David is the Associate Director for our Design & Build Business Unit. Starting with Ardmac at the beginning of 2018 David has progressed from Senior Contracts Manager through an Operations Manager role before being appointed as the Business Unit Lead for Design and Build, which now incorporates our Modular, Building Offsite, department. Graduating from the University of Ulster in 1998 as a Quantity Surveyor, David worked during his studies for a Building Contractor where he gained broad experience in general construction, overseeing everything from project inception at tendering and pre-construction through to contract completion and agreement of the final account.
David’s career path changed direction in 2001 after learning of a workplace incident which led to a fatality onsite. That business adapted to develop and improve their systems and procedures to safeguard site operatives and as a result, David focused on safer operational delivery, moving away from being a commercially minded QS to become a more rounded manager ensuring safety was paramount to any programme. “The responsibility turned to me; after witnessing the impact throughout the business of such a tragic circumstance. I had to turn my mindset away from a pure commercial focus to ensure everyone understood their roles and responsibilities, safeguarding all operatives onsite. Coming from a non-trade background that was both a change of direction and a challenge with my peers, but that was the catalyst for my long-term career”
2009 saw David return to a commercial role, being engaged as a Commercial Managers with a Tier 1 Main Contractor, turning his attention to framework agreements and pre-construction awards. “I was approached by a previous colleague and afforded an opportunity as a Commercial Manager working on Education Authority agreements including being involved in some of their operational delivery. This coincided with establishing a 95% Cost Certain Model for the major redevelopment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool, Edinburgh for the City of Edinburgh Council”.
David recalls an intense 10-month preconstruction period targeting the 95% cost certainty for the Grade-A listed building, tendering sub-contract packages through the OJEU process, evaluating bids from all areas of the European Union, aligning the project risk register and making recommendations for appointment. The R.C.P. as it was affectionately known, was reopened as a centre of excellence for UK diving and was used during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. “The entire external structural frame and façade was hydraulically propped, braced and supported to allow the complete internal structure to be broken out, excavated and rearranged to modern standards; forming a main Commonwealth sized competition pool, diving and training pools, all of which had state of the art movable floors; it was spectacular. That project cost close to £40 million”.
Missing the hustle of daily life onsite David was attracted to move into the fitout sector with another Tier 1 company who specialised in high-profile Blue-Chip Retail, Leisure and global fashion houses. Some of their clients included Arsenal FC, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Signet, World Duty Free, Breitling, Tag Heuer and Omega just to name a few. David’s speciality concentrated around airport development & fit-out. Beginning with Belfast International and then working across Leeds Bradford, Dublin T1, Birmingham and Belfast City finishing up developing units within the South Terminal retail area of Gatwick Airport, London.
“We were initially awarded the World Duty Free Store at Gatwick South which was a new concession area as passengers left security control. A multi-million-pound development all of which was delivered within a 14-week period. It took many long shifts, working day and night much of the time, as the airport remained fully operational. We had a close relationship with the Main Contractor arranging several diversions for the many thousands of passengers who use the Terminal daily. A lot of the heavy lifting took place at night to minimise disturbance, noise, vibration and dust with permitted control of all work elements being a meticulous and constant focus”
On reflection, David admits; “Gatwick was one of the most challenging projects but the most rewarding to see concepts and plans developing over the course of only days, as well as improving facilities which would demonstrate our work for many years. Even today when I’m passing through, I can still see the detail and work we put in, and it’s a great feeling knowing I was involved and managed that.” On the back of Duty-Free, Ernest Jones secured one of the retail units.
As one of his most important clients their investment at the airport delivered another £1 million project in just under 9 weeks. “That particular project introduced several major watch brands to the Terminal and the store had some of the most exacting standards and pinpoint accuracy for each concession. The store area also sat within a smoke extract zone for the Terminal retail space and through some design ingenuity the team concealed this with a plasterboard ceiling, cut and shaped to replicate the Union Jack. This subtle feature trended on social media for many months after completion and can still be seen today”.
Despite continued opportunity to work on larger airports like Heathrow, David was again approached by a previous colleague to move. H&J Martin, one of the oldest contractors in Ireland, with the Belfast City Hall, the Grand Opera House and Dublin’s Arnott Department Store accredited to their name, became his new direction. Their speciality included retail, hospitality and restoration. Initial attention was to the restoration of the National Trusts Mount Stewart, Co Down, N. Ireland. “I joined mid-way during the three-year renovation, which had a £8 million price tag. The building dated back into the 1700s with all sorts of Royalty, Political and Celebrity staying there over the centuries. The UK’s ITV network made a documentary during our progression of the entire work, airing it across several episodes and bringing a new understanding to the efforts, work and expenditure behind restorations. It is a jewel in the crown within the National Trusts estate”.
A major accolade was recognised in 2016 when the project was awarded “Outstanding Restoration project of the Year throughout the UK” by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. David received the award on behalf of his team, citing their determination to ensure the property survived another few centuries. Other projects included restoring an old London Convent, developing these into luxury apartments; developing a 260 Bed Hotel at Archway, London and fitting-out the initial show houses and concierge of the prestigious One Tower Bridge in London.
Bringing David into Ardmac came through a chance meeting with Ardmac’s Roy Millar. Both men had worked together when David was a student and junior surveyor. Recalling their occasional encounters at the rugby club over the years David and Roy tracked their career paths and in 2017 they crossed paths, developing a proposal for David to come work with Ardmac. “The opportunity to add another string to the bow, working with one of Irelands most specialised contractors was something I could not turn down”.
Initially appointed as Senior Contracts Manager with the Design and Build division David initially began working with several Blue-Chip Pharmaceutical and Med-Tech clients. After a recognised input to the business David was rewarded with an operational lead role which further developed into his Associate Director position. “Despite the challenging environments and timelines faced throughout our industry, Ardmac’s attitude, procedures and the general support from everyone who works with us provides great dedication and direction, with an uncompromised drive to succeed. Everybody works towards a common goal with clearly defined principles. We maintain access to our leadership, thinking, developing and working collectively as a team. Responsibility never falls to just one person”.
David is currently involved in every aspect of the Design & Build activities, developing operational plans from inception through to completion and ensuring clients have transparent and continued communication. David pursues all projects to be delivered “right first time”, driving Ardmac’s Guiding Principles. His variety of experience brings strength and understanding within the Ardmac team. Utilising David’s skillsets and learnings, developed working across several differing sectors, will support and develop our teams capability on Ardmac opportunities as they present themselves.
Outside of work, David describes himself as a dad-Taxi and a TikTok Test Monkey. “I actually come to work on Monday for a rest” David laughs, “my youngest look to these bizarre trends on social media platforms then convince me to re-enact the idiocy. I’m just getting too old for much of it”. David’s son is now 20 and has his own independence but his daughters, who are 13 and 11, are always going somewhere with their extra-curricular activities, including horse-riding, dance and gymnastics. David has a busy house between the horse, dog, rabbits and hamster he says, ‘it is like a petting zoo’.