Bank incentives urged to build expandable homes
Developers who build 'flexible' homes capable of being expanded or split into separate units at a later stage should be offered preferential financing rates from banks.
Simple measures and better design could help avoid the need for growing families to purchase a new home to meet their needs, putting additional pressure on the housing market, the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) says.
The main measures include insulating and designing the roof structure of an average three-bed, semi-detached home to allow attics to be converted at minimal cost to add living space.
Allowing the downstairs to be easily extended by including a "soft spot" on external walls would also reduce costs, IGBC executive director Pat Barry said.
He added that consideration should be given to including two entrance doors to larger homes, which would allow the property to be split into smaller units if it becomes too big for the owners' needs.
Apartment blocks should also be designed to allow units to be amalgamated to create bigger homes, or split into smaller properties if required.
The measures would also add value to the property, resulting in less of a financial risk for the bank.
"Some of the builders are beginning to look at this now, and it's about getting the architect and developer to think at an early stage of design," Mr Barry said. "A lot of these things don't cost very much, but it's saying the house is simple to convert, which should add value.
"We don't want to build inflexible houses."
This week is World Green Building Week and the IGBC will announce a new 'Home Performance Index' shortly which sets out a range of measures which developers could take to improve building quality.
The index says that low-flow sanitary ware, including taps and showers, should be fitted to reduce water consumption. This would also cut energy costs, as less hot water would be required.
Other measures include good urban design to reduce walking distances from homes to essential services, while flexibility on some planning rules could be offered to developers of apartment blocks who design best-in-class units.
"One of the problems developers have in Dublin is they have to put in place two-storey underground car parks.
"If they prove it's a very well-located building, and sign up the building to a car-sharing scheme, where people don't need a car, it would also reduce costs," he said.
The index includes almost 30 indicators, ranging from installing proper ventilation systems, sound-proofing and permeable external hard surfaces which allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground.
"We want the banks to take this on board, which is happening in Sweden and Norway.
"The idea is to encourage developers to improve the overall quality, but they need a carrot of some sort. You could look at planning gain, for example allowing slightly higher densities, but it could also be banks offering preferential rates."