IN, 1962, an Irish-American superhero, John F. Kennedy, challenges the United States to safely land a man on the moon and return to earth before the 1960s are over.
On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, he spoke the famous words heard around the world: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Under the leadership of an Irish-American president, the United States had achieved a seemingly impossible goal.
Today I come before you as an Irish and American citizen, to challenge Ireland to solve its housing crisis by the end of the year. As JFK said, this is not the time for incremental solutions. It’s time to be both big and bold.
As someone who watched the moon land on a black and white television, it’s hard to imagine how Ireland could struggle to build housing in a country that has a lot of open land.
If another Western society could achieve a goal like the one 63 years ago with primitive technology, how can we accept our situation?
Before presenting my solution, let me provide some background information.
I am a chemical engineer who has spent over 35 years in the global petroleum refining and petrochemical industries. Before retiring here in Ireland, my last posting was part of a team that helped build the largest single-stage petrochemical plant in world history. The Dow/Saudi Aramco joint venture in Jubail, Saudi Arabia was initially a $20 billion investment (later increased) that literally transformed the desert, as far as the eye could see, into a massive, functioning petrochemical plant.
The resources required for the project were mind-boggling. In fact, it’s interesting to read some of these stories on the company’s website. For example, at the height of the project, 60,000 people were working on site, recruited from all over the world. Imagine the resources needed to support this workforce!
Needless to say, we had no facilities when the project started – no housing, no offices, no canteen, no supply depots, no amenities of any kind, nothing – just sand in the desert.
This is not a good starting point to build the largest petrochemical plant in the history of the world.
It was therefore necessary to create a “temporary city”. When I started in April 2016, I worked in a huge temporary building that had already been operational for years – like everyone else.
What made this possible was the phenomenal expertise of the large engineering and construction companies behind the project, who are masters at creating temporary infrastructure and have done so many times over the century. last. All they do is dust their blueprints off the shelf, do some “copy-and-paste”, and then call their in-house resources who know how to source all the necessary equipment. At that time, they rub their hands together, as I have often seen in Saudi and say “Halas” (finished). Just another day at the office for them.
So my idea is simple. Let’s locate open spaces in various places in the country and build as many temporary living areas with all the necessary comforts as necessary. They will look much better than you imagine. All of this could be finished before the end of the year – and probably sooner.
Here is the action plan:
1. Immediately invite representatives from Fluor, KBR, Halliburton, and other major engineering and construction (EC) companies to a week-long kick-off meeting to learn about the issue.
2. At the end of the week, ask company representatives to present their “high level” plan on how they propose to solve the problem based on their learnings. This would include not just housing, but all the necessities of modern life – local groceries, laundromats, exercise, any other comforts you might desire. They can be all or part of it.
3. Prior to the meeting, each area of the country where there is a housing problem would count the number of people in need of housing. This would be used for a budget estimate.
4. Prior to the meeting, preferably, each region of the country would provide ideas of suitable land where housing could be built. Ideas must be submitted within one month.
5. Within a very short time (about a week), the EC would provide the government with a budget estimate for the entire project.
6. The government would prioritize projects and provide the necessary funding.
7. The CEs execute the project.
8. People start moving in in the fall.
Is temporary housing nirvana and where do you want to spend the rest of your life?
Of course not. Even in Sadara, when our permanent buildings were completed, the temporary buildings were torn down, and the desert where they once stood reigned supreme again. It does not replace the long-term investment required.
Is temporary housing adequate and much better than sleeping in your car, or worse, watching people and businesses leave the country?
Hopefully the answer to this question is obvious.
Ireland – this is an eminently solvable problem. I believe in you. Like the Saudis and JFK, forget incremental solutions. See big. No excuses. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get the job done!
After the astronauts returned to earth, a parade was held to celebrate their achievement. Along those same lines, I’m looking forward to a toast next New Year’s Eve (hopefully without a face mask) to celebrate a huge step forward in solving our housing problem.