Eamon Booth | John Paul | Safely Delivering Quality & Building Relationships

After a year of awards and high turnover, Eamon Booth, Managing Director of John Paul Construction talks about the company’s successful year, project portfolio, Ireland’s housing needs and the company’s commitment to safety excellence.

2017 was a very busy and successful year for John Paul Construction with a record turnover of €349m and a string of major landmark projects successfully completed. Eamon Booth says: “Our strong performance was crowned by winning the Main Contractor of the Year Award for the 2nd year running last November at the KPMG Irish Independent Property Industry Excellence Awards.”

Eamon anticipates similar levels of activity for 2018 with industry output set to reach the €20bn mark and all the key sectors that have driven the recovery over recent years in good health. “While we have plenty of work in hand we also have plenty of capacity and this will continue to be the case throughout this year as major existing projects are completed and handed over,” he informs us.

Successful Projects

In the commercial sector, John Paul Construction completed the first phase of the SOBO District for Hibernia REIT last August – the 16,500m2 1WML building and construction is well advanced on the 2nd and 3rd phases of this landmark development – the 7 storey 1SJRQ and 2WML.
They have also recently completed the 14,000m2 high-spec Cat A and B fit-out works to Block 1 at Miesian Plaza for Remley Developments and are currently completing the conversion and refurbishment works at the 20,000m2 Seamark Building for Elm Park Development Management Ltd.
“We have been very active in the hotel/leisure sector,” Eamon says “with major projects ongoing at The Shelbourne Hotel for Kennedy Wilson, the Trinity City Hotel and The Morgan Hotel for the MHL Hotel Collection and the Maldron Hotel in Galway for the Dalata Group. We have also recently commenced work on the 234 bed Deane Street Hotel in Dublin for the Hodson Bay Group.”

The main works at the spectacular 5-star hotel and golf resort at Adare Manor were successfully completed last October and the contractor recently handed over the Clubhouse Building. “The quality of the end product right across this stunning resort is truly world-class and the key ingredient in the success of the project was the exceptional levels of collaboration and alignment achieved between the client, John Paul Construction’s own team and all members of the professional team involved,” Eamon says.

“In the industrial/life sciences/data centre sector we continue to expand our client and regional base with major projects recently completed at Tullamore Dew, Pepsi Carrigaline and Little Island, Gilead Sciences in Carrigtwohill and Wyeth in Askeaton,” Eamon tells us. “The data centre sector has also been a major growth area for us and over recent years we have delivered 78MW of white space electrical infrastructure and 11,000m2 of white space. We are currently well advanced on the construction of a new 20,000m2 High Capacity Data Centre in Dublin including full M&E fit-out.”

Eamon sees growth in the residential sector, saying: “While things have been slow to get moving in the residential sector, this year will see a number of major schemes coming to site. We have just commenced work on a major 240-unit PRS scheme for Kennedy Wilson at Clancy Quay and are also working with Hattington Student Housing Limited on 2 significant student accommodation schemes at Thomas Street and Montpellier Hill.” He adds that in the healthcare sector work is progressing well on the €68m 120-bed extension to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire. This is an impressive broad project portfolio.

Development & Housing

Eamon says the Government’s National Development Plan and National Planning Framework promising €116bn of investment over the next 10 years is a very welcome and ambitious programme both for the country and the industry, but the real challenge will come with implementation. Eamon believes delivering on the plan will require unprecedented levels of coordination and alignment across multiple government departments and agencies and local authorities not to mention the challenges in funding the levels of expenditure required over the plan’s 10-year cycle.

He believes housing is a major challenge. “Despite the increasing levels of activity in the PRS market I feel the housing crisis remains the most intractable issue facing Government and the industry with only about 10,000 new units completed in 2017 – well under half the minimum annual requirement, and less than 20% of planned social units completed.”

Recent Government measures including the establishment of the House Building Finance Agency to make up to €750m of debt financing available to developers at market rates and relaxations in design guidelines in relation to PRS schemes are moves in the right direction he tells us but realistically there’s going to be no quick or easy fix to the housing crisis. “I believe the scale of the problem will require further ‘out of the box’ thinking and greater commitment from Government particularly in relation to the provision of social and affordable units,” he states. “There has been no shortage of proposals and suggestions from all sides – and there are a lot of good ideas out there – but I personally think any mix of measures that ultimately addresses this crisis is going to require:

• More proactive utilisation of State Lands, the councils are all financially stretched but many of them are asset rich and these assets could be utilised in a multitude of ways to facilitate the building of social housing.

• Government could also look at utilising taxpayer money set aside for social housing and other potential available capital – NAMA profits have been mentioned recently in this context by one of the major political parties – as collateral to leverage and borrow more in order to build more.

• A way has got to be found to get small and medium sized developers, who have been effectively side-lined and forced out of the housing market by the lack of available finance at viable rates, back in play. And while the new HBFI agency should be a help whenever it gets up and running it’s not going to be sufficient in itself – and further measures in this direction will be necessary.”

Safety Excellence

“At the core of the company’s success are our people,” Eamon tells us, “who day in day out demonstrate a deep sense of pride in commitment, performance and quality within our strong culture of teamwork and collaboration.” The company invests heavily in training and has developed a range of internal and external structured training programmes aimed at improving performance, achieving consistency across project teams and promoting innovation.

Construction is an increasingly demanding business and Eamon says they have recently developed a management training programme to help create a better understanding of stress and a proper awareness of stress management techniques within the company. “We are also implementing an employee assistance programme to make professional advice and assistance available to staff members where appropriate,” he adds.

“Winning 5 major awards including the safety award at the prestigious Irish Construction Excellence Awards in March 2018 was a tremendous acknowledgment of the efforts and capabilities of all our people,” he states proudly. “Our safety culture is set at Director level with our board fully committed to the safety, health and wellbeing of our workforce and this culture permeates right across all levels of our management team.” He regards the work they are doing around behavioural safety and in particular their Worksafe – Homesafe programme as being very important.

John Paul Construction was an official partner for Construction Safety Week in 2017 and ran programmes across all of their sites in order to raise the profile of health and safety and improve general awareness. This was a major success and Eamon says they are already planning activities for Safety Week 2018 and hopes that it will be even more successful.

“Being awarded the NISO All-Ireland Supreme Safety Award in 2016 was a great achievement,” he says. “To be selected as the overall winner from all industry sectors was a tremendous endorsement for all our staff and indeed for our supply chain who input so much into the management of health and safety. To receive the All-Ireland Occupational Health Award in the same year was also greatly appreciated as occupation health often takes a back seat in the management of health and safety.”

Speaking of recent achievements he says the Irish Construction Excellence Health, Safety and Wellbeing Award (2018) the NISO Higher Distinction and NISO Consistent High Achiever Awards (2017) were also great honours for the company and further acknowledgment of the company’s efforts in the pursuit of excellence in health and safety.

Long-term Relationships & Foreign Markets

Talking about the future, the client base and markets, he says: “Fundamentally our business is about building relationships for the long-term. Approximately 50% of our current projects have come from relationships we’ve developed with our client base and the professional teams we work with and this is something we are always looking to expand and build on. Of course, all lasting relationships are founded on trust which is very much a two-way process and we know this model can only be sustained by continual performance, delivery and quality of service on our part.”

Eamon concludes stating that while the company’s main focus and activity is firmly in the Irish market they are also diversified internationally with significant operations in the UK and the Middle East through their associate company Absal Paul where they have teamed up with local partners in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

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.