Thursday April 9, 2020

'We are becoming a population of singles, but we continue to build units which are too large for this demographic, both in the public and private market'

Mick Forde Bradley, Architect and Partner at ZESO Architects on the changes necessary to rebuild Ireland and resolve some of the worst effects of the housing crisis

16th November, 2018

What's your name?

Mick Forde Bradley

What’s your current job?

Architect/ Partner/ Segment leader Ireland at ZESO Architects

How long have you held the position?

8 years at ZESO, 12 years in Denmark

Can you describe your daily work routine?

I cycle 13 km to back and forth to work each day on an electric bike, which travels at 35km/hour, without much help from me, so I suppose that’s cheating.

A Danish architect, works a 37 hour week in principle, 8.30 – 16.30 four days a week and 5 hours on a Friday. As a partner at ZESO, I tend to work a bit more than that, but have flexibility in when I work.

My days vary, but in general are spent in design meetings with clients, internal coordination meetings with the ZESO team, site visits, staff planning and resource management, new client intro meetings, and concept sketching. In general, the 5% creativity/sketching, 95% client relations and administration rule of thumb, for what an architect’s actual job entails – rings true for my working life.

What is your professional background?

I’m a member of the RIAI and on top of an architectural education from DIT and UCD, I have since qualified as a DGNB sustainability expert in housing, office and city planning, and more recently an executive education in business development from Copenhagen Business School.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

Away from work, I am married to a lovely Swedish architect called Julia, and am a father to three noisy, rough and tough little boys, James 10, Aaron 6, and Joar 4. I enjoy music, sing and play piano and guitar - Guinness. Julia and I did a beginners sailing course last year, and bought a sail boat in November 2017. We have been out sailing with the boys, around Denmark and Sweden the last year, which has proven to be a fantastic adventure and way of experiencing the world as a family.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

If there’s something that I am afraid of doing – then I am driven to do it.

I have to do the things that scare me.

I can’t swim well, and have almost drowned four times – hence buying a boat. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

You are speaking at the forthcoming National Property Summit in Dublin. What is the focus of your talk?

What knowledge / experience can be re-envisioned from examples in Denmark, for an Irish populous embarking on a development plan towards 2040, and what new business models/ building typologies and future market opportunities, will affect how we build and plan for this growth.

What immediate changes are necessary to ‘rebuild Ireland’ and resolve some of the worst effects of the housing crisis?

We need to realise that our family structures are not what they used to be. What are we building and for whom? In Dublin city, one, two and three person households comprise 80 percent of all households. Yet, the stock of housing in Ireland is largely comprised of detached and semi detached houses with three to four bedrooms.

We are fast becoming a population of singles, but we continue to build units which are much too large for this demographic, both in the public and private market.

Worse still, under-occupancy of council-owned property means that singles are often occupying houses which could house families of five!

25% of the Irish population will be over 65 by 2025! - we need to recognise a life after retirement!

Irelands housing crisis is not just that we need more housing, we also need to look at how we want to live our lives from 60 -100 years of age.

Irish people cling to living at home, in our 5 bedrooms rural houses, with a Bull McCabe love of the land, ingrained in us. This is a valid part of who we are as an Irish nation.

But it’s also because the alternative, is something which terrifies us all.

Tales of terrible elderly care homes, with short life expectancies rightly mean that people prefer to stay in their homes (often much too large houses) alone, frightened, unable to live life fully.

What changes do you envisage for the sector over the next five years?

I see a complete overhaul of the senior housing sector in Ireland like we are seeing in Denmark at the moment: a new vision for what life awaits the 65 -100 year old Irish person. sector

We must demand more – demand a life worth living - until the end.

Imagine a world, where people look forward to downsizing, and have an agreement in place with their friends, to move in to the same smaller 2 bedroom apartments complex, as a social group.

A range of care levels to suit our needs.

Tuesday bowling, golf, art, company – a life beyond tv, the late late and large houses slowly falling into disrepair.

As one gets older, there are then possibilities for increased care within the same complex – imagine the sense of well being that must give – planning for the future and unknowns. One in three of us will have a disability before the age of 80.

Likewise, the left empty houses are then freed up for the larger families, who are at the beginning of their cycle.

I see this senior camaraderie model working, outside of Dublin, in Irelands villages and larger towns, if villages move to pedestrianise and form social hubs and communities– as long as transport links are in order, we will see a reduction in the elderly who own cars also – renting will be preferable across the board, also among the millennials.

Mick Forde Bradley is speaking at the 5th Annual Sunday Business Post Property Summit at the Aviva Stadium on December 5th. Full details are available at

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