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The project is supported by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB)

New housing technology developed collaboratively across Northwest border area with Co-Innovate Support

Example of MI Contracts Ltd innovative building methodology using lightweight steel frame built on a raft foundation

Fermanagh based construction company, M&I Contracts, has developed an innovative new sustainable housing construction methodology with Co-Innovate support.

The well-established family-owned business previously specialised in groundwork, building and civil engineering projects, and primarily worked as a subcontractor for main contractors. However, in recent years the company focussed on developing and expanding its business to act directly as a main contractor for private clients and local authorities.

As part of the company’s vision and strategic plan to create a market share in the evolving energy efficient and zero carbon building solutions market, M&I Contracts Ltd applied to Co-Innovate with the aim of developing a sustainable housing construction solution that met building control standards, Passivhaus requirements, and incorporated smart and renewable technologies, to ensure future growth of the company.

M&I Contracts Ltd partnered with Atlantic Technology University (ATU) through the Co-Innovate programme to design and develop the new off-site construction methodology and overcome processing challenges to ensure the new product meets regulatory compliance.

The new technology developed by the company consists of a new method to construct the external envelope of a new house or extension to a house. The innovative construction solution incorporates prefabricated insulated wall panels supported on a lightweight steel frame built on an insulated raft foundation. The structural frame can be quickly assembled onsite, the wall panels fit neatly together, thereby reducing construction time, waste and costs. The wall panels are then finished to client specification with options available for rendered, brick, stone and timber clad external facades. Sustainable and smart technologies are also incorporated into the build to ensure an energy efficient building upon completion.

M&I Contracts Ltd Managing Director Martin McGrory, said that as a result of the project, the company has developed a network of subcontractors that can complete high performance buildings to a variety of specifications, ranging from traditional blockwork, timber frame, steel frame or using Structure Insulated Panel (SIP) construction methods.

“We found that clients are naturally influenced by cost when deciding on the type of construction method used, however there is a significant rise in the number of clients that decide to use more ecological products when building. Our founding principle of external insulation wrapping the building can be done using almost any form of construction, to achieve any look required. Furthermore we can demonstrate how the investment in improved construction design and technologies will save the client money over the period of the mortgage, releasing capital and enabling the client to invest in renewable technologies."

“The project was an overall success in terms of the innovation in bringing the steel frame with external insulation to the local market, because previously there was no local supplier or builder in this area. We have developed the technology, proven that the system works and satisfied all the building control requirements for lightweight steel frame with external insulation in the Fermanagh and Omagh District area.”

M&I Contracts passivhaus designer, Eamon Maguire said that having the support of the Co-Innovate mentors and academic partners throughout the project was invaluable.

“The Co-Innovate team was able to steer us in the right direction and come up with answers and solutions to problems as we developed the project. They were also able to point us toward their network of contacts which we wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. This was invaluable and opened up lots of doors for us."

“The academic mentors in Sligo were also excellent. It was very beneficial to be able to work collaboratively with them and tap into their professional, collaborative thinking. The facilities and expertise at ATU are exceptional and we would hope to maintain links with the university and are very open to working together with ATU again in the future if the opportunity arises.”

Eamon said the positive results M&I Contracts Ltd have achieved through their Co-Innovate project have led to the establishment of partnerships with other local companies which is driving further innovation.

“Being part of the Co-Innovate programme has been hugely beneficial for M&I Contracts Ltd. The partnership we formed with LGS Modular [Dromore] has been very useful, working with like-minded businesses’ to further drive innovation. Our employees have also upskilled and we plan as a company to increase the services we offer to clients, including public and private sectors, while continuing to work with our partners to improve the standard of buildings being constructed in the local area.”

This cross-border project was made possible through the Co-Innovate programme, which is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

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