Michael Bane | Purcell Construction

Purcell Construction’s longstanding culture and values continue to shine through as it embraces modern methods of construction and plans for continued growth. 

The appointment of a BIM Manager in 2019 and the setting up of a dedicated BIM and Planning Department have yielded great benefits for Purcell Construction and its clients, according to Managing Director, Michael Bane.

“We now have in-house expertise and capability to manage the BIM process on large projects such as the North City Operations Depot and National Train Control Centre without the need to outsource. With this in-house capacity our construction teams are constantly learning and up-skilling in this technology. Ultimately, the adoption of BIM will lead to greater collaboration on projects between parties and will avoid unforeseen issues or cost over-runs arising,” he says, adding that Purcell anticipates that it will achieve ISO 19650 accreditation for BIM this year.

Purcell was awarded the contract to construct the North City Operations Depot for Dublin City Council last February with a contract value of €52m. Scheduled to be operational in 2023, the scope of this project involves the rationalisation of 16 existing depots into a single purpose-built depot in Ballymun. The facility will include offices, training facilities, canteens, workshops, central stores, civic amenity space, a recycling centre and a multi-storey carpark.

The National Train Control Centre at Heuston Station in Dublin is well underway and due for completion in early 2022. With a contract value of €40m, this key infrastructure project for Iarnród Éireann will be the main centre for management and regulation of all train movements on the rail network.

Michael notes that construction technology has been evolving at an astonishing speed recently. “The growth of BIM and other digital technologies – as well as the requirement for more efficient buildings – has meant that designers and contractors are better placed to use offsite construction. Over the past few years, we have embraced modern methods of construction which has allowed us to deliver excellent solutions for our clients.

“Digital technology and modern methods of construction helped us greatly in continuing construction progress during the pandemic while working within new protocols. We see these changes being carried forward as the industry normalises.”

While there have been major adoptions of new technologies in the construction industry of late, Michael has observed that these applications are not necessarily being integrated with other systems and therefore don’t provide the collaboration that is possible with construction project teams.

“Productivity capacity is one of the greatest challenges facing our industry at present. An action plan for future growth must be put in place by our industry, but other stakeholders must also be involved. The Government wants economic growth that is smart, innovative and sustainable but this must come through government policy and the research and education sector,” he says. 

Broad project portfolio 

Founded in 1988, Purcell is one of Ireland’s leading construction companies with offices in Dublin, Galway, Castlebar and Tullamore. Employing 100 people directly, Purcell’s turnover reached €43m in 2020 and it is projecting turnover of €65m in 2021.

Some of the recent milestone projects completed in the past year are the Lower House in Grangegorman for TU Dublin and the €20m St Teresa’s Gardens Regeneration project for Dublin City Council. Another exciting project completed by Purcell in 2020 was the NUIG Quadrangle Restoration, which included the restoration of roofs, parapets, chimneys, turrets and a clock tower. Purcell is progressing well with a new six-storey extension to the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Westland Row, Dublin 2, at a cost of €17m.

“We are a multi-disciplinary company covering all sectors and working nationwide. Commercial and residential are vibrant sectors for Purcell at present and we expect to see continued growth in these areas over the next number of years. We are currently restoring and constructing a major private dwelling in South Dublin with a contract value of €17m. Designed by a world-renowned architect, it will hopefully be an award-winning project,” says Michael.

“The nursing home sector has opened up for us in the past few years, with the completion of major projects in Chapelizod and Foxrock in Dublin in 2020 and the commencement of a 100-bed unit in Balbriggan this year for Virtue Healthcare.”

Purcell is a contract construction company and does not expose itself to development risk. In residential development, its clients are local authority or private sector providers. Once clients have sorted the design and planning process, it concentrates on delivery.

“Integrity is our core value and is at the heart of everything we do, driving our vision and values. A workforce comprised of people with integrity is one where you can trust staff to perform to the best of their ability. They don’t compromise on their ideals, cut corners, cheat or lie. They behave according to a consistent internal code of values,” says Michael.

“In our industry, integrity can also strengthen relationships with design teams, clients and suppliers because they can trust you will keep your promises and act honourably if something goes wrong. Health and safety and mental health and wellbeing also remain important parts of our culture. Safety has always been to the forefront and achieving ISO 45001 accreditation in October 2019 was a milestone for us.” 

Skills and Talent 

Diversity within construction continues to be a challenge, in Michael’s view, with a very low percentage of female staff overall. “We are however as a company seeing a change in the right direction, with an increasing number of women employed with us, particularly when it comes to management staff, which is all very welcome. The lack of uptake from females in apprenticeships continues to be an issue though and one which our industry has not addressed. Female students need to know that they have a place in technology and engineering,” he says.

“The skills shortage issue generally is still with us and, despite a review over the past few years, real change has not occurred to our apprenticeship system. We keep doing the same things and expect a different result. The adoption of the German apprenticeship system is required to allow a full academic route to qualification. This model would also deal with our diversity issues and encourage more women to take up careers in technology.”

Regarding careers at Purcell, Alan Lawless was appointed Construction Director this year, having joined the company in 2003 as a Graduate Engineer. “Alan has been an invaluable member of the Purcell team since. His experience and knowledge of both our company and the industry bring great strength to the business and we are delighted to see him join our board and help us to drive the company forward,” says Michael.

Purcell is soon to begin a review of its strategic plan and plot the next five years of the company’s development. Sustainability will be included in this plan, which is a roadmap that will set out targets and processes around achieving these targets.

“Over the past few years, Purcell has been developing policy around the broad subject of sustainability. Areas that are important to us are delivering sustainable and low-carbon solutions in our projects, reducing energy waste, making construction cleaner, embracing innovation and caring for the environment,” says Michael.

“The pandemic has forced us to review everything that we do. Major changes have occurred in how our sites operate and processes have been altered to allow delivery of projects safely and to client timescales. COVID-19 has taught us all not to take anything for granted and that while it is important to work hard it is also important to take stock from time to time and make sure to maintain a work-life balance for ourselves and the people who work with us.”