Construction post lockdown: What’s changed

With restrictions loosening and economic activity returning, The Liberty checks back on the status of the industry in Ireland.

A few months ago, the story of construction and Ireland was filled with many possible issues. With building sites devoted to housing working through most of the pandemic and the wider economy reopening, what has changed since? 

The need for construction is clear. Government homelessness statistics have recently shown an overall trend upwards, with homelessness figures rising by 129 adults when comparing March 2021 and August 2021 figures. 

The Independent has reported further dramatic increases with homeless adults and children now numbering 8,212. 

Junior architect, Lea Duran (Image courtesy of Lea Duran)

The Liberty spoke with Junior Architect Lea Duran of Conroy Crowe Kelly Architects, which focuses on residential building, to see how the firm is faring during the reopening.  

The firm, thanks to its focus on housing, has been able to keep working. “Most of the projects affected (by restrictions) would be non-residential related projects,” Duran says. 

The CSO’s New Dwelling Completions for the second quarter of 2021 show a significant increase in the number of apartments being finished. 

The residential construction and the architectural firms engaged in it are experiencing a thriving market compared to non-residential construction.

It hasn’t all been good news, as a widespread issue in the construction sector, which the Irish Times has reported on, is an increased cost of building due to supply chain issues continues. 

As a result, architectural firms have faced a need to be more creative in their supply chain. 

Clients of the firm Duran works for have so far been able to avoid the worst of the shortages. “Fortunately, our clients are very well connected,” she says. 

“There’s benefits to zoom meetings, but I missed interaction with real people!”

Junior architect Lea Duran

“Of course, there is still some shortages in materials,” Duran adds.

“The materials that are in shortage, we source in Ireland not the UK, which is what people normally do, so I think that’s where some of the shortage is coming from, the Brexit thing.” 

Asked to comment on the ongoing student accommodation issues, Duran points out:  “It depends on the area, sometimes the council doesn’t approve of a project because a building site is too far from a university or college.” 

The office of Conroy Crowe Kelly Architects in Merrion Square (Photo courtesy of Lea Duran)

On a more personal level, Duran says the reopening has been a breath of fresh air: “I think it’s nice to be able to come back to the office again and see people and have face to face meetings rather than virtual meetings. 

“There’s benefits to zoom meetings, but I missed interaction with real people!” she laughs.  

“Our firm is thinking of probably implementing a hybrid work life, so some people may not come in full time any more. They might have three days a week virtual work and come in the rest of the time. 

“Working remotely works for us.

“It doesn’t work for all people in different sectors but for architecture, working remotely works just as well as coming to the office.”