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Construction: Looking Forward to 2020 – Can We Build on 2019?

04 December 2019

A Connected Ireland – the National Broadband Plan

We were delighted to have played a role in advising the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment on the historic infrastructure project, the National Broadband Plan (NBP), a state subsidised broadband infrastructure project bringing fibre broadband to some of the most rural parts of Ireland. The central project agreement for NBP was signed on 19 November, which paves the way for the commencement of the rollout of high-speed broadband to almost 540,000 premises around the country that are not currently serviced.

The successful bidder was a consortium led by Granahan McCourt, a US based private investment firm that is focused on telecoms and technology, led by Irish-American businessman, David McCourt. Other members include Walter Scott, as well as ENET, Actavo, KN Group, Nokia and the Kelly Group.

It is anticipated that work will commence in January 2020, and is projected to see up to 90 per cent of the State’s two million homes and businesses equipped with high speed internet connectivity, fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband, within the next five years. It is understood that surveys of ducts, poles and other infrastructure will begin in Q1 2020, with the west and midwest of Ireland likely to see the first elements of work commenced.

We advised on all aspects of the NBP project, and will continue to act as the project is rolled out.

Information on where all Broadband Connection Points will be located is available at www.nationalbroadbandireland.ie. Members of the public can also register to receive updates on the progress of NBP as the project is advanced.

Construction Litigation Update

Many owners’ management companies are facing the prospect of litigating to recover the cost of works for defective developments. As many developments were completed some time ago, and quite a number of the developers and contractors involved became insolvent following the financial crisis, management companies often face an uphill battle to recover damages. Security for costs applications present another and more immediate threat to management companies looking to commence litigation as defendants can use these applications to effectively shut down proceedings at the outset. We discuss this in greater detail here.

In K&J Townmore Construction Limited v Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board [2019] IEHC 666, the High Court determined that an agreement between a building contractor and the employer for an expert determination process had the effect of dis-applying the conciliation and arbitration clauses contained in the underlying building contract.

This case demonstrates the need for parties to carefully consider the effect that an agreement to engage in other forms of alternative dispute resolution may have on any existing arbitration agreement. Ideally, the intended effect should be expressly set out in the agreement between the parties to avoid ambiguity.

We review this case and the impact of its outcome, K&J Townmore Construction Limited v Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board [2019] IEHC 666, here

Building regulations – future development considerations

In December 2018, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government issued a set of statutory guidelines entitled “Urban Development and Building Heights” on building heights in relation to urban areas, and identified building height as an important measure for urban areas to deliver and achieve compact growth. Here, we discuss a case decided earlier this year which related to the interpretation and interaction between these and statutory planning schemes adopted for strategic development zones, as well as setting out key considerations from a developer’s perspective.

In 2019, the Irish Government published its Climate Action Plan. The objective of the Plan is to enable Ireland to meet its EU targets to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 per cent between 2021 and 2030 and lay the foundations for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Some of these measures include the enactment of more stringent building regulations, with all new buildings to be NZEB and existing dwellings undergoing major renovations to meet cost optimal performance equivalent to a BER of B2. We discuss the impact of these regulations, and the plan generally, on the built environment here.

Conclusion

2019

The sentiment and outlook for the construction industry for 2020 remains positive, and should capitalise on the momentum gained through the growth enjoyed during 2019.

The Government’s and the successful bidder’s entry into the NBP contract marks a significant milestone for the State in terms of infrastructure projects.

The impact of the new building regulations in line with the Climate Action Plan have already been felt by the imposition of minimum BER standards on existing developments not yet completed.

2020

The signing of the NBP contract will allow work to commence in 2020 so it will be interesting to see how the project progresses.

As the need for residential housing units and commercial office space continues, the relaxation of height restrictions is a welcome announcement from the Minister. We have already seen certain developers utilise these regulations by increasing the number of stories within their developments.

For more information on the application of building regulations to existing or contemplated projects, contact a member of our Construction team.


The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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