BIM & The Housing Crisis


I was fortunate to be asked to contribute to the recent Sunday Business Post Property Summit.

Yes, we have a “housing crisis” in Ireland. We need 25,000 units a year, until 2020, but we have only built 5,000 units this year. And demand is driving price increases and potentially another boom/bust (did we not learn anything?). But it is not “everywhere” (its focused in major cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway) and it is not “everything” (focused on social housing, small to medium apartment units for students, young professionals, singles or couples, and “empty-nesters” looking to downgrade). We apparently have enough 3-4 bedroom houses in the suburbs or the countryside – we just need to get the right people into the right type of accommodation, in the right area (urban areas).

AFFORDABILITY was the big word discussed on the day. Many people made the point that “lack of finance” was not the issue – investors were ready & keen to invest, but the “product” had to “stack up” financially, or “tick the boxes”. In other words, the rental or mortgage that the ultimate end user could afford to pay (based on national average salaries), had to cover the investment costs and return on investment expected. So that was the BIG PROBLEM – the cost of delivering housing in Ireland was too high (and this includes land costs, planning costs, infrastructure costs, build costs, taxes, levies, delivery times, etc, etc). At the same time, we have to be mindful that we cannot sacrifice QUALITY for AFFORDABILITY as before – we just have to look at recent disasters like Priory Hall & Longboat Quay to remind ourselves that Quality is as important as Affordability.

So we can conclude that we need to Build Better Buildings (housing), Quicker and Cheaper.

Well everyone instinctively thinks that is not possible (how can you have all 3? Surely something has to give? If you want better quality, you have to spend more time or more money?). However that thinking is based on the incorrect assumption that we can’t do anything about the way we deliver construction in Ireland. But if we can improve the delivery process, we can convert some of the WASTE that occurs in construction, to more quality, or more value. Organisations like the Lean Construction Institute, have measured that over 30% of the cost of construction is waste (waste is defined as anything that doesn’t add value to the product itself).

Imagine that! Over 30% of the costs of construction adds no value to the building or project itself! What can we do to improve this situation? How can we convert some of that WASTE back to QUALITY & VALUE (AFFORDABILITY)? We may not have much influence on taxes, levies, etc, but we can directly influence WASTE.

So finally, after a long introduction to set some context, I get to my point, and the tile of this post, “what BIM has to do with the current Housing Crisis in Ireland?”

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