Enterprise Ireland
John O Shaughnessy
John O'Shaughnessy, Managing Director, Clancy.

John O’Shaughnessy, Managing Director, Clancy, speaks with ROBBIE COUSINS about his company’s incredible delivery record during Covid-19 and urges the construction industry as a matter of urgency to collaborate to make the sector more sustainable.

 

Clancy Construction, which celebrates 75 years in business this year, began its digital transition 10 years ago with the introduction of BIM into its operational set-up.

Kingspan PowerPanel

In the intervening years, the Tipperary-headquartered contractor, through its work with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), South East Technical University (SETU) and other colleges and universities and industry bodies, has been at the forefront of driving change in Irish construction and engaging with young people to encourage them to pursue construction careers.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Clancy was quick to react, moving its teams to remote working, and building on the relationships it had nurtured with its supply chain over many years, which enabled it to deliver an essential 24-bed medical facility for HSE in just 14 weeks from concept to handover. This was the first of several fast-track facilities it would complete during 2020 and 2021.

Managing director John O’Shaughnessy begins by explaining how the company responded to the Covid-19 crisis, “As a business, we assessed the opportunities and threats that Covid-19 presented in early 2020, then we adapted and managed our business around this. By doing this, we put ourselves in a position to put on the green jersey and help the HSE in the fight against Covid-19. It needed hospital space quickly, and that drove us and our supply chain on. We delivered because we had already integrated BIM, lean and offsite construction into our operations. We also, most essentially, have five core values that we apply in everything that we do. All of this combined created a working environment that facilitated collaboration and project success.”

Clancy’s five core values are ‘Safety’, ‘Quality’, Professionalism ‘Commitment/ Loyalty’, and ‘Partnership/Teamwork’.

“Our core values dictate our decision-making every day,” O’Shaughnessy explains. “For instance, under the Safety value, every day we ask ourselves what is the level of risk involved in any task and how we can mitigate against it. Likewise, for Quality and the other values, we each ask ourselves if we are doing what is best to meet the requirements for this value. This thinking is instilled throughout the Clancy organisation. And, while I am not saying we are perfect at this all the time, we have greatly benefited from this approach, and each team member is guided by these core values in their work every day.”

Built to Innovate
L to r: Chris Chambers, Director, Clancy Construction; Des Riordan, Project Director, Clancy Construction; Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform; Tom Maguire, Senior Development Advisor, Enterprise Ireland; and Tom Kelly, Manager, Enterprise Ireland Industrial and Lifesciences Division pictured at new 554-bed student accommodation on Bandon Road, Cork, built by Clancy Construction. 

Innovation at Clancy

He continues, “We see Clancy Construction as being one of the leading contractors in Ireland in terms of technology utilisation, innovation, lean construction practices and employing modern methods of construction (MMC) and offsite manufacturing effectively,” he explains. “We have a track record to show this, and we always strive to be the best-in-class in relation to delivering quality projects on time, safely and to our clients’ satisfaction.

“We have achieved this to date by collaborating in a real way not just with clients but with all project stakeholders, including the design team and our full supply chain and subcontractors, as well as local communities.”

Clancy’s ability to innovate and deliver complex projects with minimal delay is why it was recently selected for Enterprise Ireland Built to Innovate funding under the government’s Housing for All programme.

“We were delighted to be awarded the Built to Innovate funding. It is an acknowledgement of our achievements in the past few years. Most importantly, It will enable us to continue to upskill in the use of lean and digital technology and further improve our efficiency.”

O’Shaughnessy references the recently completed 554-bed Bandon Road Student Accommodation project in Cork, a project of which he is very proud. The model of construction used on Bandon Road Student Accommodation meant that an individual apartment block of five to six storeys high was constructed and weatherproofed in 18 weeks, with the internal finishing cycle taking just 16 weeks.

“Bandon Road Student Accommodation is an excellent example of a project being delivered quickly because of collaboration and stakeholder engagement as well as the integration of BIM, MMC and lean processes.

“It was handed over on time for the new academic year and was probably one of very few large-scale student accommodation projects that were handed over on time this year. Most other projects being built used traditional forms of construction. By specifying a light gauge steel (LGS) frame structure, we were able to move quickly on-site, and we delivered on time despite the challenges of Brexit, Covid-19 and, more recently, the war in Ukraine. The LGS frame erection team, for instance, comprised two crews of four people each to erect the steel frame. These eight erectors put up five and six-storey structures in a number of weeks, whereas a traditional RC frame crew would have required multiple people and take months to complete”.

Clancy Construction
Bandon Road Student Accommodation, Cork.

Sustainability  at Clancy

John O’Shaughnessy believes that it is critical that everyone involved at all levels of construction contributes to and collaborates in reducing the sector’s carbon footprint.

“The evidence of the increasingly severe weather events in the past few years shows this cannot be ignored anymore. We all have a responsibility to change how we build and make our sector, as a whole, more sustainable. While there have been steps taken by many firms in recent years to reduce emissions, the sector as a whole is still facing a steep learning curve if it is to help achieve the country’s Climate Action Plan carbon reduction goals.

“Clancy is now on its own sustainability journey. We will have a comprehensive ESG policy in place in the near future as part of an overall sustainability strategy. This is something that we have embraced and will address as a team. And, I hope that we will emulate all of our other achievements as a team to date.”

He adds that the ESG policy will guide everything that the company does in the next phase of its development.

“In everything we do going forward, we will consider the environment, governance and our societal responsibilities in a structured way. By doing this, we will become a more sustainable and socially-responsible organisation working to make construction more sustainable and contributing to the development of a better society for the generations to come.”

Clancy Construction
24-bed unit at Croom Hospital, Co Limerick, a Covid-19 fast-track project delivered by Clancy.

Skills & Education

John O’Shaughnessy is the chair of the CIF Education, Skills and Training Subcommittee, which advocates and acts for the sector on upskilling the existing workforce, engaging with young people to encourage them to pursue careers in construction and attracting talent from overseas.

“As chair of this sub-committee, I am fully aware of the skills gap and workforce challenges that the industry faces. Ireland is at full employment, which is a great place to be. The Irish construction industry presents enormous opportunities for young people and skilled construction professionals and trades considering migrating to Ireland or returning home.

“Despite this, we have struggled to attract anywhere near the numbers needed. But, we are competing for the attention of a limited pool of people in what is a very competitive market.

“A key part of the sub-committee’s work has been changing perceptions about construction work. Traditionally, construction was perceived as physically hard and dirty work. But construction has changed, and there are many opportunities in new and exciting fields.

Apprenticeships are also evolving. New apprenticeships are emerging in developing areas all the time. I am delighted to see that apprenticeship numbers are starting to grow again, quite spectacularly in some cases. The electrical, mechanical and carpentry trades are all growing again at the moment. But there are challenges in wet trades. I would like to acknowledge Solas, CIF and our national training centres for their work in this area.

“The key point about an apprenticeship is that it can be a route to a life-long developing career. An apprentice can become a site or construction manager, be their own boss in their own company or sit at a boardroom table. Many go into further education and become engineers, quantity surveyors, etc. The industry has an excellent relationship with universities, and there are many degree programmes that facilitate people to stay and learn within their work.

“We have lots of challenges in the recruitment area. The main thing for the sector is to get in front of second-level students and show them emerging opportunities.

“The CIF has run a very successful schools competition over the past three years, which has addressed misconceptions about modern construction. This year we’re changing our approach and looking to encourage male and female transition year students to take up two-week placements with construction firms, complete a safe pass programme, and get a taste of what it is like to work for a main contractor, housebuilder or subcontractor. We believe that this will get traction in the next couple of years. There’s been a lot of interest in it to date.”

Clancy Construction
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Skills & Education

John O’Shaughnessy is the chair of the CIF Education, Skills and Training Subcommittee, which advocates and acts for the sector on upskilling the existing workforce, engaging with young people to encourage them to pursue careers in construction and attracting talent from overseas.

“As chair of this sub-committee, I am fully aware of the skills gap and workforce challenges that the industry faces. Ireland is at full employment, which is a great place to be. The Irish construction industry presents enormous opportunities for young people and skilled construction professionals and trades considering migrating to Ireland or returning home.

“Despite this, we have struggled to attract anywhere near the numbers needed. But, we are competing for the attention of a limited pool of people in what is a very competitive market.

“A key part of the sub-committee’s work has been changing perceptions about construction work. Traditionally, construction was perceived as physically hard and dirty work. But construction has changed, and there are many opportunities in new and exciting fields.

Apprenticeships are also evolving. New apprenticeships are emerging in developing areas all the time. I am delighted to see that apprenticeship numbers are starting to grow again, quite spectacularly in some cases. The electrical, mechanical and carpentry trades are all growing again at the moment. But there are challenges in wet trades. I would like to acknowledge Solas, CIF and our national training centres for their work in this area.

“The key point about an apprenticeship is that it can be a route to a life-long developing career. An apprentice can become a site or construction manager, be their own boss in their own company or sit at a boardroom table. Many go into further education and become engineers, quantity surveyors, etc. The industry has an excellent relationship with universities, and there are many degree programmes that facilitate people to stay and learn within their work.

“We have lots of challenges in the recruitment area. The main thing for the sector is to get in front of second-level students and show them emerging opportunities.

“The CIF has run a very successful schools competition over the past three years, which has addressed misconceptions about modern construction. This year we’re changing our approach and looking to encourage male and female transition year students to take up two-week placements with construction firms, complete a safe pass programme, and get a taste of what it is like to work for a main contractor, housebuilder or subcontractor. We believe that this will get traction in the next couple of years. There’s been a lot of interest in it to date.”

LGS system at Bandon Road Student Accommodation.

Clancy outlook

With the economy and sector heading into what John O‘Shaughnessy describes as some headwinds, he says Clancy’s order book is full for 2022 and 60% full for 2023. After that, he adds it is difficult to know what will happen for the sector as a whole.

“There’s a lot of commentary about the world going into recession. It’s hard to see that it won’t. How long that would last and how deep it would be are the unknowns. There is no doubt there are huge challenges ahead. Anyone in business needs to be careful. Don’t overstretch, focus on your core competencies, focus on what you are good at and do it well, and try and ride out the storm managing as best as you can.

“Like other contractors, we have been through hard times before, and we have learned from it. So, I am confident of Clancy’s ability to face what lies ahead.”

In closing, John O’Shaughnessy returns to what we discussed at the start of our interview.

“Covid 19 was a challenging time for everybody in Ireland, both personally and professionally. It was an especially difficult time for many people. But it was a turning point for our business. We changed how we did things. We adapted quickly and got on with it. We employed lean construction in a spectacular way, as well as MMC. We also used technology effectively and just did things a lot smarter.

“But the other thing that stood out for me and that marked our success and progress was how we incorporated our core values. We would never have delivered all those projects for the HSE and other clients during Covid-19 if our staff didn’t believe in those core values. We worked safely, produced quality work, were professional in our approach, and we were committed to each project while collaborating with all stakeholders. The commitment people gave and the hours they put in during this period were spectacular. Today, we’re still upskilling and learning as a business. But as a result of how our teams and supply chain responded to Covid-19 in 2020, we have shown ourselves to be an integrated modern construction service that I am proud to be part of,” John O’Shaughnessy concludes. John Clancy founded Clancy Construction in 1947 in Drangan, Co Tipperary. Bloomfield, Limerick, a multi-phase development of 154 units over 16 acres with Clancy Homes.

Clancy Construction celebrates 75 years in business

Clancy Construction

Clancy Construction, which celebrates 75 years in business this year, is recognised as one of the most innovative contractors in the country, having incorporated modern methods of construction, digitisation and lean construction practices to enable it to deliver projects in record times.

Carpenter John Clancy founded Clancy Construction in 1947 in Drangan, Co Tipperary. John started out building one-off houses and farm buildings around the local southeast Tipperary and Kilkenny areas.

His three sons, Billy, Gerry and Pat, grew up in the business before taking over its running in the 1980s. They expanded operations, taking on more ambitious, large-scale housing, commercial, leisure, industrial and healthcare developments.

In the 1990s, the family expanded its management team, bringing in external expertise in senior positions for the first time. People who joined the business at this time included John O’Shaughnessy, current managing director, Pierce Phelan and Padraig Leahy. This enabled it to embark on a major expansion of operations, spreading its geographic reach. In 2003, the first group of non-family members were appointed to the board. In 2005, Clancy Construction opened satellite offices in Dublin and Cork and later Limerick to add to its geographic reach, which gave the business an operation area south of a line drawn between Dublin and Galway.

In 2013, John O’Shaughnessy was appointed managing director. The board was also expanded, bringing added energy and expertise.

At this time, the members of the Clancy family stepped back from the day-to-day contracting business to focus on the development of Clancy Homes, which is a key part of overall operations.

Over the past 10 years, Clancy has invested in new technologies and processes, developing its digital construction capabilities. It has a high national profile within Irish construction due to its innovative approach and the leadership role its senior management team has taken in encouraging young people to pursue careers in construction.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Clancy delivered a number of critical healthcare infrastructural developments in record time by employing a mix of digital construction, MMC and lean technologies, and it processed projects very successfully in line with its core values of ‘Safety’, ‘Professionalism’, ‘Quality’, ‘Commitment/Loyalty’, and ‘Teamwork/Collaboration’.

Clancy has enjoyed significant increases in turnover in recent years, which its managing director attributes in no small way to the adoption of the core values throughout the organisation.

Today, Clancy is a leading influencer and innovator in Irish construction, with vast experience in all sectors of the construction industry throughout Ireland. Its headquarters are still in Drangan, Thurles, Co Tipperary, and it has offices in Dublin and Cork. It most recently was awarded Enterprise Ireland Built to Innovate funding under the government’s Housing for All strategy to undertake an ambitious productivity improvement programme.

Clancy Construction
Clancy senior management team, L to r: John Corcoran, Financial Director; Declan Fitzpatrick, Construction Director; Chris Chambers, Dublin Region Director; Alan Darmody, Commercial Director; and John O’Shaughnessy, Managing Director.

Its recent project portfolio includes Bandon Road Student Accommodation, Cork; University Hospital Limerick 24-Bed Fast-Track Isolation Ward; Tallaght Hospital Renal Dialysis Unit; Bloomfield, a multi-phase development of 154 units over 16 acres with Clancy Homes; St Patrick’s Cathedral Restoration, Dublin; Trinity College Dublin Renovation, Whitfield Clinic Waterford for UPMC and a number of social housing projects for Lyonshall Development and Cork City Council.

Clancy’s senior management team comprises John O’Shaughnessy, Managing Director; John Corcoran, Financial Director; Declan Fitzpatrick, Construction Director; Chris Chambers, Dublin Region Director; and Alan Darmody, Commercial Director.

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