BAM Ireland Delivers in the West

For more than 20 years, Ireland’s largest public work’s contractor BAM has had a dedicated West of Ireland regional office located in Galway and as the City of Tribes has flourished and grown, so too has BAM’s presence.

Initially, BAM’s Galway-based personnel were focused on civil Engineering works, but as the volume and range of projects has grown so too has BAM’s Galway office, BAM’s office in Galway now encompasses both the Building and Civil Engineering teams. Currently there are over 30 Building staff based out of the Galway office.

The extraordinary demographic, economic and cultural growth that has occurred, and is continuing, in Ireland’s fourth largest city is the main driver for BAM’s growing presence. In the 40 years between 1971 and 2011, Galway’s population more than doubled going from 29,400 to 75,400 and making it one of Europe’s fastest growing cities with an unprecedented demand for additional infrastructure, housing and services. On the economic front Galway has prospered and it is recognised worldwide as a hub for the IT and the medical device sectors. Academically, the city’s third-level institutions, NUI-Galway and GMIT, are considered world-class.

Between them, BAM’s civil and building teams combined in Galway now employ some 45 people.  This year they are expected to account for over €90 million of the BAM Ireland projected turnover of over €380 million.

The Award winning NUIG Engineering Building

Top class

While BAM have always been to the forefront of the construction industry in Ireland taking on a very wide range of projects, West of the Shannon it has had notable success in winning contracts in the education sector at primary, secondary and third level.

At third-level, the company has been successful in winning repeat business from NUIG, where at the moment it has two projects underway: the new €20m Clinical Research and Transitional Research Facility on the UCHG campus and the new €30m Human Biology Building on the NUIG campus.

This ongoing relationship with NUIG can be said to have been cemented with the very successful completion of the university’s Engineering Building in 2012. The four-storey building is not only home to state-of-the-art laboratories, workshops, computer suites and lecture rooms for more than 1,100 undergraduate and post-graduate students working in the disciplines of civil, electrical, hydro, industrial and mechanical engineering, architecturally it also acts as a gateway to the original UCG Aula Maxima quadrangle constructed in 1845.  The 14,190m2 development respects the building’s riverside setting and it includes measures to minimise the building’s carbon footprint including natural ventilation, bio-diverse green roof over the central courtyard, rainwater harvesting and a biomass boiler. It was named Ireland’s Best Educational Building at the Local Authority Members’ Association Awards in 2013 and also won the Irish Building and Design Award for School and Educational Project of the Year and the RIAI  Best Sustainable Project Award in 2013. More significantly perhaps, as well as being a winner with students, academics and professional designers, the Engineering Building has also won favour with the man and woman in the street, gaining the RIAI Public Choice Award in 2013 following  a process that saw it, in a field of 32 short-listed projects, gain more than 40% of the 12,500 votes cast!

The new Human Biology Building is set to become another favourite when it is completed as it is located on the southern-half of the NUIG campus where part of its architectural function is to bring together the currently conflicting building geometries of the university’s development masterplan. These conflicts are resolved with a design that uses a very gentle curve, focused on creating a square outside the Áras na Mac Léinn student centre.

The €30m design and build contract with NUIG for the Human Biology Building is being built on a location that previously housed the National Diagnostics Centre. The building will have a reinforced concrete structure and complex mechanical and electrical services installations. Works also include construction of a separate electrical substation.

The design’s apparently simple exterior form is beguiling as, inside the 8,200m2 four-storey structure, in addition to teaching facilities, there are postgraduate research labs, a mortuary, anatomy laboratories, a vivarium and a central microscopy unity that will serve the whole university. The building, which caters for the disciplines of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology and therapeutics, also includes an atrium space that is set to become a focus, and rendezvous point, for NUIG’s medical faculty.

On the western side of the building, along the canal, there will be a sheltered colonnade that will make it more pleasant for pedestrians to travel along the busy connecting route here that the principal academic buildings within the campus with the student facilities at Áras na Mac Léinn.

Health Care

Off the NUIG campus, nearby at University Hospital Galway, BAM is close to completing the new Clinical Research and Translational Research Facility (CR-TRF), which is a joint contract with NUIG and with the Health Service Executive.

A five-storey building, with a gross floor area 5,345m², in addition to supporting UHG patient care, this high-tech facility will facilitate cutting-edge medical research. These new clinical research facilities have been largely being funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) and private philanthropy. The architect was Reddy Architecture & Urbanism, structural engineers were Barrett Mahony and services engineers were Homan O’Brien.

The HRB’s Clinical Research Facility (CRF) occupies the ground and first floors; this will form part of an Irish Network of Clinical Research Facilities, allowing patients access to state-of-the-art clinical research in stem cells, gene therapy, biomaterials and immunology. It will also have a space specially designed for clinical research in regenerative medicine. The CRF will have direct links to the existing hospital at both ground and first floor levels and will be fully owned and operated by the Health Services Executive and University Hospital Galway.

The Translational Research Facility, on the second and third floors, accommodates open and flexible lab spaces and it also has direct links to the Clinical Science Institute where many of the University’s medical students are located.

The new facility is directly adjacent to the University’s Clinical Science Institute, UHG’s Critical Care Facilities, Ward Accommodation Block and the Maternity Wards and it was the tight building-site footprint within a fully-functioning hospital that presented BAM with the biggest challenges on this contract, said Project Director Luke Gibbons.

“It involved a lot of service diversion and rerouting of roads prior to the main construction starting. In conjunction with the HSE and NUI Galway, weeks of detailed planning went into the project to ensure the works don’t impact on the daily operation of the campus. We used a precast concrete frame so that will decrease the number of deliveries to the site and we had to make sure traffic flow was maintained on the hospital ring road while works were taking place. There was a site-specific traffic management plan to ensure that priority was given to emergency vehicles at all times. There were also lots of services, specialist medical gases etc, above and below ground that needed to be diverted, but kept live 24/7 while work proceeded on site.

“Other issues included steps to prevent aspergillus [mould spore] infection to patients from the work activities and the need to carefully manage construction activity noise levels.”

These same issues are in play in the construction of the Acute Adult Mental Health Unit, which will be a two-storey 50-bed facility, with out-patient facility. The AAMHU is due to be built on what is now a 170-space car park, so before that can happen a new two-storey 238-space car park is being built where there is another hospital car park, northeast of the helipad, on the new hospital ring road. This work, which includes decommissioning an LPG facility, is due to be completed by December and work on the AAMHU proper will proceed in 2016.

“Out-of-hours working will be a necessity, especially in the early phase of the project when relocation of services will be undertaken,” said Pádraig Walsh, BAM Contracts Manager. “Again, live services such as medical gases will also have to be relocated without disrupting in any way the functioning of the hospital and a live electrical ring main services will also have to be relocated without causing disruption. Noise abatement and preventing aspergillus transmission will also require good planning, management and monitoring. It’s a very tight site so in order to maintain the excellent working relations we have with both the HSE and neighbour’s, we ensure that we liaise with them regularly and inform them of any future plans which may impact on them.

“One of our advantages now, when tendering for work with NUIG, UHG, or the HSE, is that excellent relations have been formed between our people and their people. We understand their needs and the way we have to work, we know their protocols and we know who to consult with to resolve an issue quickly.”

Elsewhere in Galway County, BAM was responsible for the refurbishment of two wards at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe, which is part of UHG’s mental health services. Works involved demolishing existing internal walls, ceilings and floors and then installing of structural steel supports to load-bearing wall and doing a full fit-out of ceilings, partitions, floors and internal screens. All existing windows, doors needed to be modified to have anti-ligature fittings installed, the ground floor was modified to meet the needs of patients and the first floor level was modified for use by administration staff. All works were carried out while the hospital remained live.


BAM has a dedicated public-private partnership (PPP) division and has been successful in winning a series of road, rail and buildings PPP contracts across the continent, the UK and Ireland. In the education sector, BAM was the successful bidder for the Third and Fourth Schools PPP Bundles, with the company responsible for the design, build, finance and maintenance, of all schools for a 25 year period.

Schools Bundle 3 comprised seven post-primary schools and one primary and, of these eight, four were built by BAM West of Ireland personnel:  Coláiste Ailigh, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, Ballinamore Community School in County Leitrim,  and Merlin Woods Primary School and Coláiste Mhuirlinne Community College, which occupy the same site at Doughiska in Galway. Together these four schools are providing an education for 1,850 pupils and students.

Schools Bundle 4 comprised four schools of which two were built by personnel operating out of the BAM Galway office: St Josephs Community School, Tulla, which replaces an existing antiquated school-building, and St Mary’s in Dundalk, Co. Louth, which is a replacement building for an existing co-educational school.  Both of these projects involve providing school accommodation for 900 students each.

Walsh points out that each of these schools is a bespoke facility. “There was a strong design element to the PPP tendering competition, so while individual classrooms would follow the Department of Education and Science’s exemplar layouts, the overall look and layout of the schools would be very different and different architects were used on different school projects.”

At third-level away from Galway, BAM is responsible for the new €10 million MacMunn Science Building at IT Sligo. The new €10m state-of-the-art facility,  opened by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny last September, completed a major redevelopment of the Institute’s campus over the last five years.       

The three-storey building extension houses more than 1,000 full-time students and will enable the Institute to increase undergraduate and research postgraduate places. Among the facilities are an 80-station foundation laboratory, seven teaching labs and four research labs. The development also included a new 500-seat canteen, a new entrance canopy to the main building, plus all associated site works and landscaping. Gibbons said: “One of the big challenges here was replacing, or integrating, the existing 1970s services on site with modern services, not just IT and M+E, but the BMS system and the fire detection system and so on. We were also restricted as to when we could work on site – there were certain aspects of the project that had to be undertaken during the summer months when students were on holidays. The summer works were completed to schedule and ready for the students return in September.

From left to right: BAM’s, Padraic Caulfield, Project Manager, Paul McDermott, Quantity Surveyor, Luke Gibbons, Project Director, Theo Cullinane-Managing Director CEO, Padraig Walsh, Contracts Manager, Arthur Murphy, Foreman.

Other Buildings

The West of Ireland office ventured into the leisure sector in 2012 when BAM’s Galway team took charge of the construction of the €5m Finn Valley Leisure Centre, which serves the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranolar in Co. Donegal.

The new centre involved doubling the size of the existing Finn Valley Athletic Club facility. The 2,500m2 extension incorporates a 25m pool, a toddler pool, a spa facility, 300m2 changing village, a gym and fitness area, a cryotherapy pool, a new fitness suite, changing rooms, a viewing gallery and an extensive aerobics area, plus ancillary facilities such as a new entrance  and an enhanced reception area. External works included the realignment of Railway Road at the edge of the site, the creation of a new car park and external landscaping.

Finn Valley Leisure Centre.

Again, the biggest challenge was building the extension while the existing centre remained open, but Walsh ways this hurdle wasn’t a big one for BAM and their sporting clients. “We really had an excellent relationship with Finn Valley Athletic Club. They had to function on a daily basis while we delivered an intense building programme and this was made possible through seamless planning and a high level of cooperation between us and the club.”

To use a sporting metaphor, the builders were handicapped by the confined space available on all four sides of the building, which was why Railway Road needed realignment. But it was the installation of the pool that provided novel challenges to the engineering contractor. Gibbons said: “A major consideration for us was to make sure we provided a good quality concrete structure for the pool to ensure exact alignments and to achieve a completely waterproof structure. We had extremely tight quality control procedures on site, with demanding pre-pour checks to every pour, exacting standards to waterproofing details and very close attention paid to the placing and compacting of concrete. We also appointed the tiling contractor and a grout and adhesive specialist very early on in the project to work collaboratively with the design team in tile selection, setting out, etc, to achieve a very high quality of finish.”

Another relatively unusual project for the BAM team in Galway, but one that was close to home, was the refurbishment of the iconic An Taibhdhearc theatre building, which was damaged by fire in 2006 and lay unoccupied until 2012. Works here involved a complete ‘gut out’ with structural alterations to the iconic and protected structure. There were demolition and refurbishment works to the ground floor, first floor and second floors with a comprehensive refurbishment of finishes, M&E upgrades, plus new sanitary facilities. Walsh said: “All works were carried out in close consultation with the Heritage Department in Galway City Council and an on-site Archaeologist. The project was competed ahead of time, without incident and within budget.”

After a 32-week contract programme, the theatre was officially reopened at a concert, featuring the Taibhdhearc’s own choir and philharmonic orchestra, in September 2012 by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, a long-standing patron of the Irish-language theatre.  The BAM Building team is regularly involved in fit-out works and increasingly clients are looking for accelerated fast-track programmes, says Gibbons. As an example he cites the €4m office fit out at Rahoon Business Park for the online gaming company Zenimax, which saw a 3,720m2 industrial building transformed into a state-of-the-art IT operation consisting of offices, technical support areas, technical billing rooms and conference rooms, plus a canteen area and a plant room. He said: “Extensive alteration works were undertaken to the existing façade, to incorporate the installation of curtain wall units to all elevations.

“The innovative use of a primary insulated ceiling grid, above the main ceiling service zone, and the co-ordination of an extensive mechanical and electrical installation above the main ceiling areas, helped transformed the internal aesthetic to a high specification modern technical support building.

“The 16 week fast track program involved extensive and detailed co-ordination and co-operation between BAM, and the Design team, from the initial demolition phase, to the final fit out.

The interior of the building is divided in to a number of works zones, each defined by a coloured ‘Portal Band’ wall / floor detail, this feature adds a distinctive and original separation space between each work zone.


With a legacy dating back to 1958, BAM Civil can point to civil engineering projects dotted across the West of Ireland but one of the most notable must be the Corrib Gas Tunnel. Measuring 4.9km in length, the Corrib Gas Tunnel is about 300m longer than the Dublin Port Tunnel and now holds the record for Ireland’s longest tunnel.

It was constructed in a joint venture between BAM Civil and Wayss & Freytag, both operating companies of Royal BAM Group with work starting in January 2013 and tunnelling operations completed in May 2014.

The tunnel connects with the  previously laid 83km offshore pipeline from the Corrib Field and  runs from  Sruwaddacon Bay, a special area of conservation (SAC), to the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Processing Terminal.   

A German-designed 140m-long tunnel-boring machine (TBM), affectionately named ‘Fionnuala’, was used to dig and drill through rock, sand and clay at depths of between 5.5m and 12m. As they made their progress, more than 25,000 concrete ring segments, which were pre-fabricated in Ireland, were installed behind the TBM to line the tunnel.

Once the ‘boring task’ was completed, work commenced inside the concrete-lined tunnel to installing the 20-inch diameter gas pipeline, it’s control umbilical and related services. Only a few weeks ago, testing started at Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal using gas from the national grid.

BAM Contractors CEO Theo Cullinane said he was delighted that the company had worked on such a prestigious project. “The Corrib tunnel is one of the most significant energy infrastructure projects in the history of the state. During the construction phase 100 full-time jobs were created, including project management, engineering and tunnelling specialist roles. BAM is heavily involved in sustainable Irish infrastructure and building projects, particularly in the engineering, healthcare, educational, transport, water and waste sectors.”

Harbouring excellence

A more visible project than the Corrib Tunnel was the Cill Rónáin Harbour development project on  Inis Mór island in Galway Bay, which earned BAM Civil the Engineers Ireland Engineering Project of the Year Award following an online poll in 2012. The €39m development provides safe access to the island and has dramatically improved the quality of life of islanders and has made island-life more viable. The facility is sheltered by a stone breakwater that is more than half a kilometre long and within the harbour there is a marine working area twice the size of Croke Park.

More than 77,000 tonnes of large natural stone blocks were sourced from Connemara to protect the breakwater from erosion and the piers have been constructed from large concrete blocks up to 23 tonnes in weight. The harbour was extensively dredged, 43,000m3 of soft sediment and 61,000m3 of rock removed to facilitate access in all tides. A new 45m long cargo quay with provision for a land-based crane, plus an 80m long slipway were constructed on the breakwater. On the east side of the existing pier a new 65m long deepwater fishing quay was built, plus a 57m long new ferry quay. The west and south sides of the existing pier were refaced and land reclamation saw 13,500m2 made available for parking and a future terminal building. Lastly a new floating pontoon was constructed in the harbour for an RNLI lifeboat.

Extensive environmental monitoring was carried out during the construction phase with a dedicated marine mammal watcher on duty to ensure that seals, dolphins and porpoises were not in the vicinity when rock blasting and other dangerous operations were taking place.


Looking to the future, Luke Gibbons believes the outlook for BAM’s civil and building offices is good, as is the outlook for Galway and the West of Ireland. He said: “We are an innovative company with the proven ability to drive efficiency through the construction process and a strong financial standing based on a strong balance sheet with no bank borrowings. We have an excellent team in place in Galway, with a proven track record for delivery and excellence.”

“Looking to the future, there is a growing stream of public works contracts coming on line and the demand for housing is growing.”