May 14, 2020 / 9:28 AM / 15 days ago

Ireland's Cairn sees new work practices adding to costs, build times

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s largest publicly listed housebuilder Cairn Homes (CRN.I) will reopen its sites on a staggered basis from Monday under strict health and safety measures that will add to project costs and construction timeframes.

After nearly two months of lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19, Ireland plans to reopen its economy more gradually than many other European countries, with building sites among the small number of non-essential operations to restart on May 18.

In a detailed update on Thursday on how it intends to adhere to social distancing rules requiring people to keep 2 metres apart on busy sites, Cain said it will approach construction and sales activities “in a fundamentally different manner”.

Cairn, which currently owns land with the capacity to build 17,000 homes, will introduce daily random temperature checks, GPS social distancing technology, remote meetings and managed breaks for all design teams on top of new government safety protocols.

The new practices will inevitably mean projects will take longer and cost more to build, Cairn said. The company's shares were 6.7% lower at 0850 GMT, compared to a 1.3% fall in the wider Irish market .ISEQ.

Initially that will push some projects due to finish this year, particularly apartment developments, into 2021 with its focus after that on stock aimed at the still-robust demand from institutional investors and for lower priced family homes.

The housebuilder said it had already spent over 500,000 euros (442,443.10 pounds)on personal protective equipment to ensure its sites are fully stocked.

While it has continued house viewings online, Cairn said its sales volume is likely to be affected until people can inspect the homes in person, which it hopes to resume on June 8.

Each new unit will be deep cleaned after a visit by a customer, surveyor or valuer, it said.

With so many people working from home due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, Cairn said it believed house buyers will now view prospective homes as a place to both live and work, with a greater focus on proximity to amenities.

As a result it said it would look at potential changes to future internal layouts, delivering improved amenity space and the addition of dedicated business accommodation in its apartment complexes.

Editing by Jan Harvey

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