The value of construction projects started in the first three months of 2015 was down by a fifth when compared with the same three month period last year. 

The new Building Information Ireland index shows that the value of projects fell by around €330m to €1.36 billion in the first quarter from €1.69 billion the same time last year.

The index is a quarterly breakdown of the Irish construction industry by sector - agricultural, commercial and retail, education, medical, industrial, residential and social - region and funding source.

Out of the seven sectors surveyed, five of the sectors recorded a fall. 

The residential sector saw the most significant drop, falling by €174m from €874m in the first quarter of 2014 to €600m in the first quarter of this year. Education also saw a big decrease of 68%. 

But there was an increase of 54% in the value of industrial construction projects, up from €100m last year to €154m.

The outlook is also a little brighter. The Index also looks at planning applications and it found that the value there in the first quarter rose by 42% to €3.6 billion.

The report points out that the average lag period between application and a project getting off the ground is 79 weeks.

The index divides the construction industry into four regions - Dublin, Leinster, Munster, and a combination of Connacht and Ulster.

Dublin and Leinster were the best performing region of terms of the value of construction projects for application, according to Building Information Ireland.

Leinster recorded a jump of 155% in the value of construction projects at the planning application stage in the first three months of this year compared to the same time last year. Dublin saw an increase of 36% in the value of applications.

Both regions followed the overall trend of the fall in the value of project commencements - Leinster saw drops of 52% while Dublin was down 28%.

The combined region of Connacht and Ulster was the weakest region in the first quarter in terms of applications, as it saw a fall of 22%.  Project commencements were also lower.

Danny O'Shea, the managing director of Building Information Ireland, said the survey shows that the Irish construction sector is in recovery.