Joint Managing Directors Seamus Duggan and David Duggan discuss key projects from the past year, future growth, challenges in construction, Ireland 2040, and the importance of supporting diversity in the workplace.
Established in1926, Duggan Brothers is now in its third generation. They currently employ 85 people working out of their Head Office in Templemore, their Dublin and Cork regional offices and numerous construction sites. Following a turnover of circa €53m in 2016, their turnover level dropped back slightly to €50m in 2017 as a number of projects were delayed in commencing. Their anticipated turnover level for 2018 is forecast to be between €65m to €70m. Duggan Brothers are seeing an increase in tender opportunities this year compared to last.
2017 Highlights and Current Work
Duggan Brothers’ highlights from 2017 include the completion of the Slane Whiskey Distillery, which involved a €15m CSA package on a state of the art distillery and visitor centre build within and around the old disused courtyard buildings adjacent to the historic Slane Castle. Another highlight in 2017 was the completion of the €22m Wexford Garda Head Quarters building, a very challenging and diverse project completed on time and within budget to a very high standard of architectural finish. There were significant logistical, structural, architectural, environmental and resource management techniques required throughout the project which caused staying within the parameters of the project schedule challenging. These challenges were all managed by use of a collaborative approach between the design and construction teams that planned, understood and resourced the works efficiently. The implementation of this approach throughout the project reaped positive results for all of the team involved.
At the recent Irish Construction Excellence Awards, Duggan Brothers took home the ‘Silver Award’ for the ‘Medieval Mile Museum’ in Kilkenny. “We are delighted to have achieved this mark of excellence for the prestigious Medieval Mile Museum,” Seamus and David tell us. “This project involved the conversion of St. Mary’s Church into Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile Museum. The project combined sensitive restoration and contemporary design to an exemplary standard. The building has been successful in attracting a large number of visitors to the city and has been the focus of a significant number of professional and academic studies and presentations.”
Duggan Brothers current projects include a €20m 100-bed healthcare facility for Peamount Hospital, a significant conservation/restoration project at Leinster House for the OPW, a €10m extension to the Lochlann Quinn School of Business in Belfield for UCD, a number of residential projects and a new office for the Irish Stock Exchange off Foster Place in Dublin City Centre, amongst others. “We are very pleased to be working on these prestigious projects which allow us to showcase our ability and further strengthen our reputation within the industry,” they inform us.
Construction Safety Week in October 2017 was a great success for the industry and Duggan Brothers. Activities included daily Toolbox Talks and presentations on the topic of the day, specialist suppliers’ presentations, safety video presentations in the site canteens, enhanced focus on their Safety Observation Reports incentive scheme and daily director safety audit inspections.
Outlining the current challenges in construction, Seamus and David say that the biggest challenge is the sustainability of the industry and the cycle of boom and bust, that seems to have been accepted as the norm, stating: “This needs to change and it has to be led by our Government particularly in the area of capital expenditure and investment.”
Both men say we need a working housing market to overcome the current crisis and to enable our economy to grow. “The Government is promoting a number of good initiatives to address this problem such as freeing up state-owned lands,” they say “however more needs to be done particularly on a national level. In this regard, the level of government taxation on housing needs to be reduced to make building houses viable outside of the main urban centres.”
Seamus and David outline that unfortunately, the construction industry was decimated during the economic crash, which resulted in 170,000 skilled workers leaving the industry between 2007-2013. Along with a huge rise in emigration, there was also a downfall in the number of individuals undertaking apprenticeship programmes. Duggan Brothers see the shortage of trades and management personnel as a significant challenge as demand has now increased. “We need young tradespeople and construction professionals who are just not there in sufficient numbers to meet demand,” they tell us. “Along with the Government, we as contractors need to do more to promote the development of apprentices and young construction professionals.”
From their experiences, they say the Public Works Contract has caused significant damage since it was introduced in 2007. Giving their assessment of it, they say: “It is weighted heavily against the Contractor and consequently promotes an unnecessarily adversarial approach to contract administration. Under the old GDLA contract, we generally had real cooperation between the parties now cooperation is a contractual obligation.” Due to its structure and condition precedent requirements, the PWC necessitates a different approach compared to private projects, particularly in terms of paperwork and administration, however as a company Duggan Brothers try to minimise the impact of this by taking a reasoned approach to its strict implementation. They find that this approach is welcomed by Contracting Authorities and Design Teams and has served them and ultimately their projects well.
Encouraging Young People
Encouraging young people to join construction is a major current challenge given the appeal of high-tech industries and FDI companies. Seamus and David encourage young people to join construction, saying: “We would strongly advocate the construction industry as you will be certain of a challenging yet rewarding and dynamic career, every project is different and no day will be the same! The industry has evolved significantly over the past decade or so and continues to do so with advancements and modernisation of technology the industry is becoming much more diverse and high-tech than you could imagine. We need to work harder on getting that message out there and showing how our industry is evolving with current trends.”
Asked if there were any hard-won lessons they would pass on to the younger generation, they state: “The main thing we would say is that ‘communication is the key to success’. Given the number of stakeholders from all disciplines that need to coordinate and integrate together in order to achieve success on a building project, you need to be able to communicate effectively with people. Although this sounds very basic it is astounding how much waste exists within our industry arising from breakdowns in communication. People should remember that it is ‘good to talk’.”
As an industry, we are heading in the correct direction by recognising and beginning to address the gender imbalance. “Although it is a start, we can do a lot more,” they state. “It is a shame to think that such a dynamic industry is missing out on much needed female talent.”
They believe visiting primary schools will encourage young female students earlier on in their school lives to think about construction disciplines as a career path, as often it is too late at second level to begin influencing these decisions.
“The continuous development and implementation of diversity strategies to encourage women to build their careers in the industry is vital,” they say, adding that “employers can focus on raising the profile of their female employees and encouraging them as role models to inspire and encourage other female candidates into the industry.”
Both men welcome the National Planning Framework, saying: “It is ambitious and although it will be met with a certain amount of scepticism it is important that we have a clear roadmap and one that gives companies a clearer understanding of the Governmental strategy for the growth of our country and in particular the regions. This should help to provide greater transparency to construction companies by identifying where and when the main public capital investment will take place. We are particularly interested in the regional projections and the plans to develop the other large urban areas with population growth target figures identified. We believe for Ireland’s economy to continue to grow we will need to drive investment in these areas as the Dublin centred focus is not sustainable.”
In addition, Seamus and David welcome the introduction of the Construction Sector Group which was heralded as part of the NPF. “This will form relationships directly with central Government rather than with specified departments,” they tell us. “This coordinated group will bring all areas of the Construction Sector together for discussions similar to initiatives that other industries, such as food, IT and financial services sectors have enjoyed. This is a great opportunity for our industry but needs to be managed carefully to ensure it fulfils its potential.”
As the economy continues to grow Duggan Brothers expect to continue to grow their turnover and market share. They say they still have the capacity within their management levels and structures and are seeking to get to a level where they are operating at maximum efficiency for their scale. Adding that this growth needs to be achieved on a sustainable basis where tender opportunities and market levels are viable.
Concluding Seamus and David say Duggan Brothers also need to continue to focus on management and operational procedures to ensure they remain as efficient and cost-effective as possible. “One positive of the downturn,” they state “was a greater emphasis on cost control and efficiencies that were driven throughout the business, however, we need to work harder to maintain these practices as activity and inflationary pressures increases.”
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.