Housebuilder Cairn Homes has announced a phased reopening of its residential construction sites from Monday May 18 under strict health and safety measures that will add to project costs and construction timeframes.

Cairn Homes said that strict new return to work protocols will be in operation across 15 of its sites, while planned new site commencements are likely to be postponed until later this year.

It also said its Spring sales launches will be postponed until late Summer.

But it said it continues to see new reservations marginally ahead of cancellations through its online sales platforms with interest from institutional investors for the multifamily private rental sector remaining robust.

In anticipation of its sites reopening, Cairn has already spent more than €500,000 on personal protective equipment to ensure its business is fully stocked and to protect all of its employees and subcontractors. 

In a detailed update 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 currently owns land with the capacity to build 17,000 homes.

It said it 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. 
It said the necessary implementation of these new work practices will inevitably lead to extended construction timeframes and will have some impact on preliminary costs.

Cairn said it is adopting a "strict zero tolerance policy" with all project personnel through increased compliance supervision across its active sites.

The company also said that the reopening of its show homes is likely to be linked to later phases of the Government's roadmap for opening society and business and the reopening of non-essential retail services.

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.

Michael Stanley, CEO of Cairn Homes, said the company welcomed the opportunity to recommence the construction of new homes across 15 active development sites. 

"The health and safety of all is our number one priority and we are very confident that the detailed plans and new protocols we have implemented will ensure that we can protect our employees, subcontractors, residents and customers as we rescale our operations," the CEO said. 

"The health and safety measures will lead to new ways of working and this will have an  impact on the efficiency of our homebuilding operations. Project timelines will be extended and as a consequence, there will be an impact on both site preliminary and management costs," he added.

Shares in the company were lower in Dublin trade today.