Solid system for house builds

Carlow’s Burren Precast Concrete is growing fast by building homes fast, writes Trish Dromey

With patent-pending technology which allows it to manufacture a modular home at its factory in a day, and erect a property on site in just four days, Carlow company Burren Precast Concrete believes it can help solve the housing crisis.

Company founder and chief executive Enda Byrne said the company’s “advanced, innovative building system” can be used to erect a home in a quarter of the time required for a conventional build.

“We have developed a panelised system which uses light gauge steel precast concrete panels with an insulated core,’’ he said, explaining that existing systems for modular home construction use plain concrete panels without insulation which require further substantial work to be carried out on site.

“Ours is the most advanced system on the market. It can be used to build homes faster and more cost-effectively and is a game-changer for the residential market,” he said

Set up two years ago to provide precast water tanks for flood alleviation, Burren Precast has started work on the first phase of a 198 social and affordable homes in Carlow.

“We are manufacturing the houses now and expect to be on site in July, building 60 this year and 138 next year,” said Mr Byrne, who is also in negotiations with two large UK house developers and an Irish developer.

Burren Precast, which recently won the best export award at the National Enterprise Awards, was set up with co-founder Mj Lomax. They had identified a gap in the UK market for a company which could design, manufacture and install large precast water retention tanks for reservoirs and flood alleviation schemes.

Using their own funding for both research and developmeht and the conversion of a steel factory into a precast concrete facility, they started with five full-time staff and 10 subcontractors.

“We developed an innovative and unique technology which allows us to tailor make modular tanks to suit customer needs,” said Mr Byrne, adding that their products comply with the Eurocode standard.

Starting by targeting housing developers in the UK, the company got its first order to design, build, and install a large tank for stormwater at Whitby Bay, in early 2016.

The following year the company targeted the UK’s 12 water companies.

It has since completed 109 projects, including a large flood alleviation scheme in 2017 in Birmingham.

Mr Byrne said that in its first year the company greatly exceeded its targeted turnover of €1.6m.

“By June 2017 we had sales of over €5m and for the year ending in June 2018 we expect to increase this to €7m,” he said.

It was during 2017 that the company began to investigate the possibility of manufacturing modular homes.

“We saw a market opening for a company which could make cost-effective homes at a rapid rate as well as an opportunity to cross sell modular homes to some of our existing customers.

Carrying out reserach and development, the company combined modular technology from New Zealand and Australia with its own.

“We have now applied for patents on both our building technology and our method of production,’’ said Mr Byrne.

Supported by Carlow Local Enterprise during 2017, Burren Precast converted a building at its facility into a factory for modular home production.

It employed four more people bringing the staff numbers to 15 and also increased its subcontracted workers to 40.

Following the construction of its first development in Carlow, the company expects to achieve rapid growth in the residential sector.

“In order to roll out sales in Northern Europe we plan to open a sales office in Brussels in the next two years focusing on markets in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and France,” said Mr Byrne.

The goal is to achieve a €10m turnover in two to three years and to establish the company as market leaders for both modular housing and precast water tanks in the UK and Ireland.

Identified by Enterprise Ireland as a High Potential Start Up this year, Burren Precast has now announced plans to raise €500,000 to fund expansion.

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