How the Irish are building some of Benelux’s biggest construction projects High Tech Construction Insights

How the Irish are building some of Benelux’s biggest construction projects

Irish high tech construction companies are delivering some of Benelux’s biggest data centre and pharmaceutical projects, on time and on budget.

Right now, much of the major construction activity in the Benelux region concerns data centres and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Both are areas in which Irish high tech construction companies have extensive experience.

“It’s an area of major expertise for companies backed by Enterprise Ireland [the trade and innovation agency],” says Richard Engelkes, the agency’s senior market advisor in construction products and services to the Benelux region.

“This is thanks to the presence in Ireland of a large number of multinational companies across both the tech and pharma sectors, including globally known names such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Google and Microsoft.”

Working with such top tier multinational companies gives Irish high tech construction companies a leading edge in the international market.

Data centre construction expertise

Indeed, Ireland has become a data centre hub for many of the world’s technology giants, including Microsoft, Vodafone, Google, EMC2, Yahoo, IBM and Adobe. This has resulted in the growth of a cluster of companies who are leading international providers in data centre design, build and fit out.

Irish construction, engineering and project management companies also have a long history of not just servicing multinational clients in Ireland, but following them overseas.

Much of this activity is currently taking place in Benelux countries. In particular, Belgium and the Netherlands have each seen a spate of data centre construction projects, for companies such as Microsoft and Google.

Data centres is a growing market, and one for which the Irish are really well known. Even the Dutch construction companies are talking about ‘the Irish threat’ because of their level of competencies, expertise and knowledge,” says Engelkes.

Hyperscale data centre trend

The current trend is for hyperscale data centres and colocations. It isn’t just knowledge that Irish companies bring to this space but speed. They are recognised for their ability to deliver on time, and for having the flexibility to cope with challenging projects.

“They are known for their ‘can do’ attitude. Their clients never hear a ‘no’. Irish construction companies simply make it work,” says Engelkes.

Very many use BIM (Building Information Modeling), an intelligent 3D model-based process that enables more efficient planning, design and construction of buildings.

Health and safety is a critical strength

They also operate to the highest health and safety standards, a key differentiator in the marketplace.

“Safety on site is a huge thing in this sector because, by its nature, working in construction can be hazardous. Safety awareness within Irish companies is extremely high,” he says.

Putting a premium on safety reduces the risk of reputation damage to their clients. A recent incident in Belgium where hundreds of unauthorised construction workers were allegedly forced off the site of a major tech giant’s data centre is a case in point.

“It was the tech company’s name that was in the news, while the large subcontractor, an English company, wasn’t mentioned at all because, basically, no one knows who they are. It’s why compliance is such a big thing in this sector,” he says.

High Irish safety standards are shared by their network of local subcontractors, partners with whom Irish companies have forged very good relations.

This has helped them build capability, important in a market where, not alone is there an increasing volume of projects, but projects are also becoming more complex.

Staying ahead of construction industry developments

Irish companies are adept at keeping abreast of the latest industry innovations, enabling them to add value for clients.

“Every big Irish construction company will be at events such as Datacloud in Monaco. They keep a very close eye on the market and know what’s happening. They also build partnerships with suppliers and with clients, as well as with service companies such as electricity suppliers,” he says.

A 2016 John Sisk & Son construction project in the Netherlands offers a good example of Irish high tech construction strength in action. It involved collaboration between three Irish companies and the design and build of a major development for international pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson.

At stake was a major fit-out at the existing Janssen Biologics (a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) facility at Leiden to introduce a new pharmaceutical process.

Irish company John Sisk & Son was construction manager for the project, which was designed by Irish-headquartered PM Group, with engineering services provided by Dornan Engineering Ireland.

PM Group is a global player providing expertise in project management, process design, facility design and construction management to clients around the world, while Dornan Engineering is an international engineering and contracting company specialising in mechanical, electrical and instrumentation services across all industrial sectors.

Other Irish construction companies active in Benelux today include Dublin company Ardmac, who has over 40 years’ experience of building clean rooms, data centres and medical device facilities, including fit out, refurbishment, construction and architectural solutions.

Anord Mardix is a global leader in critical power distribution and protection; Winthrop, a provider of mechanical and electrical engineering services specialising in mission critical turnkey solutions and Linesight, a provider of professional services and strategic support to the global construction industry.

Mercury Engineering is an entrepreneurial engineering contractor, which has grown on the strength of its three guiding principles – safety, quality and delivery. Kirby Group Engineering provides full mechanical and electrical engineering contracting services, as well as specialist voltage design and construction services.

How Irish construction companies are deepening their roots in the Benelux region

Modubuild, an international specialist contractor which provides fast-track modular construction services to blue chip clients throughout Ireland, UK and mainland Europe, recently opened an Amsterdam office.

Jones Engineering Group, a leading international engineering contracting group of companies providing mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, fire protection and maintenance solutions to world-class clients, has opened an office in Utrecht.

DPS Group, an engineering and project management group, recently acquired F4PE, a Belgian specialist engineering group, which provides high-quality services in the field of clean rooms and process facilities for production and laboratory facilities.

PM Group acquired Belgian company Magnet and has moved its office from Zaventem to Puurs to be closer to its clients.

All of this activity is proof positive that an increasing number of data centre and pharma clients in the Benelux region are turning “the Irish threat” to their advantage.

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