Family chosen by Setanta Construction to live rent-free in unique energy-efficient house

Niall Gribbin and Mark Gribbin, directors at Setanta Construction, with Courtney Gallagher, her husband Michael and their two children. Picture: Darren Kidd/PressEye
Niall Gribbin and Mark Gribbin, directors at Setanta Construction, with Courtney Gallagher, her husband Michael and their two children. Picture: Darren Kidd/PressEye

A YOUNG family from Mid Ulster has been chosen to live rent- and rates-free for a year in a unique new ultra-energy-efficient house in Magherafelt developed by Setanta Construction.

Courtney Gallagher, her husband Michael and their two children were chosen by Setanta following a thorough interview and selection process to participate in a live research monitoring study in collaboration with Ulster University.

The university will gather live feedback and data about what it’s like to live in Ireland’s first volumetric modular house constructed to complete Passive House standards, the internationally recognised gold standard in ultra-energy efficient construction.

The 'SoLow' project is the brainchild of Setanta directors Mark and Niall Gribbin, and their newly launched volumetric house aims to put energy performance at the heart of the property market, delivering significant cost, time, health and environmental benefits for all.

The research will help provide key metrics and insights on the future performance of low energy dwellings, with factors such as internal heat gains, energy usage along with occupant behaviour and the subsequent impacts on the overall performance of the SoLow house fully explored.

Crucially, it will also help determine the overall cost savings of living in a SoLow passive designed home, widely regarded by many within the affordable housing industry as a much needed solution to help minimise the impact of the ongoing cost of living and energy fuel crisis.

Canadian born Courtney and her husband Michael, originally from Castledawson, moved back to Mid Ulster from London last year to be closer to family and friends.

Courtney said: “The modern and spacious kitchen, additional bedroom and secure garden space really appealed to us as we’re a family with young children who benefit from working from home a few days of the week, so we’re hopeful it will be a cherished and memorable move for everyone.

“We’re delighted Setanta Construction have chosen us to be the lucky occupants and we feel very privileged to take part in this unique study.”

Michael added: “We’re excited to move into our new temporary home and get to experience what it’s like to live in a modern, high quality, passive built property.

“It’s great timing as we’ve been considering our options since we moved back home, whether that be buying or building, this short-term move gives us the flexibility to save whilst we carefully plan for our future.”

Setanta director Mark Gribbin said: “Over the past number of months, we’ve been consulting with housing associations, architects, developers and governmental bodies and they’ve definitely taken notice.

“Passive House design is still considered by many as an energy standard that only high end projects could afford.

“But we’re set to alter that thinking by applying complete Passive House standards to affordable housing.”

He added: “SoLow Passive Homes are projected to use up to 90 per cent less energy than traditionally constructed homes.

“The financial impact is potentially huge, as the resulting energy cost savings could eventually help break the cycles of financial hardship that cause people to depend more on affordable housing in the first place.”

Niall Gribbin added: “We’re grateful to the Gallagher family for taking part in this study, the first of its kind in Ireland.

”At the end of the 12 months, information gathered will help feed into future decision making about Passive House construction and the delivery of exceptional affordable housing.”

Setanta’s off-site method of construction means that it takes just two weeks to construct a SoLow Passive House in factory and assemble onsite in just a few hours.

And with plans for a new 30,000 sq ft factory under way, it hopes to increase productivity to one fully completed house every day.