Laying blocks for rapid success in building semi-detached homes

Paul Glavin, founder of Glavloc

Using a Lego-style approach can deliver a semi-detached home in under eight weeks, writes Trish Dromey

Taking a Lego-style approach to construction, Cork building technology company Glavloc has developed a rapid-build system it says can be used to complete an average-sized three-bed semi in just six to eight weeks.

“Our technology can be used to construct a building in a quarter of the time used in traditional masonry and half the time involved in building an offsite timber-framed structure,” says Glavloc founder and managing director Paul Glavin, who has global plans for the innovative system for which he has secured worldwide patents.

The system involves the mass production of generic components which are manufactured in a range of sizes — along the lines of Lego pieces although made mainly from timber.

“The components can be fabricated and stockpiled regardless of the type of building they are being used for. This means much shorter lead-in times from ordering to delivery,” he says.

Using advanced robotic production lines, Glavloc now has the capacity to produce components for over 150 houses a year. With the addition of new production lines, Mr Glavin aims to increase this figure to 350 by the end of the year and up to 1,000 by 2023.

“It is a whole new approach to construction — using automated robotic production to manufacture the components reduces the labour cost and speeds up the process,” says Mr Glavin, explaining that the company uses the savings from labour costs to improve the quality of the components and insulation which he says are used to build structures to the new NZEB regulations (near zero energy buildings) coming in next year (A2+ BER) and passive house standard.

A structural engineer who lost his job in the recession, Mr Glavin began looking at the idea of modular construction around five years ago and came up with the idea of creating standardised components.

He spent two years developing the Glavloc system and set up the company in Blackpool in 2015 with some support from the Cork Local Enterprise Office. In 2016 Glavloc’s rapid-build system produced its first building.

“We built a two-classroom crèche in Carrigtwohill in just four weeks. This was our first demonstration of what we could do,” he says.

Working to establish itself as a building technology company, Glavloc began targeting architects and developers, using the internet and social media to develop sales. “Our system has been used in educational facilities all around the country, as well as in small commercial structures and large one-off houses,” says Mr Glavin.

In early 2018, he raised a multimillion-euro investment and moved to a larger facility at the Kilbarry IDA Industrial Estate, where the company employs a full-time team of 12 as well as six contract workers.

The company has since secured additional investment from Enterprise Ireland via its High Potential Start Up programme.

In discussions with a number of builders and developers around the country, Glavloc is now about to see its rapid-build system used in housing developments for the first time.

“We are currently manufacturing components for the development of 50 units in Cork and Navan,” says Mr Glavin, adding that other projects include developments in Dublin, Wicklow, Kerry, and Waterford.

He says business has been doubling each year and the company expects to manufacture over 70 units this year, growing to 500 within two years.

Investment in R&D is ongoing and Glavloc has now developed software to automate the construction process for its customers.

“We are continuing to develop the technology and are applying for a new patent every six months,” says Mr Glavin.

Within five years the company aims to become one of the largest offsite building manufacturers in Ireland and the UK. Exports are expected to start with a launch in the UK in 2020.

Given that there is a housing shortage not just in Ireland but also across Europe, Mr Glavin sees enormous export potential for its rapid-build system.

“The components can be flatpacked so are both easily transportable and very exportable.”

Holding early stage partnership discussions with a company in China, he says Glavloc also has the US market in its sights.

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