Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

Houses ‘grown’ in Germany and factory fabricated are about to make their way to Irish market says Tommy Barker.

TIMING’S a funny old thing, as architecturally accomplished eco-houses ‘grown’ in Germany’s Bavarian forests, and factory prefabricated to within millimeters of precision by a big company called Baufritz, in a small town called Erkheim, are about to make their way to Irish shores.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

For a launch starter, there are 24, multi-million euro eco-mansions waiting in the wings (plus an hotel and sports facilities) for north Dublin’s pretty, Tidy Towns award-winning village of Skerries in a €60m-plus development called Holmpatrick Cove: bankers relocating to the Irish capital as a result of Brexit are among the targeted buyers.

It’s a pending pet project of Irish developers, and Skerries’ locals, tech entrepreneur Michael Branagan, and his partner Alison Ryan: this month they await an An Bord Pleanála decision, due very shortly, on their ambitious coastal community plan, after it and their EIS back-up coasted through Fingal County Council last year.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

“Architecture should be of its time and this is why we have chosen an architectural language that is sustainable and appropriate to its setting,” says co-developer Alison Ryan. 

She notes that well-known high-end schemes such as Abington in Malahide, or Thormanby Hill in Howth, “have taken their references from the past, we are looking very much to the future. 

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

We also favour a more open setting and therefore have avoided gates and barriers to social interaction, which is in the spirit of Skerries itself.”

Subject to the planning green-light, and with a number of Holmpatrick Cove sales pre-booked subject to that planning go-ahead, the Skerries proposal envisages new ‘executive’ homes individually going to be over and under the €2m mark, for those keen on design-led, high-end, eco-builds for the greater Dublin market.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

And, separately outside of that niche national market, the dynamic German Baufritz factory builder of top quality homes low-energy one-offs is also gearing up to supply to Irish self-builders, to order, anywhere else around Ireland. 

They’ll be at prices well south of the €2m price-point, thankfully: they’ll cut their cloth (and timber materials) to a buyer’s measure.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

The timing of the move into the Irish housing market by the 1896-founded southern Germany craft company Baufritz (now in fourth generation of family ownership and headed by its first woman CEO, Dagmar Fritz-Kramer,) is fortuitous.

It comes as a recovering Irish construction market struggles with some trade and skills shortages, rising costs and at a time of absolute shortage of supply of new-builds, from affordable homes and social builds, as well as rentals, right up the scale to luxury buys line up to Skerries’ Holmpatrick Cove.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

Critically, too, it comes as Britain prepares to leave the EU, with a ‘bounce’ in demand for super-comfortable, up-market homes expected in Dublin from the financial sectors, as well as from more indigenous ‘Silicon Docks’ tecchies. 

Roll on Skerries’ Holmpatrick Cove, with its two dozen homes with island-scanning views, including St Patrick’s Island?

Having established a beachhead in the UK ten years ago, with 60 homes built there already, and with Grand Designs TV exposure as well, the privately-owned Baufritz sees a reinvigorated Ireland as a market for its continued future growth, and even as a hedge against Sterling market vagaries post-Brexit.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

When the Irish Examiner visited the Baufritz factory on a press trip in Erkheim in March, it spotted shrink-wrapped bundles of wall panels for a client in Newbury labeled ‘Webber’.

Curiosity was aroused. And, yep, after a quick probe, it turns out it was indeed wrapped and ready for shipping for a certain well-known composer called Andrew Lloyd Webber. 

Now, that’s a note-able client recommendation: Baron Lloyd Webber’s Newbury house is probably well advanced already, given the advantages of system building.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

Apart from its native German market, the carpenter-founded Baufritz moving from 19th century nails and planks to eco-builds has proven it is not afraid to travel.

It has built all over Germany, as well as in Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Spain; ithas at least one US build, and has done some small works and extensions in Ireland. 

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

The Irish market thus far has been for native Germans living here, and who know of Baufritz’s build reputation and eco credentials, which include patents on non-flicker LED lights, and a patented, wood-shaving insulation (much of it harvested from the factory itself) treated with whey and soda, which makes its rodent repellant and fire-resistant.

(Other German companies in this pre-fab sphere with Irish builds include Huf Haus and DaVinci build companies, while a German-Irish partnership, Griffner Coillte, also built up momentum in the run-up to the Celtic Tiger years.)

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

Unless buyers opt for one of Baufritz’s ‘off the peg’ designs (which are their big, broadly-affordable mass- German market products,) it partners in each country with local architects and forges links with them for future builds also.

Those who want a one-off Baufritz home will have a local contractor do foundation works in advance of their crew’s arrival to put up a weather-tight structure, which then will be roofed and all, gutters in situ, within days. 

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

The UK’s Channel Four last month featured a 5,000 sq ft Baufritz home being erected in four days in a programme rather unflatteringly called ‘Flat Pack Mansions!’

Baufritz’s UK and Irish markets director, architect Oliver Rehm, says they ‘front load’ the design process for the most efficient specification and delivery of their one-offs – and one-offs are a build route that we Irish love to embrace, and a market sector which has kept the Irish construction sector ticking, over, over the past decade and more as a significant proportion of housing output.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

The company says their average build costs (which pretty much includes all internal options and finishes), are €1,500 per square metre or, say, €300,000 for a 2,000 sq ft build, but that’s ‘at factory’ prices, so they say that the cost of delivery and assembly of one of their builds to a site in Ireland (with its crews accompanying the shrink-wrapped bundles of homes-to-be) can add a further €30,000-€60,000 to the overall cost. 

However, once the specs are agreed, costs are guaranteed, so there’s no further post-build surprises down the line.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

When we visited the impressive factory and design hub, via a flight to Memling airport, it was all business over sprawling acres of manicured site. 

Bikes are the preferred mode of transport between elements, from the many show houses (including the sculptural, show-stopping one in the main picture above by Swiss architect Alfred Haeberli, just nominated for an architecture award in the international Green Product Awards) to the ‘home sampling suite’ staffed by architects and designers. 

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

The factory floor, meanwhile, is staffed by dozens of workers, many in their late teens, continuing a German tradition of craft work and apprenticeship.

Families looking to live in a Baufritz home are expected to visit Erkheim, staying several days, detailing and specifying every last detail of what’s to be their home, from curated displays and mood boards spanning roof tiles to plaster finishes, bathrooms, tiles, kitchens, floors, socket, switches and door handles which will comprise the final product.

Photos: These German eco-houses are built for the Irish market

Depending on your persuasion, it’s either an exhilarating or an exhausting process, but thankfully hands are held by appointed designers - and, anyone building anew will necessarily face the same range of options, though not in so concentrated a timespan!

See www.baufritz.com  


Lifestyle

Abstracts with a structural focus.Meet artist Shane O'Driscoll: 'For such a small island, we have a massive reach creatively across the world'

Ciara McDonnell shares seven of the best places to ring in the new year abroad.7 of the best holiday destinations to ring in 2020

More From The Irish Examiner