Earlier this week, in the midst of negative housing stories across the media, the Irish Examiner ran an interesting article with an equally interesting headline ‘Sustainable homes for under €150k? It’s doable’. You can read the article in full here: https://www.irishexaminer.com/property/residential/arid-40305056.html?type=amp
What makes this headline interesting, and even provocative, is that for the last few months, the construction and property media coverage has been dominated by the chronic storage of housing in Ireland, the inability of the industry to delivery at scale, shortages in traditional construction materials hiking up costs, ‘affordable’ housing seemingly out of reach and any nod towards sustainability pushing construction costs up further. And then we’re told that quality-built, sustainable homes can be delivered for €150,000. Something doesn’t tally.
The above article was written by County Clare-based chartered building surveyor, Fergus Merriman, who shares details of how he built a sustainable, affordable home with no energy costs for less than €150,000. Best of all? This model is easily replicated, but perhaps not by the traditional construction industry. As Merriman himself writes, a change in mindset is required.
The article dispels the notion that sustainability and affordability are incompatible or that building sustainable houses to near-zero energy standards is an overly complex and costly process. The author’s experience is the opposite, and at Horizon Offsite, our experience has been the opposite. We believe it when he claims that it is entirely possible to build “better sustainable houses speedily and affordably” because our team has already done that.
Merriman advises that this is only possible “if we embrace an entirely new approach”. At Horizon Offsite, we know that this new approach involves the manufacturing solution made possible through offsite construction and other modern methods of construction.
As a chartered building surveyor, Merrimen set about exploring whether offsite principles could be applied to modern housing developments.
“They can, but a change in mindset is required. My experience is that the construction sector, as we know it, employs an additive process that attempts to build on practices which are not necessarily appropriate to the fundamental requirements of creating healthy, affordable sustainable homes. In contrast, by using a reductive process and applying modern industrial techniques — using mainly recycled sustainable materials of course — I believe it’s possible to build an average-sized, three-bedroom home — with no energy bills — for under €150K (this includes hard and soft costs but excludes land costs). Doing this at scale would of course reduce costs yet further while also helping to address the housing crisis and the shortage of affordable homes.”
He considers the basic requirements of a sustainable home, which are to be strong, to provide protection from the elements, and to provide “a healthy internal environment”. He advocates for the use of multifunctional and recyclable materials in order to minimise the environmental footprint. He also considers delivery priorities such as speed and ease of erection. Based on these considerations, he finds that light-gauge, steel frames provide all the necessary attributes for the basic structure of a house. Specifically, they are lightweight yet robust, flexible, easily fabricated and have little waste. Also, as regularly covered on this website, steel gauge frames are made from recycled material and are, in turn, fully recyclable. The Irish Examiner article goes further to document the insulation and design aesthetics, erection of the superstructure on site, roofing (at slab level), minimal heavy transport movements, almost immediate weather-proofing, and eco-friendly heating and ventilation systems.
“Despite having their own individual design, some of the houses already built using these offsite methods, have been finished at a fraction of the cost of traditional builds… As well as leading to better quality and faster work it is, of course, much cheaper and safer,” Merriman concludes. And we agree.
About Horizon Offsite
Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://horizonoffsite.ie