Friday 30 September 2016

Irish duo to build 15,000 low-cost 'green' apartments in UK, Spain and Chile

John Reynolds

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

The apartments feature green technologies such as rainwater harvesting, rooftop solar panels and energy storage, and typically generate at least as much energy as they use. (stock image)
The apartments feature green technologies such as rainwater harvesting, rooftop solar panels and energy storage, and typically generate at least as much energy as they use. (stock image)

A former executive of Irish-headquartered oil to computer games distributor DCC has quietly raised over €300m over the past seven years and is developing more than 15,000 low-cost apartments in the UK, Spain and Chile worth over €1.2bn.

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Dubliner Barry O'Neill, a co-founder of WeLink - which has relocated its headquarters here - along with another Irishman, engineer Breandan MacAmhlaoibh, secured the money from a range of investors, including family offices and private individuals, mostly in Britain and the US. Some of the investors are Irish and based here.

They have also invested themselves and retain the controlling equity stake in its projects. They have partnered with China's state-owned National Building Materials Group, which is providing construction financing and is a preferred supplier of materials required in the project, including glass and gypsum.

O'Neill and MacAmhlaoibh built up significant experience over more than eight years in China, working in product engineering, sourcing, project management and finance before they founded WeLink in Hong Kong in 2007.

They expect to complete the first 4,000 two- and three-bed apartments in Britain by 2018. A further 4,000 units will follow, amounting to a total build cost of over €1bn.

O'Neill declined to reveal sale prices, which will vary according to land costs. The first developments will be in Scotland, where he said there is demand for up to 30,000 such homes, with more planned for southern England. The apartments are housed in four-storey developments, which can be put together in a week, and are aimed at first-time and affordable home buyers.

In Chile's Copiapo mining region, WeLink is currently building 144 apartments, to be followed by 4,000 more valued at about €260m. In Spain, where it is working with Banco Santander, it plans to build a further €800m worth of apartments.

Its modular buildings involve no water, concrete or waste in the building process. They feature green technologies such as rainwater harvesting, rooftop solar panels and energy storage, and typically generate at least as much energy as they use. Equipment suppliers include Philips, GE and Siemens.

The building method is up to 20 times faster than traditional construction, with much of the work done in factories nearby, minimising skilled labour costs. O'Neill said WeLink will establish at least three factories in Britain, each employing 100 people full-time. The company, which is advised by PwC, currently employs 45 people in seven countries, and is also involved in €400m of UK solar energy projects in partnership with British Solar Renewables.

Sunday Indo Business

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