The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has called for a new Plan for Ireland which looks ahead to 2030 – in a bid to create major jobs and infrastructure benefits and stem the haemorrhaging of young talent in the construction sector through emigration.
Following the launch of its election manifesto Building a Better Ireland, the RIAI says that by prioritising investment in construction and infrastructure, the incoming Government could restore the building sector to its optimum level of €18 billion per annum, with 250,000 jobs in direct and indirect employment.
According to RIAI president Paul Keogh: “The recession presents a once-off opportunity to get architects and construction working to ‘get it right’ to redress the infrastructure and environment deficits which affect our quality of life and our economic competitiveness into the future. The largest building boom in Ireland’s history has left the country with an onerous legacy of social and environmental challenges – not only for today, but for years to come.”
He continues: “Issues which were sidelined during the recession will come into focus as the economy recovers: how to address deficits in our housing, education, healthcare and community infrastructure; how to respond to the challenge of climate change, not least in retrofitting large sections of our building stock; how to deal with the continuing growth of our towns and cities, and the demographic and social change projected for the coming decades; and, most importantly, what kind of society – and built environment – do we want for our children and our children’s children?”
With the economy projected to return to modest growth in 2011, and with some experts estimating that the population will reach five million in the next decade, the incoming government cannot afford not to plan for the future.
The RIAI is recommending the following key actions to Government:
* Review the current National Development Plan and work towards a new Plan for Ireland which looks ahead to 2030.
* Review the National Spatial Strategy to deliver a long-term planning framework, with the goal of delivering social, economic and environmental sustainability in all areas of the built environment.
* Expedite the roll-out of approved public capital projects and bring forward the planning and design of key public capital projects – to maintain employment and generate a pipeline of ‘shovel-ready’ schemes for when the economy recovers.
* Undertake an immediate review of public procurement – to deliver key reforms in the commissioning of architecture and construction design services, reduce the bureaucracy in public tendering, and deliver resource efficiencies for commissioning public bodies.
* Undertake an urgent review of the planning system to affect efficiencies, and achieve the timely delivery of essential infrastructure and built environment investment.
* Ensure the registration standards in the Building Control Act 2007 are maintained, and implement improvements to building regulatory procedures to achieve increased levels of compliance and greater consumer protection for the public.
* Advance the Government Policy on Architecture’s commitment to place quality and design in architecture at the core of national policy on the built environment, and particularly in State-funded construction projects.
Paul Keogh also says that the RIAI is urging the next Government to support the development of innovative funding mechanisms for construction projects – such as 100% low interest loans – for capital investment in upgrading our entire stock of domestic, public and commercial buildings. In addition, he says that VAT should be reduced from its current levels to 5% in respect of all energy upgrade repairs, maintenance and improvement works to private dwellings and commercial buildings.