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Construction Innovation - Collen Construction High Tech Construction

Getting to the global market faster: one construction company’s BIM secret

By John Hunt July 25, 2017 No Comments

Irish building contractor Collen uses modularisation and building information modelling as part of its general approach to meeting clients’ timing requirements.


As a result of increasing pressure globally to cut costs and get to market to beat the competition, multinationals expanding in the data centre and pharmaceutical sectors are constantly challenging construction services and engineering companies to find ways of doing things quicker, more safely and with higher quality levels. Construction innovation is at the forefront of competitive advantage.

With this in mind, Irish building contractor Collen has introduced specific processes and ways of working to speed projects up without affecting quality or safety including modularisation and building information modelling (BIM).

Established 207 years ago, Collen currently employs 200 full-time staff. Over the past five years, it has completed the construction of 1.6 million sq ft of high-tech space and expanded its operations into the German market. The modularisation Collen uses involves the pre-assembly and pre-commissioning of equipment in a secure, safe environment off-site.

Modularisation reduces man-hours on a project and makes the process a lot safer,” says Tommy Drumm, Managing Director of Collen. “With a sprinkler system, for example, this involves a lot of pipe work and gauges.”

“We can do all the welding in a well-lit, safe factory environment, test all the joints and equipment and then drop the system at the site via container with proof that it has been QA and QC tested.”

Collen is heavily engaged in using BIM, particularly over the past few years. “BIM allows us to identify any clashes between electrical and mechanical services in spaces as small as 120mm,” explains Drumm. “When services cross over we can predetermine this in a digital format and come up with the most efficient ways around it.”

In October 2016, Collen finished a facility for pharmaceutical company Ipsen in Blanchardstown, Dublin, which incorporated both modularisation and BIM.

BIM - Collen Construction Innovation

Collen was appointed as the main contractor to undertake the construction of a lyophilisation plant and related works at the plant. The scope of work was to build and fit out a two-storey building within the existing facility.

The Ipsen project was very complex,” notes Drumm. “The works were carried out near adjacent buildings within a busy, live plant. We had to work around whatever was going on at the plant. We finished on time and at a high-quality level. Some equipment was modularised and we ran a BIM model for the offloading, locating and installation of this equipment.”

Ipsen is using the new facility to manufacture a global product, so it had to be built to clean-room status. “We were installing equipment at an advanced stage of the project, so it was vital that everything fitted together or we would be set back by weeks,” says Drumm. “We were able to ensure this didn’t happen by using the BIM model. We worked closely with the client to ensure they got to market as quickly as possible with no surprises.

According to Ipsen, the Collen project management team managed this project in “a very professional and diligent manner”.

It said that compliance with both safety and quality assurance was of paramount importance to Ipsen and Collen executed this to its satisfaction.

While it operates in all sectors of construction, Collen has been particularly active in building data centres since 2010 in Ireland and since 2013 in Germany. It was recently awarded two data centre contracts in Sweden and had the ability to mobilise 300 people to work on those projects in a matter of weeks.

Because the data centre sector is so fast-moving, the design of a structure is generally not completed by the time the building contract is awarded,” says Drumm. “We are really proactive with the client’s design team in coming up with solutions that will be workable very quickly.”

Construction Innovation - Collen Construction

Thanks to this kind of expertise and approach, Collen was asked by one of its clients to work on a data centre in Frankfurt, which was a complex project which needed to be delivered within a strict timeframe. Collen opened a new office in Frankfurt last April. According to Drumm,

We were able to bring our Irish supply chain along as it is so flexible and used to delivering similar projects in Ireland.

We have a good reputation for looking after our supply chain and focus on building relationships within that, as well as with our clients. This means our supply chain tends to be very loyal to us when delivering projects. Our specialised steel builders, project managers and other highly skilled contractors adapt to what is needed from each project by us. We delivered on time and on budget for each phase of the Frankfurt project. Clients sometimes like to see the changes to the supply chain from project to project, so we have to respect that as well and get the balance right.”

Irish suppliers, like Collen, have proven themselves to be ideal partners for multinational companies engaged in high-tech builds across the world thanks to their adaptability and willingness to adopt the most up-to-date and innovative work processes.

To discover more stories like these, visit the Irish Advantage blog and sign up to the newsletter from Enterprise Ireland.

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