Rapid Questions


90414064cian photo cropped

From top: Modular housing in Ballymun, Dublin; Cllr Cian O’Callaghan

Over a period of six months the promise of modular housing to be delivered before Christmas at less than 100,000 euro per unit has transformed into the delivery of much slower, more costly, non-modular housing.

Fingal County Councillor Cian O’Callaghan writes:

It is not entirely clear what the objectives are to rapid build housing.

Is it a more cost effective delivery method; is it a quicker delivery method? Is it both of these objectives? And if so why are neither of these objectives currently been met?

If we could get answers to the eight questions I’ve listed below about Rapid Build Housing it would be much easier to evaluate the merits of this initiative:

1. How much faster will these homes be delivered than conventional housing?

2. What was the final cost of the rapid build homes at Ballymun and what is the full breakdown of these costs?

3. At what point was the idea of lower cost modular homes replaced with rapid build housing? Why? What is the rationale for the construction of hybrid modular/ wet build housing?

4. What is the guarantee on these homes? What is their expected life span? Is it any different to conventional housing?

Will a cost effectiveness analysis be undertaken to compare rapid build housing with other methods of housing delivery?

What is the estimated cost per unit when larger economies of scale and competitive tendering is introduced to the process?

7. What capacity level within the sector in Ireland is needed to reach an optimum level of delivery in terms of cost effectiveness? Is the goal to reach this optimum level of delivery and if so when?

Given the fire safety problems that emerged with a rapid build school in North County Dublin; what measures are in place to ensure that such problems do not occur with rapid build housing?


Cian O’Callaghan is a Social Democrat councillor in Dublin and tweets here


RTÉ reports:

The cost of rapid build housing for homeless families in Ballymun could reach €243,000 per unit, far more than the €100,000 figure originally discussed for modular housing units, RTÉ News has learned.

Correspondence between Dublin City Council and the Department of Environment, obtained by RTÉ, discusses the spending allocation for the 22 unit project.

A letter from DCC to the Department on 18 November 2015 details how €4.2m, excluding VAT (€4.7m including VAT) was to be spent paying the contractor which won the tender, Western Building Systems Ltd.

A further €500,000 allowance was sought by the council for what was called “Council Project Costs”.

The “estimated total cost” inclusive of VAT, is put at €5.3m.

Rapid build houses could cost €243k each (RTE)

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28 thoughts on “Rapid Questions

  1. Cean

    Surely these are questions that should have been asked at council level prior to these houses being built?

    Why weren’t they asked?

    If local Councillors are unable to get this information then who can?

    1. Cian O'Callaghan

      Fair point Cean.

      I’ve been asking questions along these lines for months – and I’m not satisfied with the answers being given. Hence the post – I want to draw attention to these questions in the hope that we can get some decent answers.

      In particular I can’t see any reason why a cost effectiveness analysis isn’t undertaken – this would provide a clear, methodical approach to answer whether or not rapid build housing makes sense.

      1. ahjayzis

        What’s the actual balance between elected input and decrees from county management in big spending things like this? What’s the decision process and what level of oversight etc?

        I mean I’ve an impression after the poolbeg fiasco that councillors aren’t really very much involved in anything involving spending at all?

        1. Cian O'Callaghan

          This initiative was announced by central government and is funded by central government – though Councils are implementing it and providing the land.

          I think there is a lack of clarity from central government on the objectives and costs. A cost effectiveness analysis would provide a methodology for clearly analysing the initiative and determining at what point of cost it becomes an effective approach. No such analysis has been undertaken and to the best of my knowledge there are no plans to undertake such an analysis.

          A cost effectiveness analysis would help answer questions 1-7 above and I think there is a strong case for one to be carried out.

  2. classter

    O’Callaghan is a councillor.

    How does he not know the answer to these questions already.

    He should be providing us with the answers.

      1. classter

        Perhaps Cian might share a dated email where he asked those questions of the council?

        Or the record of a table question at a council session?

        1. Cian O'Callaghan

          Here is the link to me raising these questions at Council meetings over the last number of months. In particular I’ve been asking for a cost effectiveness analysis to be undertaken:

          You’ll need to scroll ahead into the relevant section of the meeting:

          http://www.fingalcoco.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/200128 (35 mins in)

          http://www.fingalcoco.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/215848 (1 hr 10 mins in)

          April Council meeting:
          http://www.fingalcoco.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/220709 (2 hrs 42 mins in)

  3. classter

    1. Remains to be seen. The potential is enormous, likely the reality to date is more mixed.
    2. Don’t know.
    3. This is what usually happens in this field. Getting everything right in the factory is difficult given the industry set-up as it currently exists. Some combination of both makes more sense. Also, not everything is on the critical path so it makes sense from a time perspective.
    4. I’m not speaking for these exact units but there is no reason why the expected life span could not match (or possibly exceed) those built traditionally.
    5. I’d hope so. Perhaps Cian can answer.
    6. Presumably it will fall significantly.
    7. The first good question.
    8. This should be dealt with in the same way that it is for traditional construction. One might ask the same question for Priory Hall, Longboat Quay, etc.

  4. classter

    I would be interested to see how the procurement of the design & construction will be managed, particularly where the line will be drawn between design & construction.

    Will the state (in some guise) be responsible for the design & put the construction of these units out to tender?

    Or will the brief merely give performance requirements, allowing the tenderers provide their own designs?

    If the latter, how will the design be reviewed and the construction policed?

  5. dan

    Here’s a better question:

    Why should I, who pays twice the EU average in mortgage interest, pay towards a free house for someone who:
    1. Doesn’t work and doesn’t want to work.
    2. Didn’t go to school and therefore has a low earning potential
    3. Sees nothing wrong with having a large family even though they’ve no where to live

    1. classter

      Amongst many reasons, because the alternative is that you pay in other ways (crime, etc.).

    2. ahjayzis

      In simple language you’re sure to understand;

      Dublin’s nicer since we cleared the slums and tenements.

      Euthanasia of the poor would be in breach of our treaty obligations.

      Social democracy’s really starting to catch on in the last week or seven decades.

      1. My Meaty Member

        I gave a much more illustrative answer earlier but it was deemed too racy by the mods

  6. nellyb

    It all comes down to transparency. Again. And again. And again. That infamous actionable audit trail, so useful for everything (future planning, budgeting, overseeing, delivering, disciplining, penalizing, smart decision making – you name it).
    Thanks Cian. Good to see consistent reasoning across party. Will vote for you again.

    1. ahjayzis

      Pouring concrete, plastering, rendering etc.

      Modular construction or prefabrication is faster and more efficient because these are done off-site and faster in an assembly line.

      1. cluster

        Faster on paper.

        But oft turns out not to be the case given difficulties with tolerances, transport, skill-base of the industry, the small-minded nature of most of the modular manufacturers, the traditional split between design consultants & the construction industry, etc.

        The idea does have promise

        1. ahjayzis

          Faster if done properly and implemented fully along the supply chain, I suppose.

          Hand a HufHaus kit over to your average Irish builder and yeah, bad times.

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