Based in Ballinteer, Co Dublin, Caracon Building & Civil Engineering Ltd is a company which has built up an excellent reputation around the capital with regards to its building and civil engineering projects. Building Ireland touched base with one of its two co-directors, Noel Cassells, to find out all about this thriving business venture.
Business is good right now at Caracon Ltd and the plan for directors Aslam Rawat and Noel Cassells is to take advantage of the current organic growth phase that the company has been experiencing due to current market conditions and demand for quality contractors, and to responsibly expand its operations to match this growth, through in to next year.
Transferring to a Ltd company in 2017, the company employs fifteen full-time staff from its base in Ballinteer, Dublin 16 and specialises in projects within the residential and commercial sector.
The origins of Caracon date back to 2001, when Aslam and Noel – two South African expatriates – first met through working together on the Dundrum Bypass/Ballinteer Bridge infrastructural construction project, where Noel was a Site Engineer and Aslam was Site Manager.
The experience they received working on various construction projects throughout their careers enabled them to eventually start up their own venture.
Building Ireland caught up with Noel recently to discuss the ins and outs of Caracon – from its start up to the state of business today.
“Caracon has been trading as a Limited company since 2017, however the origins of the partnership dates back as far as 2006,” he outlined.
“We started CRC Contracts back in 2006 along with a third partner and good friend, which was a great team and a very successful business thanks to the strong economy and abundance of construction work that was available at the time. We started off doing site development and structural concrete work between Wexford, Wicklow and Dublin, and this led to taking over the management of entire development projects, including the construction of houses to completion.
“This business went really well until the recession came and took the wind out of our sails, and due to the economic downturn and lack of construction projects, we had to close the business down in 2009.”
Noel then went back to South Africa for a few years where he joined a large listed construction company, where he rose quickly through the ranks and was given the position of Operations Director after a couple of years.
“I was keeping a close check on the state of play here, and when we noticed Ireland was coming out of the recession, my wife (who’s from Dublin) and I chose to move our family back to Ireland, where Aslam and I picked up where we left off by starting Caracon Building and Civil, trading as a sole trader partnership for several years before going Limited.”
It’s all a far cry from where Noel himself had started out, having left his home to move to Ireland 20 years ago.
“At that time, I was young, single and looking for an adventure and to gain some international work experience, having been in Cape Town working for a large Civil Engineering contractor,” he said.
The rest, as they say, is history. As a business, Caracon has grown by the year since, and earned an excellent reputation with both Clients and Architects, for its projects along the way. One of their residential projects were recently featured in the Irish Architecture Foundation’s: Open House Event exhibition, which they are proud to have been a part of.
The business offers a full range of construction services from small to medium size building and civil engineering projects, such as residential new builds, extensions and renovations, commercial fit-outs and Medical Facilities, as well as civil groundworks and site development
“We mostly work in the residential sector, with largest portion of our order book being taken up with extensions, renovations and refurbishment within the private sector.
“We also however take on a fair amount of commercial work which includes restaurant fit outs and the development of medical facilities, and we have recently also expanded in to providing refurb and maintenance services to investment properties for Real Estate Investment Trusts and Real Estate Fund clients. We still take on civil site development projects and residential developments, but only when there is sufficient scope and an opportunity for us to be included in the building works as well.
“We’ve found that, despite the difficult year we’ve all been through, there still seems to be a strong demand for home improvements, extensions and attic conversions, as people try to maximise the use of the available space within their property, and look to improve their general comfort and living space.
“Generally, people continue to prefer upgrading their existing homes, as opposed to selling and trading up, as most have settled in to their homes and perhaps grown a family and developed roots within the community, and they want to maintain that connection.”
Both Aslam and Noel come from strong civil engineering construction backgrounds, hold qualifications in Civil Engineering, and Professional Registrations with the Construction Industry Federation among others, and have a combined experience which spans over half a century in professional positions within the Civil Engineering and Building industries both locally and abroad.
“We are very lucky to have an amazing team of operational staff, most of which have been with us from the start. Our key guys are Igor Obreja, who is the company General Foreman, and our Site Foreman, Igor Sochin and Mihai Buhai. These skilled guys lead by example on site with their teams, and ensure production and quality.”
Caracon Ltd maintains a steady stream of repeat business from previous clients and referrals, and deal with only a handful of Architects in and around Dublin which they gain repeat business from, which relationships they respect and appreciate.
“When looking to extend or renovate, having a good Architect can really change the way you see the potential in your home. They have the ability to look beyond the walls, and where you might initially have envisaged an ordinary extension, they can make extraordinary and can totally transform the way you see, live and use the space within your home. The understanding and creativity they can bring to a design is invaluable, and definitely worth engaging if you’re in a position to. Similar with the use of Interior Designers, they can design aesthetically amazing spaces to meet the functional needs of your home, and take your interior to the next level.”
Right now, the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government lockdowns which have been followed in order to try and combat the spread of the virus, sees the Irish construction industry largely at a halt.
For Aslam and Noel, it’s a waiting game now until they get their company’s projects back up and running.
“Aside from the lack of site activity at the moment with the restrictions in place, business is still going very well and the outlook is good,” he said. “There’s a lot of work coming through the pipeline through referrals and through architects that we deal with, and we had five good sized projects on-going before the lockdown hit us. We have a few projects lined up with flexible start dates where clients are happy to wait until we have the capacity to get started, so we are also fortunate in that sense.
“We find that, as we treat our architects, clients and staff with professionalism and respect, we benefit by getting recommendations and referrals, and crucially, the capacity to retain good quality and skilled staff and great subcontractors, and thankfully, this has been the case so far.
“We approach each and every project personally and individually, and so are able to offer experience and advice to our clients, to ensure the outcome offers them the best result.”
At the moment, they’re patiently waiting to get back to a number of jobs which Noel was good enough to share some details on.
“We’ve a large extension on-going in Terenure which is near Bushy Park, an extension and refurb in Rathmines, a large project in Portbello which includes a dental surgery and residential development, and a refurb/extension project in Greystones,” said the co-director.
“We also have projects which we are waiting to get back to in Drumcondra and another new project in Portobello, so we have a fair bit of work going on.
“We’re a small company, and while we are embracing the current growth phase, we don’t want to take on too much at once, as myself and Aslam like to visit each of our sites daily if possible, to maintain good project management and to liaise with the architects as needed, or to keep communication open with the client where necessary.
“Construction can be a tough industry, especially if you’re dealing with arrogant and difficult people, so it helps to maintain a professional and courteous relationship with all the stakeholders on a project, and when all parties are bringing a positive attitude to the table, it really is the grease that turns the wheel and ultimately delivers a successful project. We take a lot of pride in our work and we are very fortunate to have great staff whom have respect for people’s property and who have an amazing work ethic.”
For Aslam and Noel, they know that integrity and quality of work goes a long way in this business and it has been the name of the game for Caracon since ‘Day One’.
Above all else, Health & Safety is the chief priority for the business. Its employees are considered to be the greatest asset of the company and wherever possible Caracon will continue to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all.
Looking towards the coming months, Noel himself is very positive about what’s around the corner for the business when things eventually do get back up and running again with regards to projects.
“We’re very positive on the outlook for the coming months and extending on to year end,” he said. “It has been a tough first few months of this year with everything going on, but we want to be in a good position to kick off the work again, and so are preparing ourselves as much as we can to hit the ground running when we reopen.”
It’s only a matter of time before Caracon Ltd are back on the sites again and meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations in the same fashion which they have been for years now. “At this stage, like everyone else out there, we are just looking forward to getting back to it.”
Caracon Building & Civil Engineering Ltd
Telephone: 01 6918824 / 085 8170468
E-mail: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, June, Vol 7 No 6