No strangers to garnering major industry recognition from their peers, T&I Fitouts have been shortlisted as finalists in two categories at this year’s Irish Construction Excellence Awards. Ahead of the prestigious awards ceremony, Building Ireland touched base with managing director David Merriman to discuss the pro bono refurbishment of Focus Ireland’s headquarters in Dublin 8 (Innovation in Construction) and Dublin Airport Central office fit out (Fit Out or Refurbishment Under €10m).
Down through the years, T&I Fitouts have been regular winners of numerous industry awards and this is reflective of the company’s industry-leading quality, versatility and workmanship, with the highest standards adhered to and achieved on every project undertaken.
The magnificent projects for which they have been shortlisted at the 2022 Irish Construction Excellence (ICE) Awards provide a perfect snapshot of T&I’s uncanny ability to deliver collaborative, innovative, bespoke, client-focused and value-added solutions every time.
Even for a company as accustomed to collecting awards as T&I (some of the highlights from last year alone included winning the Public Sector Project of the Year for Dublin Airport Central at the Fit Out Awards, where they were also victorious in the Excellence in Sustainability category as well as being named Green Small Organisation of the Year at the Green Awards), securing two shortlistings in their maiden venture into the ICE Awards represents a humbling experience:
“This is our first time to enter these awards and it’s great to see our name in there in such illustrious company,” states MD David Merriman. “In the past, we’ve generally concentrated on Fit Out Awards, which are more specific to our area of expertise, and we’ve been very lucky to win a number of them, while we’ve also been fortunate enough to win some national sustainability awards as well.
“To be honest, we saw the ICE Awards as being more main contractor focussed but this year we noticed that there are in fact some categories in there that are ideally suited to us, so we opted to enter. We are known for the quality of our work and we like to think of awards as further recognition of our ability to invariably deliver high-quality projects. Fit out is a small community and if you don’t delivery on a consistent basis then you are going to get found out very quickly.”
In 2020, T&I were approached by MOLA Architecture and KMCS to engage as the principal contractor to Focus Ireland for the refurbishment of their headquarter offices on High Street, Christchurch, Dublin 8 – a building that was non-compliant in every aspect. Very much aligned with T&I’s own corporate and social responsibility policy, this project is a testament to everyone involved, including the design team and all suppliers and subcontractors, all of whom generously donated their time, material and skills for free, allowing the entire project – which has been shortlisted for the Innovation in Construction award at the ICE Awards – to be delivered pro bono.
This enabled Focus Ireland to redirect funds that would have been spent on the fit out into their frontline services. A critical part of the collaboration was developing a deep understanding of what was necessary to make this building (comprising circa 10,000 sq ft across four floors) compliant and fully fit for purpose. The consultants appointed understood this very quickly, allowing the work to progress in line with the project schedule, ensuring that any ostentatious aspirations were culled and that creativity and sustainability remained to the centre and forefront.
Over 60% of all materials used were recycled. Materials were removed from new CAT A and CAT B fit outs due for strip out or demolition. By doing this, 62% of the materials incorporated into the project were upcycled and saved from the waste stream. The Focus Ireland project was a huge step forward and opened the design team’s eyes to what could be achieved through this method of construction, as well as the re-use of brand-new CAT A materials (which would otherwise have been seen as waste), all without affecting the finishes.
T&I now push the upcycling agenda as standard across all projects. This can range from something as simple as a re-used cable reel to a coffee table or something as dramatic as 62% of an entire project! As part of a carbon zero future for the construction industry, the re-use and upcycling of demolition materials is going to be critical and this project has demonstrated that it can be done without having a detrimental impact on aesthetics.
As David confirms, this was a truly novel, pioneering and innovative project by any standards: “Firstly, it was a pro bono job, with everybody working for free,” he notes. “Through the largescale use of repurposed materials, we managed to achieve a carbon footprint of 40% less than a standard fit out. In terms of renewing existing materials and fabrics, this really is where the industry needs to go.”
The critical challenge on this project was to deliver a state-of-the-art new head office for Focus Ireland without any cost to them. Encouraging their extensive contacts within the fit out industry to donate their time and materials for free was a major undertaking, requiring untold cooperation and coordination. But from clients to subcontractors and suppliers, all were more than happy to help with the cause.
Multiple subcontractors were coordinated for each package rather than one, an example of this being the glazed screens where W2W, MJ Flood and Allied all worked together on site – a huge challenge but everybody worked together in a great spirit as they understood the importance of Focus Ireland’s work during the current housing crisis. Crucially, the fact that T&I were able to repurpose 62% reused / recycled materials dramatically reduced both the cost of sourcing materials and the carbon footprint of the whole project.
The project was an eye opener to what is achievable through reuse / recycling / upcycling and sustainability, highlighting how through adopting an innovative approach the industry can play its part in waste and carbon minimisation.
“This was a one of a kind project and the first of its kind in Ireland,” David continues. “To have up to 60 subcontractors and suppliers all donating their time and materials for free was quite extraordinary and it was brilliant to see so many of those subcontractors putting aside their industry rivalries and working together for the common good. It really was a team effort, where everybody came together to produce something unique and worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, the brief for the Dublin Airport Authority office fit out project, which has been shortlisted in the Fit Out or Refurbishment Under €10m category at the ICE Awards 2022, was to create a new office HQ environment where non-frontline staff could consolidate into one central location on the Dublin Airport Central campus (from seven other different locations). The considered design was to enable staff work better and more efficiently together in order to deliver DAA’s ambitious business strategy while syncing those seven independent departments into one cohesive environment.
The new DAA HQ office had to embody and reinforce the business’s core values and ultimately reflect a dynamic organisation with a community focus. The design had to be open, transparent, clean and ultimately modern. The use of colour, in contrast to neutral tones, where key arrival and convergence spaces are highlighted, was encouraged, with a unity of approach demonstrated across all floors. The design had to respond to the needs of the various teams and departments delivering different work zones, in terms of flexible open plan layouts, break out project space and closed meeting rooms / private work pods as well as the individual employee experience, while at the same time being conscious of the balance provided for quiet conversation and thinking spaces.
The open plan office design needed to incorporate the four key work activities which the DAA wanted to embed as part of the convergence strategy: Focus, Collaborate, Socialise and Rejuvenate. As the project was designed during the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the key considerations to be implemented was the health and well-being of the staff in an office environment. This was incorporated through flexible desk arrangements to provide social distancing initially but standardisation in the future. The mechanical ventilation system was also designed for optimisation of air changes and filtration of contaminates.
Owing to the fact that the building was entirely built during the height of Covid restrictions, one of the key innovations used by the team was helmet camera technology. This allowed a livestream walkthrough of the building as required to look at detailing, clashes, quality and key design implementation on site while allowing the design team to meet their own Health & Safety requirements and social distancing.
Another key innovation was to deliver the curved glazing throughout the space whilst also meeting the budget. This was done through clever programming and construction methodology. Traditionally, the plasterboard walls would be built first and the glazing fitted to them, but T&I built their glazed screens first and shrouded them in plasterboard to achieve the curved glazing effect. This reduced the cost of the glazed screen package by 48% and reduced the lead-in time on the glazing by five weeks.
Sustainability was at the forefront of the DAA’s requirements. As the building already had a full CAT A install in it, the brand-new ceilings, carpets and mechanical & electrical equipment were innovatively repurposed and upcycled through the contractor, T&I Fitouts, and DAA’s partnership with Focus Ireland on their new head office refurbishment. This reduced waste from the DAA project, recycled materials and reduced the carbon footprint of the Focus Ireland project.
Another innovation was the use of facial recognition technology linked to access control. At the height of Covid restrictions this was an invaluable tool to control induction on site. This technology could identify operatives entering site, check their temperature and monitor the wearing of facial coverings. This technology came from the Middle East where burqas are traditionally worn and was therefore able to recognise people wearing masks or face coverings. By using this technology, the site remained Covid free for the entire project duration.
Engaged regularly by a who’s who of major Ireland-based US multinationals and government bodies, T&I Fitouts consistently deliver superior quality to valued clients. Their management structure comprises highly respected and skilled construction professionals who have gained extensive experience in the fit out and commercial construction sectors under traditional contracts, management contracts and design and build services.
A wholly cooperative and collaborative approach to construction projects has generated repeat business from numerous blue-chip, technology, finance, banking and aviation clients. Fostering long term relationships and partnerships ensures that service and support last long after project completion.
T&I adopts a proactive approach to all of its projects, working with the design team and client from day one to identify any issues which may arise as early as possible, ensuring the project’s programme and budgets run seamlessly and smoothly to an exceptional conclusion. All work is completed with breath-taking precision – always innovative, functional and aesthetically pleasing.
“The work has to be crisp, concise and tidy. We treat every site the same as we would if we were working inside our own homes,” says David, who formed T&I alongside operations directors Enda O’Brien and Ben Lambe in 2010. “We have excellent teams and we only take on six projects at a time, which allows us to maintain very high standards. We have no desire to become any bigger. Instead, we will continue to focus on quality.
“Our turnover is around €50m per year. However, it’s not about turnover but the quality of work we deliver. That quality stands to us as we get repeat business from the people we work for, be that Google or Facebook or eBay. We got our first big break with eBay and that carried us on to another project with LinkedIn and we just kept going from there, receiving recommendations due to the quality we deliver.
“It all comes down to quality and that quality is a reflection of the people you entrust to work for you,” the personable, hands-on MD concludes. “We’re very lucky with the subcontractors we have working with us and we enjoy excellent relationships with all of them. We don’t use the cheapest; we use the best.
“That might cost a bit extra but the quality is always perfect and we have no issue with resources. Using quality subcontractors is crucial to us and we view them as an extension of the T&I team. We certainly wouldn’t be winning or shortlisted for awards without them.”
T&I Fitouts Ltd.,
Tel: 045 861799
Mobile: 086 0279616
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, August 2022, Vol 8 No 8