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Housing Committee: Modern Methods of Construction

Updated: May 23, 2023

Over the last two weeks, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing have met with various stakeholders such as Coillte, the OPW, the NSAI and others in relation to modern methods of construction.

Deputy Duffy raised the question surrounding using our home-grown roundwood in the building sector. Ciaran O'Connor, State/Principal Architect and Commissioner from the OPW, outlined that they would be happy to meet with Coillte and discuss starting a project using Irish timber.

In order for Ireland to reduce its embodied carbon emissions in the construction sector, it is essential that we build with cleaner materials. Francis raised this point in the second meeting with stakeholders and the Committee, by asking about the role of Irish timber in the future of Ireland's construction sector. He also asked Dominic Stevens, a renowned architect, about how we can achieve low-rise, high density communities like Stoneybatter. See below for the two contributions.

2nd May 2023


Deputy Duffy

As Eoin was saying earlier on, we have our 2030 50 targets and we're going to be doubling our roundwood output, as I believe, over the next 15/20 years. So we have a homegrown, sustainable material for the State to pony up €50,000. Sorry for saying it like that. It doesn't seem like a lot of money for the State to invest into its future and do it that way. Whoever it is, whichever State arm decides to take on that role because we're going to get there anyway I think.

And you'd think, as you're saying, if you've got the demonstrate of buildings like Avondale and others, it then promotes what we have to offer. Thank you very much.

Ciaran O'Connor

We'd be happy to work on a project like that with Coillte. We'd have a number of projects that would be suitable in the next few years.

9th May 2023


Deputy Duffy

Recently, this committee produced a report on embodied carbon which sets out actions required to meet our C02 targets. And that was considering 14% of Ireland's C02 emissions come from materials in the construction industry. Therefore, my questions are biased towards reducing embodied carbon and question the limited use of homegrown structural timber and our urban design density regulations. So, modern methods of construction is a diverse area, as noted by the CIF today, covering BIM, offsite fabrication, design regulations, health and safety upskilling across the sector, to name a few. And as discussed already here, one of the newest methods of construction that has emerged in the mid nineties is the use of CLT and circa 25 years in, a Wisconsin architect has built a 25 story apartment retail tower using what is said to be a 'European invention'.

So my first question goes to CIF. I wanted to ask you, do you see a role for Irish-grown C16 timber, a MMC, akin to our EU and US friends? However, your earlier response, from what I can see, you do see its role in MCC. So have you any hope that the Department will evolve our Part B regulations to allow mass timber buildings higher than ten meters and hence that might allow the demand to follow?

I have to say, it's very good to see you [Dominic Stevens] here in this forum. I believe your insight and knowledge into the housing design is second to none from working with you over the years. So my question to you is, considering we have, in the past, design urban realms where low rise, high density communities were created, given 50 units plus per to the acre. Examples of this is Stoneybatter and Portobello. What regulations and codes are required now to allow this type of low rise, high density housing again in Ireland? Because we are kind of sitting quite below that.

23rd May 2023


Deputy Duffy

My question is Part B timber related, and the effective prohibition of mass timber over 3 stories. Considering most of the first world is constructing mass timber buildings, up to at least 8 stories across Europe. Why are we so far behind, considering our closest neighbor is constructing Clt buildings up to 8 stories, with similar building regulations. And in the Americas over 20 stories are being achieved.

From your vast experience can you enlighten us how our regulations should move forward and what needs to change to enable the use of this sustainable material akin to steel and concrete, and do you have a timeline?

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