I see the potential for digital construction to act as an agent for behavioural and cultural shifts in the industry  

Eoin Leonard, founder and chief executive Officer at i3PT Certification on the future of the construction sector

17th September, 2019

What's your name?

Eoin Leonard.

What’s your current job?

I am the founder and Chief Executive Officer at i3PT Certification.

How long have you held the position?

I have held the position since the company’s inception in 2011.

Can you describe your daily work routine?

When you run a fast-growing innovative firm like ours, no two working days are the same. It is, however, important to get some consistency in the working week. We try to take care of our staff and have installed gyms in most of our offices, so I do try to start the day with exercise whenever possible. This is usually possible two-three times a week, as I will sometimes travel between our Dublin, London, Limerick and Cork offices, which often means a 5.00am start. When I get to the office, my time is divided between our software and services business units.

I meet regularly with our certification teams to learn from their experiences working on our projects and we hold regular fortnightly knowledge-sharing workshops, which are attended by most of the staff. I also work with our software development team, creating our digital roadmap and designing new features for CertCentral, our own project collaboration tool. We are constantly growing and interviews take up an increasing amount of time, it’s an area that I take a huge interest in, as we are only as good as our people. Aside from the technical side of the business, I meet regularly with our Marketing and Business Development team and our Finance Team. When I’m not doing all of the above, I am meeting with our clients to understand what their “pain points” are, so that we can find new ways to help. I love the company and my role in developing it, so it never truly feels like work. When I’m not there, virtually all of my time is spent with my young family.

What is your professional background?

My family business was construction and I was practically raised on building sites. I did however originally move away from the industry when I graduated, focussing on telecommunications. I studied Data Centre and Information Transport Systems design, as well as Project Management, which is an area that I worked in for many years. In 2010, I returned to university to complete an MBA and it was at this time that I chose to found i3PT Certification.

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I didn’t always successfully integrate my working life and my personal life. In the early years of the business in particular, I struggled to find balance. However, in 2010 I became a father for the first time and after the first couple of years, I realised how much I had been missing out on with travel and business. I made a conscious decision to put as much effort into my family life as I do my work life. I now have three children (two boys and a girl) and spending time with my wife and kids is hugely important to me. I am a huge fan of Munster and Irish rugby and attend games when I can. I also dedicate time to working pro-bono with start-ups, as a mentor and advisor.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I once performed the song “Stand by Me” with the legendary musician Noel Reading, who played frequently with Jimi Hendrix. The song was actually recorded in a studio in West Cork, but I lost my cassette twenty-odd years ago.

You are chairing the technology panel discussion. How do you see technology disrupting the sector over the next few years?

I can see technology (both in terms of digital and process innovation) having an enormous and necessary impact on the industry in the coming decades. Our industry has many issues including productivity, quality and the general culture on sites. It is becoming less and less attractive as a career path for graduates and school-leavers. I believe that the wider adoption of digital construction paves the way for greater standardisation and potentially makes the industry more attractive to potential future workers. Process innovations such as off-site construction also offer potential some of the solutions to issues such as poor construction quality and again, pave the way for new roles and careers in the construction industry. Above all else, I see the potential for digital construction to act as an agent for behavioural and cultural shifts in the industry.

What in your opinion are the key opportunities for collaboration and growth in both markets?

Both markets face very similar challenges in terms of quality, building safety, skills gaps and demographics. As such, the opportunity for knowledge-sharing is clear and obvious. The UK is certainly further ahead in terms of BIM-adoption and Ireland can learn a great deal from their experience in “crossing the chasm” and adopting new practices. On the other hand, Irish construction and design firms have long benefitted from significant foreign direct investment, which has created a very sophisticated demand in our market. What has emerged from this demand is a cohort of very innovative and creative companies who can help the UK to meet some of their own challenges in terms of delivery in the coming years.

How do you see the construction sector changing over the next decade?

I hope that we begin to see a construction industry that places as much of a focus on quality, as it does on more traditional concerns such as cost, program and health & safety. The tools that we need to deliver better buildings and assets already exist. Meaningful adoption of these tools requires full buy-in from all industry stakeholders, including government agencies, funders and professional bodies. I also believe that we will see a host of new roles, processes, and ways of thinking about construction that doesn’t exist today.

Eoin will be speaking at the UK & Ireland Construction Forum at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London on the 18th of September 2019. For more details visit www.ukirelandconstruction.com

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