What's your name and what position do you hold?
My name is Martin Cooney and I am Head of the Infrastructure, Construction and Energy Group in ByrneWallace LLP.
What are your day to day responsibilities?
I am also Head of the Construction Law team within the Infrastructure, Construction and Energy Group. As a result, my day-to-day responsibilities relate to advising on non-contentious and contentious construction law. This can range from advising on the contractual frameworks relating to residential developments, infrastructure and engineering projects to acting in mediations, conciliations, adjudications and arbitrations.
How do you think the industry is coping as we move into the post Covid era?
The construction industry is always looking for new ways to improve in terms of quality and efficiency of delivery. This means that technology plays a very important role as part of the drive for innovation and change. It’s my view that the industry has coped very well when you consider the challenges that Covid presented in terms of lock downs, shortage of resources and disruption on site. The attitude of the industry has been to overcome the obstacles presented by Covid which has made it more resilient than one might have expected.
What challenges do you see for leaders in the construction sector?
Resourcing has long been an issue but this has been exacerbated by Covid and Brexit. There is a shortage of skilled labour in the industry and this poses a significant challenge for leaders. The shortage of materials and increase in costs are a commercial challenge and are causing a great deal of uncertainty in terms of pricing new projects and maintaining margins on existing projects.
How do you see tech innovation transforming this industry? What do you think will be the major breakthroughs over the next 5–10 years?
Modular construction is likely to play a much greater role as it takes many uncertainties out of the equation e.g. weather, site conditions during construction, disruption and consistency of personnel.
Where would you like to see the industry in 10 years’ time?
I would like to see it moving to more of a collaborative environment than it has been in the last 12 years. The introduction of certain forms of contract have led to quite adversarial relationships on projects and it would be good if we could move away from that. This includes lower down the supply chain where, despite the introduction of the Construction Contracts Act 2013, sub-contractors often perceive that they are getting the rough end of things in terms of payment and cash flow.
Martin Cooney is speaking at the CIF’s 2021 virtual Annual Conference on Sept 30th. Visit www.cifconference.ie for full details and to book.