Moffitt & Robinson Construction driven by a relentless quest for building perfection

24 Jan , 2024  

For four decades and counting, Moffitt & Robinson Construction have been striving to achieve building perfection and they are getting closer with each project completed. Truth to tell, they may have hit the bullseye already with the stunning four-bedroom family home overlooking Donegal Bay which collected the prestigious 2023 Sustainability Award from the Northern Ireland Federation of Master Builders.

Fronted by Willie Moffitt and Keith Robinson, Omagh-headquartered Moffitt & Robinson Construction are inching incrementally closer to accomplishing the directors’ long-stated dream of building the perfect home. And the innovative, industry-leading Passive House specialists may not have too much further to go judging by the quality and performance of the magnificent ultra-modern home they built in County Donegal, which picked up the Sustainability Award at the 2023 Federation of Master Builders Awards at a special ceremony in the Malone Hotel, Belfast on Friday night, June 30th!

The winning project, which is at the cutting edge of eco-design, was designed to exceed Passive House standards from the outset. Not only did the meticulous Moffitt & Robinson Construction team deliver this, but their attentive approach to exacting detail delivered exceptional results, with the completed project by far exceeding its targets for air-tightness.

A sustainable, energy efficient build was at the top of the client’s wish list, but they also wanted to make the most of the expansive views over Donegal Bay and Sligo to the south of this elevated site. The large, triple glazed picture windows that frame this view make the most of solar gains when needed, but during the height of summer this heat is controlled by a brise soleil overhanging shade

The secret to the home’s incredible thermal efficiency starts with its fabric, constructed from Moffitt & Robinson’s own Passive certified timber frame, which is highly insulated and airtight. To add to the building’s eco credentials, an air source heat pump provides all energy within the home. All building materials were sourced as locally as possible, and the wooden flooring used throughout the home was sustainably sourced, all of which contributes to a thoroughly environmentally-conscious build.

The judges at the Federation of Master Builders Awards commented that the ultra-energy-efficient home is a ‘great example of a modern build, built to meet environmental and sustainable requirements in these challenging times for our environment’, while Moffitt & Robinson Construction co-founder and director Willie Moffitt was understandably proud to receive such commendable recognition from his peers in the industry:

“This award shows the FMB is forward-thinking about reducing the carbon footprint of our industry by recognising the advances our members have made towards making this happen. The level of support from the academics in attendance also shows that the FMB is a body which is respected for their input regarding the conservation of energy and reducing carbon within the industry.

“It’s an award that recognises what we have done so far. I spent 14 years in R&D on sustainability and this is an area I have great passion for. We had the distinction of building Northern Ireland’s first certified Passive House in 2011 and from there we have been improving every year. Every time we build a house, we try to improve on what we have done before.

“It was really nice to get this job in Donegal because we had never worked up there before. The clients were great people to work with and every time you discussed something with them they went and researched it thoroughly. It helps to have great clients like this who are prepared to go on the journey with you.

“This is a fantastic house with great views overlooking Donegal Bay and it is performing exceptionally well. But you still always want better and it is that constant quest for improvement that keeps you going. I still want to build the perfect house before I retire.”

Well, no doubt many of Moffitt & Robinson Construction’s previous clients would concur that this has arguably already been achieved!

As a building firm specialising in low energy buildings, Moffitt & Robinson Construction’s focus is firmly fixed on sustainability, efficiency, quality and long-term value.

The award-winning house was constructed using a timber frame clad in aluminium and corrugated Cembrit fibre-cement – a material the builders had never seen used before for anything but roofing. It is designed to meet Passive House standard – the highest in the world for energy efficiency – but the builders managed to exceed it. The homeowners can enjoy the view of the Bay from their picture windows while paying barely £1,000 a year for all their utility bills, with LED lighting and air source heat pumps ensuring the new build’s carbon footprint is miniscule.

Moffitt & Robinson was established in 1983 as a partnership, concentrating on the domestic construction

Market, and in 2007 evolved into a limited company carrying out both domestic and commercial works. The company directors always had an interest in energy efficiency construction and in 2010 had the opportunity to apply these methods for a client.

As a result, Moffitt & Robinson built their first certified Passive House in 2011 and since then have continued to develop this aspect of the business. All their trade staff have studied to gain Passive Tradesman status, while company director William Moffitt is a qualified Passive House Consultant. In 2017, Moffitt & Robinson’s self-designed Morob timber frame received certification as a Passive House component.

“For the first one that was certified as a Passive House, we were just building it to be a good quality house,” Willie reflects. “Thomas O’Leary was doing a class in Letterkenny at the time on Passive Houses and I went along. I was the only builder there and I was asked if he could use that house for a site visit and when he saw it he asked me did I realise I had built a Passive House – the first in Northern Ireland.

“We were working on our own timber frame and we sent the drawings to Germany to the Passive House Institute and had it certified as a Passive House component. Setanta Construction in Magherafelt make that timber frame for us to our spec and we have a great working relationship with them as they are like-minded people.

“For me, sustainability and Passive House go hand in hand. Passive House is all about getting the house as sustainable and efficient as possible, so that it takes very little to run it. Once you take the heating element out of it, you are a long way towards achieving this.

“For this house in Donegal, we used our own timber frame system with the aluminium and corrugated fibre-cement cladding, which is particularly dark. Total running costs – for heating, lighting, power and hot water – are less than €100 a month, so the performance of the house is exceeding expectations. I do wonder if the darkness of the cladding is contributing towards this.

“We’re planning to hopefully set up some experiments to see if this is the case. We went down there on December 31st last and it was 8 degrees outside the house and the rain was blowing horizontal, but it was 21 degrees inside with no heating on, which is extraordinary.

“It was my first experience working with a heat pump and I was very impressed. The house has no heating upstairs and the client has no regrets about that – 16.8 degrees is the coldest it has ever got upstairs. It has airtightness of 0.28, which comfortably exceeds what is required for Passive House standards.”

It would be an exercise in understatement to suggest that Willie – whose company has built numerous one-off Passive Houses across the Omagh / Ballygawley region – has a passion for energy efficiency and sustainability in construction. “I’ve always had a great interest in it because it means you are giving people a great product,” the Tyrone contractor enthuses. “All the time, I am trying to get better and better. You want every home you build to be as modern and efficient as possible. Anyone who is building a house will traditionally look for a building that is airtight and structurally sound but we will also look to achieve a final product that is highly insulated, thermal bridge free and airtight.

“At this stage, I believe I have taken the fabric element as far as I can go. We’re now looking more closely at the energy-providing system. That’s where we are looking for more gains. I think solar panels would need battery storage to get the full benefit from them. Solar panels combined with battery storage could be the way forward to lessen demand on the grid. Storage is going to become a big word, and achieving it. If we could achieve summer to winter storage, that would be huge, but it’s obviously going to be very difficult.

“This whole area is where the construction industry can make a major contribution to decarbonisation. There are many challenges ahead but as an industry we need to embrace these and continue to explore new possibilities and break new ground.”

Moffitt & Robinson Construction Ltd.,

40 Blacksessiagh Road,


County Tyrone/

Tel: 028 8224 3656

Mobile: 078 0318 9303

Email: [email protected]

Web: moffittandrobinson.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/moffittandrobinson

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, January 2024, Vol 10 No 1