Kilcawley Construction’s outstanding achievement in successfully delivering the vital Cranmore Regeneration project in Sligo city to the highest possible standards has seen the long-established family-owned main contractor shortlisted for a prestigious Irish Construction Excellence Award in the Social & Affordable Housing category. Building Ireland spoke to managing director Fergal Meagher to find out more about this hugely important, community-based project.
This pilot project – the first phase of the Cranmore Regeneration programme was completed to industry-leading standards by the Kilcawley Construction team, working on behalf of Sligo County Council. The project has breathed much-needed new life into Cranmore, the best-known and largest local authority housing development in the West of Ireland, via deep retrofit and energy / performance improvement works to almost one hundred homes. The result is significant energy efficiency, housing quality and environmental improvement works to houses in the oldest part of Cranmore.
An intelligently devised scheme by a committed local authority and local design team with strategic decisions in terms of energy efficiency approach and common area improvements optimised value for money while making a major contribution to the overarching masterplan goals for the Cranmore area.
The project was safely delivered during a once-in-a generation-pandemic. A proactive, collaborative approach to resident engagement with liaison responsibilities shared between the contractor and dedicated Sligo County Council liaison team minimised disruption to residents in a busy urban environment, with up to 400 residents proactively engaged and supported during the course of the works.
It was both wholly appropriate and poignant that this project was delivered by the local success story that is Kilcawley Construction. Established by brothers Matthew and Tom Kilcawley in Sligo in 1934, Kilcawley’s motto over the ensuing nine decades has been ‘Excellence in Construction’ and this core principle was certainly evident across every aspect of Cranmore Regeneration.
MD Fergal Meagher was delighted to learn the company had once more attracted the attention of the judges at the ICE Awards: “These awards represent an acknowledgement of achievements of organisations within the sector and being shortlisted is a third-party endorsement of the efforts of the project team and organisation,” he comments. “Recognition of the hard work and achievements of project teams motivates team members and improves morale within the company. It also helps promote the business and to attract talent.
“The ICE Awards are always very well received by the industry, generating positive exposure and coverage across the media, including modern platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, so it’s always a highlight to be associated with them.
“While Kilcawley have been shortlisted for the ICE Awards on a number of occasions in recent years, what is particularly pleasing this year is being shortlisted for delivery of a hugely significant project in our hometown of Sligo – one which has brought huge benefits to the local community.”
Sligo County Council adopted a strategic approach to Cranmore Regeneration, intent on securing the best-possible value for money on the work carried out. This involved omitting certain items and not others, doing just enough to make sure that the required energy ratings were achieved to satisfy a challenging brief but without going over the top.
“Like a lot of social housing schemes in Sligo, Cranmore is in need of further investment to bring the entire estate up to modern living standards,” Fergal notes. “As Phase One, this aspect of the upgrade works was well considered and thought out by the local authority, who were looking for best value, which we feel we delivered well. A value-led approach was taken to each house, and we achieved the results the client sought, with every dwelling upgraded to achieve a BER A rating.”
Challenges presented went way beyond completing extensive deep retrofit works and achieving the required air tightness rating requirements for houses constructed between 35 and 50 years ago. Such an invasive scope of works would not be possible in a live environment – and they don’t come much more live than a busy, populated housing estate in the middle of Sligo – without complete buy-in and cooperation from the residents, which was critical to the delivery of this largescale regeneration project.
Stakeholder engagement and decanting / recanting residents represented one of the most pressing challenges encountered during the course of the works. Residents were living directly beside and sometimes in between active building sites, with significant amounts of demolition (including asbestos-containing materials) requiring safe removal, while construction materials had to move in the opposite direction.
Even with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic complicating matters further, works were completed with no risk exported to the local community. This was achieved through careful consideration of stakeholder needs, robust risk assessment for each house, effective liaison, competent refined design and excellent on-site management.
“The residents are extremely happy with the manner the Works were delivered during Phase One and that’s the ultimate measure of the success for such an invasive project,” Fergal points out.
“Working closely with Sligo County Council we were moving residents from one home to another and then back again, and that poses significant logistical, communication and management challenges on site, but it was successfully achieved. We were working in and between live residential units with our workforce continually working in and around local residents, we had to take into accounts each resident’s individual circumstances and make sure we did not put those people at risk.
“This is a multi-phase development, and the local authority made the decision to focus on ensuring the most vulnerable and elderly residents were catered for in the first phase, so those most in need benefited from energy-efficient homes first,” Fergal continues. “Different homes had different requirements and – in order to secure the best value for money – the design team did not take a broad-brush stroke approach. Everything was carefully thought-out and surveyed in advance and, despite the variations in house types, the scope of the works changed very little during the programme –another nod to the design team and local authority. The success of Phase 1 is readily demonstrable by the demands and enthusiasm of residents scheduled for the later phases of the programme to have heat pumps installed and upgrades carried out to their homes.”
As a local contractor familiar with the area, Kilcawley Construction took an additional vested interest in completing the Cranmore Regeneration project to the highest possible standards. “We are a well-established local business with a local workforce and any time Kilcawley is selected to deliver a project in the Sligo area, we deliver the project with great pride and to the highest possible standards – indeed, exceptional standards, whenever possible. That’s what you always strive for.”
“We had an excellent client in Sligo County Council and an excellent design team in Rhatigan Architects. Our own project team, management team and craftspeople were highly experienced, and all locally based, taking great pride in working on this critical project on their own doorstep,” Fergal reveals. “It was very challenging but all of those who contributed are proud to be able to look at the locality and witness the significant rejuvenation that has been carried out on behalf of current and future generations.”
The delivery of the Cranmore Regeneration Pilot project was exceptional exceeding expectations across all aspects of the project. The original client brief sought to achieve: a minimum C1 BER rating for each house and improve the aesthetic of the surrounding environs; refurbished houses which were easily maintained, energy efficient and comfortable homes for residents; and minimum disruption to residents during the works,
However, Kilcawley greatly exceeded the brief achieving excellence through the quality of the construction and the method of its execution. Houses were upgraded to achieve an A BER rating, providing the residents with greatly improved energy efficiency and comfort. Environmental improvement / urban intervention works to eliminate areas subject to antisocial behaviour were successfully completed to a very high standard, while the quality of the 96 houses was significantly enhanced allowing for easy maintenance, of particular importance for elderly residents. Prompting a very positive community response to the Cranmore Regeneration programme.
Kilcawley Construction has delivered numerous regeneration projects down through the years including several social and affordable housing schemes working with various local authorities and Not for Profit organisations. These include a €3m scheme of 19 new houses at Cherry Court, Summerhill for Meath County Council and the urban regeneration of St Michaels Road, Longford, comprising 37 units in total, comprising the refurbishment of existing units, ten new build bungalows and two blocks of apartments. Works here also involved an upgrade of all existing external works, while the housing units were built to A3 energy rating, including solar panels, air tightness details and detailed insulation works.
A social housing scheme at Townspark, Navan, meanwhile, comprised the demolition of nine two-storey houses, construction of 21 new houses and a community resource building, complete refurbishment of 42 existing tenanted houses, the refurbishment of external finishes to 50 existing owner–occupied houses and upgrading of all roads, footpaths, underground services, front garden and rear garden walls.
“Home energy upgrades – which deliver better value to the end user – are more important than ever, with the ever-increasing negative environmental impact and costs of traditional fuel sources, such as oil, gas and coal,” observes Fergal. “The adoption of and adaption to renewable energy is critical to ensure a warmer home, increased savings and a reduction in our carbon footprint. The installation of new energy-efficient air source heat pumps in the homes of Cranmore residence as part of the Cranmore project has been hugely successful and popular with the residents.”
Since its inception in Sligo some 88 years ago, guided by the mission of consistently achieving ‘Excellence in Construction’, Kilcawley Construction has continued to grow and spread its wings, primarily through past clients operating facilities nationwide. Today, they continue to grow and expand their business, with a regional office strategically located in Maynooth and projects undertaken nationwide.
A diverse and vastly experienced contractor, Kilcawley’s projects range from life sciences (including pharma, biotech, medical devices and consumer products) to energy, healthcare, commercial, education, heritage, fit out and residential. Some recent and current project deliveries include the 8,000m2 Wasdell Group EU administration and production hub in Dundalk; Ballina Beverages production facility extension, Mayo; Revenue Offices, Athlone; Our Lady’s Shrine, Knock; IDA Advanced Technology Building, Dundalk, Civil Engineering & Building Works for the new ESB Substation in Galway and Athlone Garda Station District Headquarters.
How important is it in today’s climate to be multi-disciplined and geared towards servicing as many market sectors as possible? “In a small open economy like Ireland, we are subject in major swings in economic fortunes. This is truer than ever in the 2020s, where construction is particularly affected. In our view, for a main contractor, it is essential to have a diversified and multi-disciplined team who have the knowledge to deliver projects servicing the full breadth of market sectors. This skillset has allowed us to continue to deliver very significant projects across all these market sectors.
“The company has the experience and expertise to deliver all elements of construction, from complex civil works on a live hospital or pharmaceutical campus right through to the highest standards of finishes on some of the important protected structures in Ireland, such as Knock Shrine.”
Kilcawley Construction directly employs a multidisciplinary team of over 80 personnel (many of whom have worked for the company for over 20 years), who collectively form the cornerstone of the continued success of the company. Over the years, the company has developed deep relationships with an experienced and high-quality supply chain both locally and nationally. Where the client’s requirements allow for the selection by the main contractor of the supply chain, their approach has always been to select trades and suppliers who have demonstrated an ability to meet the high standards that Kilcawley Construction insists upon.
All members of the Kilcawley Construction team are committed to maintaining the ‘Excellence in Construction’ standard in their daily activities. Great pride is taken in providing a high-quality service to all clients, with an absolute dedication to completing all projects on time and within budget through a hands–on management approach and working collaboratively using the latest construction techniques and technologies.
Always moving with the times, Kilcawley is a champion of digital construction. “We believe the increase industry adoption of digital technologies is bringing tangible productivity gains in the management and delivery of projects,” managing director Fergal Meagher concludes. “Functionality-rich, cloud-based construction management applications are facilitating more efficient and effective project collaboration, communication and reporting, benefiting all project stakeholders. We look forward to the momentum in the digital adoption in construction accelerating further in the coming years.”
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This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, July 2022, Vol 8 No 7