Purcell Construction Managing Director Michael Bane speaks about his company’s impressive work portfolio, the industry challenges, welcoming Ireland 2040 and what we need to do to achieve greater Foreign Direct Investment.
Purcell Construction’s headquarters is in Galway with a regional office in Dublin since 2001. Purcell employs close to 100 people. The company turnover for 2017 was €44m; this is expected to rise above €50m in 2018. Michael tells us about the major projects.
Since 2001 Purcell has constructed a significant number of RIAI award-winning buildings throughout Ireland. It has been an incredibly successful year for Purcell with buildings Purcell constructed featuring at the 2017 RIAI Awards:
• Dunluce Apartments, Ballsbridge – Housing of the Year – Winner
• Drama Centre, NUIG, Galway – Public Choice – Winner
• Richmond Barracks, Inchicore – Highly Commended
• Ballymun Boilerhouse – Highly Commended
Purcell Construction’s expertise in restoration and conservation resulted in the company winning many prestigious projects throughout Ireland and Michael tells us they are expecting continued growth in this area. The pharma sector also remains a core sector for the company, particularly with their process engineering experience. “We expect the residential sector to really take off in the coming years particularly in the large cities,” Michael says. Purcell are also active in other sectors at present.
Purcell have completed some recent key milestone projects, and have many ongoing and in the pipeline. They have just completed and handed over Phase 1 of Maryfield Nursing Home which consists of 69 bedrooms in Chapelizod. Phase 2 of Maryfield is now underway and completion expected in May 2018. In the education sector, Purcell have completed a new secondary school complete with sports facilities in Loughrea for The Sisters of Mercy. They have a steady pipeline of projects in the life science sector and are currently constructing a major pharmaceutical/process project for a large multinational company in Inverin, County Galway.
Current residential projects include Phase 1 of the Dolphin’s Barn regeneration scheme, consisting of 100 apartments with a value of circa €22m which is due for completion in July. Purcell are coming close to completion of their first social housing scheme in 10 years for Galway City Council in Knocknacarra.
Purcell have also undertaken a major conservation project in Dublin which is now ready for handover, on which a non-disclosure agreement has been signed. A restoration project is also underway in 86 Newman House located in St Stephen’s Green for University College Dublin. Newman House will be a new Museum dedicated to Irish writers and a major Dublin tourist attraction. The alma mater of James Joyce, Padraig Pearse and Éamon de Valera will open in 2019. Other projects include the construction of a Student Centre for Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown and Refurbishment of the Curragh Racecourse buildings.
Recent years has seen significant growth in the life science and healthcare sectors. “We are coming close to completion of a major pharmaceutical/process engineering project for a large multinational pharmaceutical company in Inverin, County Galway, and we hope to build on and expand this very specialised sector,” Michael tells us.
Construction has many challenges. “How do we make the construction sector a place where people want to work and how do we adapt construction business to new ways of working?” Michael asks. “These are major challenges but we also see them as opportunities.”
Giving his opinions on the challenges in public procurement and the process for contractors, he says: “The process can be quite long in terms of receipt of an etenders notice through to commencement on site, with that process taking over 1 year in many instances, whereas we are only afforded 28 days in many instances to actually compile our tender, which given the level of activity in the industry at present is inadequate. Also, it would be hugely beneficial in terms of time and costs to have the entire system dealt with electronically, as opposed to submitting reams of hard copy documents. Some authorities have gone this route, but not all.”
Talking about the skills shortage, he says while education and apprenticeships are required it is vital that we look at using our skilled workforce efficiently, i.e. offsite construction. “This will eliminate inclement weather delays and produce a higher quality product under controlled conditions,” he states. Michael believes the education and apprenticeships system needs to be overhauled. “It’s well known that in Germany apprenticeships are particularly well developed and are seen there as equal to a fully academic route to qualification,” he tells us. “The route to securing a good job does not always have to be purely academic. We need to drop our snobby attitudes about higher education and embrace new methods of education, so we can harness the talent and potential of people who are more suited to learning in different ways.”
Michael believes we need to be encouraging women at secondary school level to join construction. He says we need to keep working on inclusion, adding: “While there are fewer barriers to entry for women in the trades there are still issues around inclusion that need to be addressed.”
Philosophy & Safety
Purcell’s philosophy is that you must have a strong culture before you can start to look at high performance. You must have a good culture where people are proud to work for your company, they have a strong sense of identity and a connection with the organisation.
Purcell had a successful Construction Safety Week in 2017 and the EHS Department has already started planning for Safety Week 2018 to help drive a positive safety message across all their projects. Michael says the greatest achievement with regards to health and safety is embedding a good culture at all company levels. “Our EHS Department are very committed to managing our H&S through our ISO standards,” he says. “In the last year, we introduced the Purcell Employee Wellbeing Programme. This service is directly focussed on helping to support our employees should they encounter any personal problems that may affect or impact their work life.”
Ireland 2040 & Foreign Direct Investment
Michael says it is an exciting time for the company, particularly with the recent launch of the Government’s Ireland 2040 plan which has a major construction element. For years he says the industry has been seeking a long-term roadmap to ensure a less volatile and more sustainable industry over the next 20 years, saying: “At least we now have a vision.”
“The Planning Framework is welcome,” Michael says “and in particular the new Ireland 2040 plan states that the headquarters of any new state agency or body should be located in an urban area outside Dublin.” This is an important commitment to supporting more balanced regional development. “There is a risk that funding for this plan may not materialise,” he adds “but the commitment is there in cold print which is a move away from the short-term planning over the last 50 years.”
For to deliver the infrastructure outlined he believes there needs to be commitment by successive Governments. “The long-term coordination of this plan by a single state agency is essential for our industry to allow us build a sustainable future,” he says.
Speaking of the 10 year €116 billion National Development Plan and projects proposed, he says: “I am very pleased about the wide range of projects planned including decentralisation, more money for Irish Water, more powers for NTA allowing transport strategy for other cities such as Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford, the eventual rollout of Metro North to Dublin Airport. There is also a plan for housing through the National Regeneration and Development Agency.”
The main attractions for FDI in Ireland are: track record, technology, talent, tax, and Michael thinks we have achieved amazing results in these areas and Ireland is considered a stable country with a positive outlook. “In light of what’s happening in Britain and in the US, more FDI companies are looking to set up here,” he states. “Opportunities are coming our way on the back of decisions taken abroad. To build on our current success we need to take next steps to improve our offering in the areas mentioned, rather than standing still.”
He believes that while we are ticking a lot of boxes in attracting FDI companies there are a few areas that could be improved: (1) Completion of the motorway network between cities. (2) Installation of high-speed broadband. (3) Build greater relationships between industry and third-level colleges to establish relevant courses. (4) Expand our Court Services/Legal System to cope with new demand from FDI companies setting up here, particularly after Brexit. (5) Increase residential accommodation for returning and specialist talent. (6) Ensure stable labour laws.
Advice to Young People
Concluding, speaking about encouraging school students and what a construction career can offer, Michael says: “The construction industry is a great industry because you are working on uniquely different projects, expanding your knowledge along the way and getting the chance to travel the world with your knowledge and skills. Hard work and dedication can lead to promotion in the industry that can be very rewarding.” His advice to the younger generation entering construction is “Always bring a solution when you go to someone with a problem and stay calm in high-pressure situations.”
The content of this site is subject to copyright laws and may not be reproduced in any form without the prior consent of the publishers. The views expressed in articles do not necessarily represent those of the publishers. This article first appeared in the ‘Leaders in Construction’ issue of Irish building magazine June 2018.