The Future of Skills in Construction


Earlier this week, Amanda Clack, Head of Strategic Advisory CBRE and former president of RICS published an article titled ‘What is the future of skills in construction?’. In this thought-provoking piece, Clack writes about the longer term effects the Covid-19 lockdown will likely have on the construction industry globally. 

Over the past month, construction companies that had been forced to close or adapt to new ways of working overnight, started their phased return to building activity across the country. While there were months spent away from sites, there was no downtime for the contractors who spent that time securing sites, understanding the virus, feeding into their respective industry bodies and then implementing the raft of new safety measures designed to minimise the risk of spreading infection, including social distancing. Clack rightly points out that no one knew what to expect. One month on, we have a better idea, however, as these are truly unprecedented times, she questions “how can anyone be sure?”. 

The world is looking completely different today, it is unrecognisable. There has undoubtedly been a fear instilled in each of us, but how long is that likely to last? Forever? 

For now, compulsive hand hygiene has become the norm. Site operatives have adapted to the need to santise everything multiple times daily. Last week we wrote about Healthy Buildings and one of the observations that McKeon Group Mechanical Services Director, Jim Wheatley, shared was that clients have serious concerns for the safety of their staff and clients as they emerge from the Covid-19 shutdown. You can read that article here: 

There is an awareness that the viability of their future business is dependent upon them creating and maintaining a safe working environment  – this is even more pronounced for businesses that require face-to-face consultations. Safeness is key, and the challenge for us is to adapt to the changing requirements of what is now considered to be ‘safe’.  

For McKeon Group, we navigated this internally and streamlined our new pandemic-responsive measures in an app called Good2Go. This app is now available for anyone in the construction industry, simply contact us for details: 

In Clack’s article, she is clearly trying not to “paint a gloomy long-term picture for the global economy”. We know that Ireland requires approximately 25,000 – 35,000 (depending upon which forecasting economist you lean towards) new homes every year for the next decade to meet growing demand. According to Clack, many governments will turn towards their domestic construction industries to help stimulate the economy through the process of building our factories, healthcare facilities and our homes. 

2020 will inevitably be a turning point, not just for construction, but for the wider economy. For stalwarts of Ireland’s construction industry, that turning point will require transformation, which will not be easy. Not every business will survive. The organisations that survive will not look the same as they did before. 

It has been said that the pandemic furthered the cause of digital transformation of construction quicker and more efficiently than anything over the past decade and a half has done. There is no turning back now. Looking ahead, it is expected that we will see a continuing focus on technological advancements within modern methods of construction (MMC) and an awareness on the sustainable impacts of the construction process and of the entire building lifecycle.

Clack heralds the growth of Industrialised Construction (IC), a system that uses and joins elements from Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Common Data Environment (CDE) together. All of these elements combine, she believes, to embrace the five key trends: 

– Big data, AI, & predictive analytics

– Robotics and automation

– Prefabrication and offsite construction

– The Internet of Things (IoT)

– Additive manufacturing techniques


The Future of Work in Construction report, published by Autodesk, highlights the growing need and potential uses of IC on a cross-industry basis. 

Construction skills requirements at the moment are primarily focused on digital and that is likely to continue. The industry as a whole will need to be able to adapt to their new required skill sets in order to appeal to people from various backgrounds like data analysts, digital operatives and strategists. Putting these new changes into effect will make working in this sector safer, more efficient and more cost-effective.  We could not agree more. 

And, speaking of the next generation of construction talent, we would like to congratulate Amie Bennett, who has recently qualified in Quantity Surveying and Construction Economics (TUD). Amie joined McKeon Group during her second year in college and has been a great addition to the team. Well done Amie!


About McKeon Group:

Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact:


McKeon Group: Healthy Buildings – Key Changes Post Covid-19


Earlier this month Forbes journalist, Kristen Senz, published an article titled Why COVID-19 Raises The Stakes For Healthy Buildings talking about the changing environment we are in right now, and how Covid-19 will permanently change the way we work.

Once this shutdown has been lifted and the workforce makes a phased return to the workplace, there is likely to be a lingering sense of fear. Mundane tasks of the past will present new threats. The uncertainty is already causing hesitation when doing simple, everyday tasks. The research and guidance about wearing face coverings is still unclear. Will hand sanitiser remain a pocket essential indefinitely? The history of architecture and urban planning teaches us that the impacts of a public health pandemic are felt decades, and even centuries, after the health risks abate. But we truly have no idea what the ripple effect of this pandemic is likely to be, given the technology tools at our disposal. It is already becoming clear that many businesses will not survive in their current states, whilst operating their current business models.

Over the past two decades, long before the shutdown took hold, countries across the globe were addressing growing concerns about air quality. In fact, earlier this year it was reported that Cork is amongst the most air polluted places on the planet. You can read more about this here: 


On the positive side of the conversation, this has given rise to a host of IoT smart city solutions designed to empower citizens with real-time data about the quality of air locally, at any given time. Dublin City is leading the charge internationally and was amongst the first cities to make air quality monitoring transparent and instantly accessible by citizens and visitors, further details here: 


There were many reasons to be concerned about air quality in built up cities, but also indoors. The inside spaces where we spend the majority of our time need proper ventilation. The World Health Organisation has amassed a wealth of research to link poor air quality to a range of respiratory diseases. This research goes further, linking healthier indoor environments with enhanced cognitive performance.

Joseph G. Allen, a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and John D. Macomber, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School came together to write a book titled Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity. In this book, John D. Macomber writes that:


There’s just no reason anymore to economize on airflow and filtration… that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a cheap way to help people be healthier.


The authors demonstrate just some of the opportunities that will be opened up to innovators as this renewed focus on health measures starts to impact every industry. These opportunities are particularly robust across the built environment, where the potential for impact is huge. There will be new opportunities for landlords and organisations to create enhanced indoor spaces and this opens up a world of possibilities for outdoor spaces, where social distancing will be less of an issue. 


In the short-term, heightened anxieties will likely dampen demand across sectors of the commercial property market and demand for office space will be impacted as workers built upon remote work or work from home practices adopted over the past three months. Despite the industry surveys and anecdotal commentary (and our own experiences), it is still much too early to tell how prevalent remote working will become in the future/new normal. In the interim period, office buildings and other workplaces require additional pandemic-responsive measures, for example, fever screening at the entrance, to help prevent the spread of the virus.

From our experience across McKeon Group projects in recent months, we know that owners of work spaces such as meeting rooms, dental surgeries, medical clinics, consulting rooms and all spaces where regular face-to-face contact is essential, are now (post COVID-19 crisis) compelled to review their working practices and conditions for staff and clients.  It is essential to ensure that sufficient local mechanical extract ventilation is installed in these spaces to provide an adequate air change rate to quickly expel any contaminated air and mitigate the possibility of infection for staff and clients.  Air quality monitoring, CO2 sensors, occupancy sensors, ventilation boost controls, automated windows and various types of central and local controls all have a part to play in providing a safe environment for personnel and clients.   


Studies were undertaken to quantify the effects of two groups of workers in the office, both with different levels of air quality and ventilation, to gauge performances of the workers throughout the day. With this study, it was proven that performance improved (being very careful to not say increased productivity)  when employees were exposed to optimal conditions, including proper ventilation and low carbon dioxide ratings. Macomber and Allen point out that increasing the amount of air coming into an office  is something that can be improved very easily. In the above article, airplanes are cited as an example of spaces with relatively poor ventilation, although much innovation and technology has gone into improving this over recent years. Anyone who has ever felt sleepy or light-headed from the stuffiness of an airplane will understand the difference in air quality. In fact, casinos have identified this as an impediment to visitor spending so they actually pump cold air throughout the casino to keep people awake and alert, keeping people at betting tables for longer. Macomber concludes that people are likely to become more cautious about where they spend time, the spaces they occupy and how they travel. This will lead to selectiveness around homes and offices and the sharing of this information with the public. 


About McKeon Group:

Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact:





Innovating for the Construction Industry

What Innovation looks like


There was an interesting article published earlier this week calling for construction companies globally to smarten up. In the article titled ‘Pandemic speeds up digital transformation in construction’, Darren Bechtel, MD of Bricks & Mortar referred to the pandemic as “an accelerator in moving the construction industry through digital transformation faster than most had planned”. He pointed out that “for the first time, startups are being approached by construction companies to solve the immediate issues arising as work in the industry… for example, builders are now required to ensure that, with rare exceptions, workers stay 6 feet apart at all times”. Significantly, there is an acceptance that the industry will need to effectively outsource innovation and contemporary problem-solving. While that might work in New York, where startups are well-resourced, here in Ireland this is not likely to be a scalable solution for most contractors. We need no-touch solutions and adoption of digital workflows across the entire supply chain. We need to be our own problem-solvers. This is not a radical idea. And it is not beyond the capabilities of most good, forward-thinking contractors. Many of the digital tools exist and can be adapted for project-specific use, we simply need to adopt the kind of design thinking for our organisation’s SOPs that we use to solve client or project issues on a daily basis.  


By way of example, last month the team here in McKeon Group launched an app to facilitate frictionless Covid-19 compliance checks in order to admit operatives onto our sites safely. In short, we designed a solution to a problem that arose. While the problem was new and the solution was new, our approach was not. For the McKeon Group – which celebrates 70 years of construction excellence this year – innovation is in our DNA, only the technology has changed. 


With the odd exception, real innovation doesn’t happen by accident. This is particularly true for business innovation. The Good2Go app was created as a result of the clear identification of a pain point and the combined expertise of our team sharing ideas about how to overcome this pain point, based on their knowledge of how sites operate on a daily basis. Innovation is driven by curiosity and necessity, but so too is excellence; they are two sides of the same coin. 


In a third generation family business, having a legacy of innovation does not mean we take it for granted; in fact, the opposite is true. We know the inherent vulnerability of the status quo. We know that customer demands are changing. We understand the need to get better. Again, this does not happen by accident. As a company we value, appreciate and resource learning and practicing how to innovate. 


The Good2Go app has been made freely available for use by any industry organisations that need or would likely benefit from it. 


About McKeon Group:

Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact:

McKeon Group: Building Resilience

Earlier this week, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) hosted a webinar to help launch a free and confidential, 24/7, helpline dedicated to supporting members of the construction industry, you can read more about this here:


The Lighthouse Club


Developed by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, this helpline and supporting wellbeing app aims to help construction workers cope with the extraordinary challenges brought about by the global pandemic. There is wide acknowledgement and a growing understanding of the negative impacts the past few months have had on mental health for all members of society, and this is particularly true for those working within the construction industry.


Speaking about the launch of this vital service, Lighthouse CEO, Bill Hill explained:


“One of the charity’s key objectives is to reduce suicides of those working in the construction sector. The 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline delivers an EAP to all workers and is complimented by an supporting helpline app. This App is available on both Android and Apple devices and is packed full of information, advice and guidance on mental, physical and financial wellbeing matters.  By making all the services free and confidential, the charity aims to remove two of the key barriers to people seeking help. The final barrier to overcome is the stigma of using such services often inherent in stoic masculine belief.”


For many, the impact of the crash more than a decade ago is still deeply felt. People tend to recover at a slower pace than the economy and the very real trauma experienced back then is still quite raw. There was a period of recovery before the pandemic situation unfolded and cast fresh doubt and concern over the livelihoods of 150,000 people. Irish construction is renowned for its resilience but, the truth is, any industry is simply a collection of people and maintaining a state of resilience for your employees or employer, for your teammates and work colleagues, for your family and loved ones, can take a toil. There needs to be some sense of relief and hope that things can and will improve. And it needs to be okay not to be okay, help is available.


It is great to see the CIF promoting such a service to its members and to the wider industry. Over the past few years, positive mental health has featured heavily in the annual Health & Safety Week line-up, bringing forward a whole new conversation about wellbeing.


McKeon Group Table Quiz



Earlier this year, prior to lockdown restrictions, McKeon Group hosted a staff table quiz. €600 was raised by our team on the night and the company matched that sum, bringing the total donation to €1,200. We were proud to hand over that donation to the Ashbourne Suicide Awareness and Prevention (ASAP) charity. The organisation provides critical support to the local community here in Ashbourne and, like most people living and working in the area, we are grateful for the dedicated services provided and keen to support ASAP.


About McKeon Group:

Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact: