Remobilisation of a building site is not simple

29th March, 2021
Remobilisation of a building site is not simple

Recognition of the green agenda will be key’ says Fiona Cormican, New Business Director, Clúid Housing.

What's your name and what position do you hold?

Fiona Cormican, New Business Director, Clúid Housing.

We are an award winning, not-for-profit charity providing over 8,000 affordable, high quality homes to people in housing need. Clúid has grown to become the largest approved housing body (AHB) in Ireland. Clúid’s 240+ employees are spread across all counties in Ireland, providing quality housing and services to enable people to create homes and thriving communities.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

I lead Clúid’s New Business department which is responsible for the development of our property portfolio through an ambitious acquisition and development and construction programme.

What is your professional background?

I have a primary degree in education from the National College of Art and Design and a Masters in Project Management from the University of Limerick, as well as a Diploma in Site Management through CIOB/CIF.

I have over 20 years’ experience in the delivery of social housing including direct site management and portfolio development management.

How do you think the building industry is coping with the Covid-19 crisis?

The construction industry is probably one of the best placed industries to deal with the additional health and safety requirements of a pandemic. Not only are construction firms very well versed in managing all aspects of safety on site, including infection hazards but by the nature of the work, the majority of workers either work outdoors or alone, in machines etc. All construction sites are already required by law to have safe systems of work for all potential hazards and the safety and welfare of their workers is considered a commercial advantage for the majority of construction firms. Despite this, all but a limited number of essential housing sites have been shut down since the 8th of January with no clarity as to when they will reopen.

What impact do you see on the residential sector?

I do not envy the people who are required to make these important decisions under these difficult circumstances, in terms of the actual impact of construction sites not being able to operate - I would say that every week that the building of homes is delayed results in several weeks longer for people in homeless situations or living in unsuitable conditions. It is not simply a matter of closing sites and then reopening them. Remobilisation of a building site is not simple. Workers have moved on. There is evidence of the construction industry losing skilled workers who were already in short supply. Funding is at risk as investors need to reassess that risk and the loan terms increase. Lack of certainty impacts on a firm’s ability to access materials. Security costs rise as does insurance and other preliminary costs due to the elongation of the length of time the project takes. All of this will result in a shortage of supply of housing in the short term. The increased lack of supply will most likely drive-up house prices in the short to medium term.

What’s your view of the measures the government is introducing to deliver more affordable housing?

In line with our vision of “a society where everyone has a great place to live”, Clúid has long campaigned for an affordable rental model that addresses the needs of those people who do not quality for social housing and cannot afford private rents. We are therefore delighted to have secured Cost Rental Equity Loan funding for a number of projects across the country. This Government loan alongside funding from the Housing Finance Agency will allow us to deliver over 150 cost rental homes and rent them to people at well below market rent.

What will be the leading trends in the housing sector in coming years and how will builders need to adapt?

Recognition of the green agenda will be key. Clúid has recently employed an Energy & Environmental Manager to support us in our sustainability ambitions and develop our greening strategy. We have updated our Design Guide which is our bible for the standards we want to reach for social and affordable housing and we have bold ambitions for working towards delivering housing that “doesn’t cost the earth” with all our stakeholders such as our residents, staff, designers, developers and contractors.

Fiona Cormican spoke at the IHBA Housebuilding Summit on Thursday, March 25th. For more information visit www.housebuildingsummit.com

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