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Editor's Blog - Issue 11 Volume 3

It’s commonly thought that 2008 is not going to be a good year for the Irish construction industry. House building in particular is set to struggle, with new house completions expected to fall short of half the total of 90,000 homes built in 2006, when the housing market reached the dizziest of heights. This grim outlook is echoed in the prospects for the Irish economy as a whole – a perhaps
unsurprising fact given how dependent our economy has become on house building in particular.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, oil prices have crashed through the $100 per barrel mark, and seem destined to stay high irrespective of what fate befalls the US and other western economies, so persistent is the demand from emerging giants such as China and India.

Nonetheless, 2008 is shaping up to see real progress in terms of sustainable building in Ireland. Several factors are coming together to ensure this. As the year develops, we’ll gradually start to see a growing number of new homes coming onto the market with building energy ratings, which will finally give the public a chance to show how much energy efficiency influences their purchasing. Even though the ink has barely dried on the technical guidance documents, the industry is already starting to try to work out how to comply with the new and substantially improved Part L of the Building Regulations, half a year in advance of its coming into effect.

The sustainable building industry may be the one sector of the economy that stands to benefit from record oil prices. With money tighter than it has been in recent years, Irish people can ill afford to throw it away paying to heat and power inefficient buildings. Indeed, it will benefit the economy as a whole as more people start to realise that, rather than throwing money away, out of the country to the benefit of energy rich nations, they should instead invest in energy efficient new homes or energy upgrade work to bring existing homes into the 21st century.

The potential of the energy upgrade market in terms of boosting the Irish economy and retaining construction industry employment should not be overlooked. The banks, who have so much at stake in hundreds of thousands of mortgage holders, many of whom who will struggle to make their repayments, would do well to follow the lead of Rabobank in the Netherlands; the banking superpower has recently launched a new product, the Climate Mortgage, and are offering up to a colossal 1% reduction in interest rates for homes that achieve a suitably high energy rating. Rabobank have clearly woken up to the fact that sustainability pays. More than ever before, the same fact applies for the construction industry.

2008 can be a good year for the construction industry. It can repair a lot of self-inflicted damage and rebuild the confidence of homebuyers by going to back to the drawing board, looking seriously at how to cost effectively exceed the new Part L for new build and how to optimise energy performance in existing homes.


The editor
Last modified on Monday, 21 January 2008 13:36