wastewater, telecommunications and energy.
The report calls for increased funding and co-ordination of the planning and delivery of public infrastructure to improve stability of supply and affordability of new homes.
The engineers also highlight the potential for modern methods of construction, such as off-site construction, to increase housing output.
Marguerite Sayers, president of Engineers Ireland, said: “The new houses we build should achieve the very best standards of safety, sustainability and technology.
“For example, future homes should be smart, enabling the integration of the latest telecommunications technology, and should be adaptable, allowing evolution in layout of rooms and spaces as occupant needs change.
“The building regulations are minimum standards for safety and sustainability and our current housing difficulties should not lead to any dilution of building standards.
“In fact, our system of regulation could be strengthened by removing the building control ‘opt out’ for one-off houses and by increasing resources for inspection by local authorities.”
The report’s findings are based on the deliberations of an expert advisory group of engineers and related housing professionals, including CEOs of state bodies and local authorities, consulting engineers, home builders, academics and a survey of more than 1,700 engineers across Ireland.
The report, now in its ninth year, was launched at an event at the Engineers Ireland offices on Clyde Road, Dublin 4, that also featured an address from Marguerite Sayers, president of Engineers Ireland, and contributions from John Moran, chairperson, Land Development Agency; Fr Peter McVerry, Peter McVerry Trust; Frank Curran, chief executive, Wicklow County Council; and Eugene Lynch, chief executive, McAvoy Group.
‘Make a real difference in people’s lives’
“Our recommendations, if implemented, would improve the condition, capacity and connectivity of Ireland’s housing, and make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Sayers.
“One major theme of our advisory group’s deliberations that I would like to highlight was the interrelationships between housing and the various other sectors of the built environment.
“Whether it is renewable energy supplies, public transport connections, broadband access or water capacity, a holistic approach to our complex built-environment is needed if we are to overcome our current and future housing challenges.”
Other key recommendations:
1.) Nurture Ireland’s Atlantic cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford) as ‘network cities’ through social and economic cooperation and fast and reliable connectivity.
2.) Actively manage public land, ensuring that the Land Development Agency has a strong mandate and sufficient capacity to co-ordinate the development of state lands.
3.) Use zoning, servicing of land and targeted investment to encourage sufficiently dense, sustainable urban development.
4.) Recognising the environmental impact of one-off housing, give planning permission only to those with a demonstrable economic or social need to build these houses.
5.) Develop a 50-year spatial plan for housing, infrastructure and services development considering long-term housing need and demographic changes.
6.) Incorporate a programme of life-time adaptable housing for both new and existing homes by 2020.
7.) Develop and adopt a Smart Readiness Indicator for Ireland and set a target of 80 per cent of all new homes to be Smarter Homes by 2030.
8.) Increase the number and variety of apprenticeships and training schemes on offer to focus on modern methods of construction, sustainable urban design and ‘Retrofit managers’.
9.) Encourage more young people to enter and remain in the architecture, engineering and construction sector.
To see the ‘The State of Ireland 2019 – A Review of Infrastructure in Ireland’ report in full, please visit here.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2019/07/01/condition-of-irish-housing-a-serious-concern-engineers/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/a1-34-1024x683.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/a1-34-300x300.jpgNewshousing,infrastructure,local authorities