Tag Archives: Modular Housing

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Modular housing in Ballymun

In a post yesterday Social Democrat Fingal County Councillor Cian O’Callaghan asked a series of questions about modular housing.

Further to this, building and construction forum BRegs Blog have compiled fact-laden responses to Mr O’Callaghan’s questions [below].

Meanwhile, during a report on RTÉ’s Six One news last night journalist Mark Coughlan reported that the modular homes could end up costing €243,000 per unit, more than twice the €100,000 figure originally earmarked..

Grab a tay.

Cllr Cian O’Callaghan: How much faster will these homes be delivered than conventional housing?

BRegs:  They will not be any faster than conventional housing as the houses being built at Ballymun are conventional housing. The housing at Ballymun has taken six months to complete which is average for traditional housing of this scale.”

Time was saved in the design stage by side-stepping planning laws (there was no public consultation), side-stepping procurement rules and side-stepping building control laws by starting on site before it was legal. There will be costs and delay for all of this in any future phases.

O’Callaghan: What was the final cost of the rapid build homes at Ballymun and what is the full breakdown of these costs?

BRegs: According to Dublin City Council (DCC) the final account has not been agreed yet. It is unclear who will be liable for costs of the programme overrun of at least four months. This could be very expensive if DCC made changes to the contract after it was awarded.

The original contract figure, agreed by DCC and the Department of the Environment, of €5,340,775.00 for the 22 houses equates to a cost of €242,762.50 per house.

This figures excludes any site purchase cost, planning application costs, development levies, or developer’s profits. Comparable, index construction costs are €100,000 – €140,000 for this type of social housing.

Although we are not aware of site costs in Ballymun, 29 ‘rapid’ units are planned for a site in Drimnagh which was purchased by DCC for €3.5m. This suggests a per unit site cost of €120,000, and eventual total cost including site of over €360,000 per temporary unit.

O’Callaghan: “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?

BRegs: Only Dublin City Council (Housing and Residential Services) can answer this question. It appears that only one tender was received for the ‘modular housing’ from Western Building Systems Ltd. who were awarded the contract .

The bar for who was allowed to tender was set very high at a €10m turnover. The tender also demanded a four-week construction programme in bad weather which was seen by many to be totally unachievable. This may have been the deciding factor if the tender proposed ‘rapid-build’ although there is nothing rapid about the housing at Poppintree in Ballymun.

O’Callaghan: What is the guarantee on these homes? What is their expected life span? Is it any different to conventional housing?

BRegs: The tender documentation specified a 60-year life span. The Certificate of Compliance and Completion from the Assigned Certifier is thought by some to be a guarantee. DCC Tender documents require the builder to sign-off on all statutory regulations.

This is of concern as it suggests no independent oversight or inspections of the quality and safety of the units provided. DCC could sue the contractor and/or the Assigned Certifier if there is a defect, if they are still around and they can prove a case.

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

BRegs: There should be but there probably will not. Proper modular housing is more expensive than traditional housing but its inherent advantage is in being able to supply housing rapidly to meet short-term emergencies and being reusable at other locations.

There could be economies of scale if they set up the contracts to maximise value and spent adequate time designing the units and prioritising quality and value for money.

Government departments are reluctant to provide details of PPP’s and public tenders, even though all tenderers are party to this information. A reluctance to provide accurate cost information puts all other future tenderers at a competitive disadvantage, and makes public scrutiny of ‘value for money’ impossible.

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

BRegs: There is no guarantee that there will be any economies of scale. In fact there is a risk that parceling together big contracts will reduce competitiveness and maintain high costs because only a few large bidders will be able to take part (similar to the vulture funds purchasing the large NAMA portfolios).

The successful contractor will then be able to squeeze lower prices on the sub-contractors because he will control the market. This risks reducing quality while increasing the margin for the contractor.

It is unlikely that the cost of ‘rapid’ housing will reduce by 50% to resemble average costs of more traditional forms of construction, even if built at significant volumes.

O’Callaghan: 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?

BRegs: There is plenty of capacity in the smaller domestic builders and trades, if they can compete. Standard models of procurement on smaller sites can yield significant economies due to increased competitiveness.

The high threshold of turnover specified in the next four projects, between €7m and €12m, precludes participation by a large proportion of willing and able small to medium sized contractors.

O’Callaghan: “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?”

BRegs: The quality control and safety checks in the Ballymun housing is controlled by the contractor, because that is the way that DCC has set it up.

The houses will be inspected and certified privately by people engaged by the builder. The rapid build school that had fire safety problems was built by the same company that is providing the rapid houses in Ballymun.

Our current system of ‘reinforced self-certification’ is just that – self-certification by contractors of their own work with no independent oversight.

Recent experience of defective ‘rapid’ build schools suggests that in the event of a defect later on the state, remarkably, will bear the costs of repairs.

Thanks BRegs Blog

Previously: Rapid Questions

Rollingnews

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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?


5.
Will a cost effectiveness analysis be undertaken to compare rapid build housing with other methods of housing delivery?


6.
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?


8.
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?

Anyone?

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

UPDATE:

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)

Hang on.

25 days?

Related: Modular Homes Delayed Until End of February (98FM)

Previously: Meanwhile, In Ballymun

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Protesters gathered earlier today at the site of where 22 modular homes are being built in Ballymun

You may recall how yesterday Labour TD Ann Phelan explained that a new policy directive will give the chief executives of Dublin’s four local authorities the power to “dispense with the normal Part 8 planning process” – or public consultation process – for any situation they deem to be an emergency in regards to homelessness.

Further to this…

RTÉ reports:

“Work has stopped on the site where the first set of modular homes are to be located in Dublin due to a protest.”

“Around 20 people have gathered at the entrance of the site Balbutcher Lane in Ballymun.”

They say the modular housing project puts plans by a local co-op to build 40 social housing units on the same land in serious doubt.”

“…Dublin City Council said the modular homes provide no issues for the co-op’s plans.”

 

Update:

Dublin City Council say:

If the current protest being held at the Baile na Laochra Modular Homes site in Poppintree, Ballymun continues, 22 families will remain in unsuitable accommodation in commercial hotels for the Christmas and into early 2016.

The four Dublin Local Authorities, An tArdmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh and the Peter McVerry Trust are asking the protesters to stop obstructing building works on the site and enter into constructive discussion with Dublin City Council.

The contract was awarded to Western Building Systems following an Accelerated Restricted Procedure (ARP) to provide homes in recognition of the extreme urgency to respond to family homelessness in the Dublin region.

Protest disrupts work at modular housing site in Ballymun (RTE)

Previously: Modularity Of Mind

All Modular Cons

Pics: Ballymun Says No via Marcus Aindrea

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Labour TD Ann Phelan and Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy in a Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and Gaeltacht yesterday

You may recall a post from yesterday in relation to the construction work which has begun on the  22 modular homes being built by Western Building Systems in Ballymun, Dublin 11.

Dublin City Council awarded the contract to Western Building Systems even though the Department of Education last year ordered for investigations to be carried out at schools built by the firm, after Rush and Lusk Educate Together National School in Dublin – which was built by Western Building Systems – was found to have major fire safety defects.

This morning, Jennifer Bray, in the Irish Daily Mail [not online] reports that the average cost of building a home under the social housing scheme is €11,000 less than the €191,000 cost of each modular unit.

Further to this, yesterday Labour TD Ann Phelan fielded questions from Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy about the modular units at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and Gaeltacht.

Their discussion came after Ms Phelan introduced a policy directive, to remind the four Dublin planning authorities to utilise all powers available to them to find solutions to the social housing situation.

Specifically, Ms Murphy repeatedly asked Ms Phelan to outline what additional powers the policy directive will give the local authorities.

Ms Murphy had already left the meeting when Ms Phelan finally addressed the question of additional powers but Ms Phelan told the meeting that the new directive will allow the chief executives of the four Dublin local authorities to “dispense with the normal Part 8 planning process” in any situation they deem to be an emergency.

From the meeting…

Ann Phelan: “It is intended to have the first 150 of the units delivered in the Dublin City Council area with the city council expecting the delivery of an initial 22 units by December, a further 128 units to follow in quarter one of 2016 to a fast track procurement process and 350 units across the Dublin region by mid-2016. This compares with a timeframe of up to two years to provide conventional social housing units. In light of this, and to support the use of the fastest planning process, in order for the modular units to be in place as quickly as possible, [Environment] Minister [Alan] Kelly has indicated his intention to issue a policy directive, under Section 29 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, addressed to the four Dublin planning authorities. A draft policy directive has been prepared in this regard and, as required, has been laid before both houses of the Oireachtas. The purpose of the draft policy directive is to remind those planning authorities of the statutory provisions of Section 179 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and the related part 8 provisions in the planning and development regulations 201, 2001 as amended.

These provisions set out the procedure for local authority-owned development, such as the provision of new housing developments. In the context of the starting of these functions and, in particular, the need to provide urgent social housing to meet the needs of homeless families, the draft policy directive directs these planning authorities to utilise all powers available to them under Section 179 as appropriate, for the purpose of finding solutions to the social housing situation, presently faced and accelerating the delivery of social housing developments, to address the urgent and increasing need for social housing accommodation in the Dublin region. Subject to Oireachtas approval, this policy directive will issue to the Dublin planning authorities, under Section 29 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, and the four planning authorities will be bound to comply with the directive. The legislative basis for a policy directive underpins and strengthens any policy direction the minister may wish to issue. The issue of a policy directive in the context of the delivery of social housing will underscore the importance of the expeditious delivery of this programme of modular housing as approved by the Government. It is essential that this programme is expeditiously implemented. From a planning perspective, this draft policy directive is aimed at doing just that…”

Catherine Murphy: “I doubt that there’s anything actually in this that the local authorities are not familiar with. I mean we are all aware of Part 8s and the other part, maybe you might tell us what additional powers are in this that the local authorities wouldn’t be already familiar with. And in fact I would say that there’s, it’s probably, if they’d known that they had to plan for this a year ago, you know, you wouldn’t be, you wouldn’t be talking about, reminding them of their powers…The modular housing, I’ve got to say, I have grave concerns about the modular housing because it’s, it’s not cheap. It’s somewhere in the region of €190,000 a unit, if I’m right. It has a lifespan of 60 years. So it’s not a temporary solution. So we are putting something very permanent in place and planning should be something that looks at a variety of different things, including the provision of housing, including how that relates to the other services that should be available including the cohesiveness of the community that’s going to be developed.

And I have got to say that we’re in an emergency situation and that forces sometimes a less than optimum response. I think if we go back to the 1960s and we look at the high-rise that was Ballymun, in retrospect, it wasn’t a great idea. We’re back in a crisis situation again here now and I think it’s important that the department outline how they perceive these houses will be a short-term measure for people rather than just saying they’re short-term. And what length of time people are going to be in them? I mean modular housing or system-built housing is used in other parts of the world and it’s perfectly good when it’s in the right location and when it’s of a good standard. But it’s the other things that go with that I’ve got to say that I’ve got concerns, I’ve got some concerns about. For example, if it had a dual function, we’ve 25,000 students for example, accommodated around the country and if, for example, you had a housing that doubled as for the second part of its function, if it was to be, for example, student accommodation, you may place it in a different location, you may get a different type of accommodation, if that was the case. But I think that is really important, that we don’t end up with identifiable ghettos. And I think that that’s critical.”

Phelan: “…We have to respond to the homelessness situation and we have to remind planning authorities of the statutory provisions of section 179 of the Planning and Development Acts that are 2015. Part 8 of the planning and regulations 2001 to 2015 in relation to local authorities own development and direct those planning authorities to use and utilise all powers available to them under the above provisions, as appropriate for the purpose of finding solutions to the housing situation and accelerating the delivery of social housing developments to address the increasing social housing need in the region.

And these are those modular homes, you know, they can be delivered quickly and they are suitable, you know, for families. I understand why, I do understand you know, what you’re saying, I do understand that your concerns but this is a response, an immediate response to try and do something about the situation that everybody. This actually, this directive should be welcomed, I think by the deputies themselves. That this is the Government trying to do something to alleviate what is a really bad situation, particularly in the Dublin area. You know, even if we were to take it into our own lives, I don’t think any of us would particularly like trying to house ourselves with families in hotels. So the modular housing is perhaps I suppose you could say, on the issue of, some of them are up to an extremely high standard as Deputy Murphy has said herself and it is used quite a bit, even for elderly, particularly across Wales and across Britain. But there is nobody saying that this is a long-term solution to these families. This is a short-term solution.

Modular, on the longevity of modular housing, they have a lifespan of 50 to 60 years, so you know it’s not that anybody is saying that these are permanent houses for these people. This is the Government responding to the situation that is going to arise at Christmas again this year, where we will have those awful stories of people who are homeless, you know, on our streets, and this is the Government responding to that. I think in a very, very quick way. Twenty two units in Ballymun, going to be delivered, you know, very, very soon. They will house 22 families. Dublin City Council awarded the contract last Friday. The units are to be ready for the 21st of December. Again, I think this is to be welcomed.”

Murphy: “Just to come back on some of those points… You didn’t tell me what additional powers are in this, over and above what that the local authorities wouldn’t have been readily, they wouldn’t have readily available to them. I think there’s an element of blame game going on in relation to the local authorities not delivering and the department appearing to crack the whip it looks like to me. You didn’t tell me how the modular housing is going to have a limited lifespan for the individuals who will go into them, that it won’t be permanent housing for them…”

Phelan: “The issue of the short-term to long-term issue, the families will be moved from modular housing to normal social housing as soon as possible and there will be an on-site family placement service to deal with this. So it will be modular to social housing. The whole issue of, you know, sustainable communities is a key aim in planning and development considerations, so nobody wants to see them turn into ghettos as Deputy Murphy referred to. This is a emergency response to an emergency situation which is homeless people… Deputy Murphy has left, she was asking about the extra powers that were being given to the local authorities. This directive, what we’re speaking about, this actually goes beyond Part 8. Their powers, under Section 179, 6B of the Act, under which a local authority chief executive can dispense with the normal Part 8 planning process for the local authorities owned development where a proposed development is necessary for dealing urgently with any situation which the chief executive considers is an emergency situation calling for immediate action. So it actually goes beyond the council’s own planning process where the chief executive considers that a situation is an emergency situation that needs to be called for immediate action. He can actually take that decision. So that goes beyond, they are the extra powers that Deputy Murphy is speaking about.”

VIDEO: Modular homes to be built in Dublin by firetrap school firm (Elaine Loughlin, Irish Examiner)