Planning, housing and sustainability top the agenda at this year’s CIF Southern Construct Summit & Exhibition

by | Oct 6, 2022

Pictured above is Stephen McCarthy, Director of Astra Construction; Parag Joglekar, Head of Development, Respond; Michael O’Flynn, Managing Director, O’Flynn Construction and Conor O’Connell; Director of Housing, CIF

A common theme at this year’s CIF Southern Construct Summit & Exhibition was the need for planning reform within the industry. The event, which took place on September 8 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, gathered construction leaders who shared their perspective on both challenges and solutions within the sector.

For the first time an exhibition and trade show were held alongside the conference, where attendees could see and learn about some of the latest products, technologies and services.

Secondary school and college students were also invited to get a sense of the modern construction industry at work and the different careers on offer. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath attended and visited all the exhibition stands.

During the conference, the Minister also spoke to emphasise the Government’s commitment to delivering the capital projects in the National Development Plan, Ireland 2040 and the €4billion per annum budget for the Government’s Housing for All plan.

Overall, 20 speakers took part in this year’s conference, which was opened by CIF Cork Branch Chairperson Ger O’Leary and closed by CIF President Frank Kelly.

Stephen Griffin, Director of Facilities, Boston Scientific, Cork presents to the Southern Construct audience

Threats to residential project viability

A common theme across the day was the need for planning reform. The first panel comprising of Stephen McCarty (Astra Construction), Michael O’Flynn (O’Flynn Construction), Parag Joglekar (Respond) and Conor O’Connell (CIF Director of Housing) discussed how delays in the planning process are threatening the viability of residential projects across the region.

The closing panel comprising of Michael Lynch (Cork County Council), Fergal Reidy (Cork City Council), Dave Coakley (Coakley O’Neill Town Planning) and Clare Cashin (Philip Lee) discussed their frustration at elements of the planning process.

While Catherine Sheridan of EIH2 discussed how planning reform was urgently needed for Ireland to take advantage of the huge potential for offshore wind energy and green hydrogen.

Minister McGrath confirmed that the Attorney General is conducting a thorough review of the planning legislation currently. He said “it will lead to a new, consolidated planning bill” and will aim to reduce the legal risk of judicial reviews, giving power of planning decisions back to local authorities, rather than the courts.

Sustainable building practices

A key focus of the conference and exhibition was how the industry is investing in more environmental and sustainable building practices.

The panel compromising of David Purdon (Diatec), Ronan Murphy (Amarenco), Barry McDermott (PM Group), Dr Mary Moloney (Build Digital) discussed how construction companies in the southern region are planning, building, operating and supporting the development of our chief renewable energy resources and working towards a sustainable future for the industry.

Eamonn Judge (Senior Director Global Engineering, Eli Lilly) gave a presentation on the Lilly Kinsale Solar Farm project with plans to expand it further. While Stephen Griffin (Director of Facilities, Boston Scientific) presented on how the latest Boston Scientific projects are incorporating sustainable building practices.

While the construction industry has faced a number of challenges over the last few years with Brexit, Covid-19 lockdowns and most recently material price inflation as a result of the war in Ukraine, it was welcome to hear from Joe Seymour (Head of Active Travel & Public Transport Investment, National Transport Authority) Noel Crowley, (Director, Project Delivery GES, MSD) and David Skene (Procurement Lead, Capital Delivery Programmes, Department of Education) on the hundreds of millions worth of construction projects upcoming through their organisations in the next couple of years.

Thank you to event sponsors Diatec, Philip Lee, etag, and Topcon who made this year’s conference and exhibition possible. Thanks also to all exhibitors, attendees and event chair Jonathan Healy for asking the pertinent questions on the day.

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