Wednesday 22 November 2017

Size of a plot should not dictate the quality of the building

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

It's the size of your wallet, and not the plot of land you intend to develop, which dictates what kind of building can be erected in the heart of a city.

Architects can provide clever design and a vision, meaning the smallest of sites can be developed into a family home or a series of apartments and duplexes with large living areas and bedrooms to house family and guests.

A vacant land audit from Dublin City Council shows there are some 282 unused sites across the city totalling 61 hectares (ha) - an enormous amount of land which could provide much needed housing. Some 62 of these sites are less than 0.01 ha - or 100 square metres. Another 128 are between 0.01ha and 0.1ha (100 and 1,000 square metres), while 65 range in scale from 0.1ha to 0.5ha (1,000 and 5,000 square metres).

The remainder are 0.5ha and above, and include large sites such as the Irish Glass Bottle plot in Ringsend.

Architect Sean Harrington says very small sites, less than 100 square metres, mean there is little prospect of a garden.

But putting a retail unit for a shop, dentist, barber or cafe on the ground floor provides not only local services, but also allows upper floors to be developed for housing.

"If you're having a residence above it, you need to think a bit more creatively. That could include decent-sized balconies, ideally facing the rear for privacy. Ideally it should come off the kitchen or living room, and ideally it should be any direction except north.

"A less obvious way is to put it on the roof. That's a wonderful thing to do. You get views, all-day sun and great privacy. A good rule of thumb is it probably won't be acceptable to planners to go above existing buildings. However, if your site is on a corner, there's a good argument you can make to planners to make them taller because they're landmark buildings."

Larger developments with more than one apartment allow "amazing opportunities" for cost savings.

One development at Holles Street has solar panels on the roof to heat water; a shared roof garden and storage for bicycles and buggies on the ground floor.

There's also grey water recycling, where rainwater is used for irrigation, but that can also be used to flush toilets.

There's also the prospect of securing a free home, where the sale of additional units would pay for the cost of your property.

There's a plethora of sites across the city, including ones in Temple Bar, on Exchange Street and on Marlborough Street, which will be serviced by the new Luas Cross City line.

Mr Harrington said while it's more expensive to self-build, the value of the property tends to be higher. The additional costs include transporting materials on a daily basis to the site and security during building works.

The minimum cost per square metre of development is around €1,200, he said, rising to €6,000, but employing an architect will allow clients to use clever design to maximise use of the site.

Vacant sites can also be used as temporary spaces, as demonstrated by the development of Granby Park at Dominick Street, a 'pocket' park which included an outdoor cinema, play areas and cafes.

"There's huge advantages in living in the inner city," Mr Harrington added. "I can walk to the shops, cycle everywhere and my children went to school locally.

"There is a most brilliant opportunity but creating urban communities needs more than housing. It needs shops, and dentists, and small workplaces, and garages, and cafes and pubs. The more complex a part of the city is, the more interesting it is. You go out your front door and there's lots of things on your doorstep."

Irish Independent

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