CIF Cork Chair Ger O’Leary on navigating future regional development and infrastructure delivery

by | Sep 4, 2022

Ahead of this year’s Southern Construct Summit & Exhibition, CIF Cork Branch Chair Ger O’Leary shares insight into project delivery in the southern region and how to navigate the big issues facing the sector now and into the future

Ger O’Leary

What can we expect from this year’s Southern Construct?

The main theme for this year’s Southern Construct is to highlight the many years of experience of the construction industry in the region delivering projects for the process engineering sector, life sciences, heavy industry and the energy sector.

We have a wide range of speakers from pharmaceutical companies to the offshore wind sector, talking about their upcoming projects, many of them unique and large scale, which the construction industry is looking forward to delivering.

What is the future outlook for the construction sector in the Southern Region in the coming year?

The outlook for the construction sector in the Southern Region is very positive. There are a large number of projects in the life sciences sector commencing or about to commence and with further projects in the offing in the Pharma Sector, it certainly looks as if it is going to be a very busy period for the specialist contracting sector in particular.

We are also looking at a number of energy related projects including the Celtic Interconnector, which is the sub-sea electricity cable from France to Ireland, which should commence construction in 2023.

This €1billion project is one of the larger scale energy projects about to take place and there are long-term plans for the offshore energy sector in particular, which we are looking forward to seeing go through the lengthy regulatory process for planning approval.

In the civil engineering sector, two of Ireland’s largest civil engineering projects, the Macroom By-Pass and the Dunkettle Interchange are well underway and will continue throughout 2023. We will hopefully see the M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy project also go to tender in 2023.

There are a number of smaller scale Irish Water projects also which are vital to service zoned lands, in particular in East Cork, which we hope will begin construction in 2023.

While e-tenders may be quiet at the moment, many members are reporting that there should be an upturn in the number of Public Works Contracts later on in 2023 and the industry is monitoring this closely.

In relation to residential construction, demand remains extremely strong in the region, but we do need to see a significant increase from 2,000 units constructed per annum, up to 4,000 units, which means in effect that the residential construction sector needs to double its output to cater for the demand of a growing population base in the city and county.

However, there are many challenges and headwinds in this sector, including planning supply, land supply and the servicing of zoned lands, as well as the commercial viability of many residential projects.

What do you think will be the challenges and opportunities around sustainability in the next decade?

While new homes and buildings are constructed to the highest energy rating standards, the major challenge will be the retrofitting of both residential and general building stock over the coming decades. This will require new skills and will also large scale government intervention to retrofit many different types of buildings.

Of course, we are extremely lucky in the Cork Region that so many green energy companies, such as DP Energy, Simply Blue, Orsted, Statkraft and others, have significant bases in the region, but we do need to see some of the larger scale offshore wind energy projects move through the regulatory process in a much quicker manner.

What are your thoughts around technology when it comes to the future of the construction sector?

The industry is changing rapidly. We now regularly see the use of Building Information Modelling, the adoption of digital technologies, the use of drones and off-site manufacturing.

This will only accelerate in years to come. The skills challenge in the industry will also ensure that there will be greater adoption and use of Modern Methods of Construction over the coming years.

For more about this year’s Southern Construct Summit & Exhibition go to www.southernconstruct.ie

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