Eve Kelliher looks at the world of building and architecture in Cork city as builders, planners and architects highlight infrastructure the city needs
Soapboxes may be the indoors-to-outdoors accessory du jour for election candidates clamouring for the attention of the masses. But this week, it was hard to ignore a chorus of elevator pitches that echoed from builders, planners and architects as the general election 2020 campaign entered its second half.
These voices are particularly resonant in the Cork region where it is estimated the construction sector accounts for over 12% of the output of the industry and employs approximately 20,000 people.
Whether you’re a crane-spotter or not, it’s fair to say Cork is now the fastest-growing urban area in Ireland. “We need to invest in Cork,” said Conor O’Connell, Construction Industry Federation (CIF) regional director for the Southern Region. “Cork’s population and employment levels have increased significantly in recent years and now more than ever public infrastructural investment needs to keep pace with a growing employment and population base.”
The CIF is keen to see infrastructural investment in the construction of roads, cycleways, schools and hospitals as well as the flood defence scheme for Cork.
Accessibility is also of crucial importance to the region with the CIF calling for a number of key routes to be completed as well as a fast-tracking for a light rail in Cork city.
The CIF has, in addition, sought action on the docklands infrastructure and public works in the region and looked for timescales for transport links such as the N8/N25 Dunkettle Interchange and the M28, as well as for the Event Centre.
“The M28 must be fast-tracked. The current estimated date of 2027 for completion is unacceptable in the context of our trading routes to continental Europe following Brexit and the unlocking of vast tracts of city centre lands at Tivoli for sustainable residential development,” said Mr O’Connell.
Meanwhile, constructing the M20 would be “the greatest signal that any government could give that it is serious about creating a real economic engine that can act as a counterbalance to the over-congested Dublin region”, said Mr O’Connell.
“The motorway must be in line with the original route selected as that route is the most sustainable route directly linking Cork city and Limerick city, airports, universities, ports and employment districts,” he added.
The severe shortage of residential properties for sale or rent in Cork city as well as the significant demand for starter homes and city-centre units for the rental market have also been flagged by the CIF.
Also this week the Irish Planning Institute (IPI) and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) unveiled a joint manifesto of commitments planners are seeking from the new government.
Planning, planners and the planning system itself are all vital if Ireland is to achieve zero carbon and climate change targets, according to the president of the Irish Planning Institute, Dr Conor Norton.
They are also key to building more housing as part of sustainable communities, and promoting compact growth, he added. “Members of the Irish Planning Institute work right across the planning system — from central government to local authorities, a range of state agencies, and in consulting across the private sector,” said Dr Norton.
“As a profession we have a major role to play in delivering on many of the topics that feature so prominently in the election debate.
“We are calling on all political parties seeking to enter government to commit to our proposals as outlined in our manifesto.”
Action on climate change also ranks high on the wish list drawn up by architects. In addition, they want to see social challenges addressed through a better built environment.
The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has set out recommendations for tackling climate change as well as quality design in in housing, urban and balanced regional development and the public realm in its manifesto for the next government. Architects can take a leading role in tackling climate change in the built environment and in mitigating environmental damage through large-scale master-planning of projects, according to Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO.
“Innovation in housing design and development is essential to meet the needs of our changing demographics, particularly decreasing household size and an ageing population,” she said.
Amongst the recommendations outlined by the Institute are mechanisms to support the increased delivery of high quality, energy-efficient and well-designed new homes, offices, public buildings and commercial developments.
Architects are also keen to encourage the deep retrofitting of existing buildings to reduce their carbon emissions and extend the buildings’ life cycle.