10 years and counting – attention to detail key for McCabe Architects

9 May , 2022  

The award-winning McCabe Architects is celebrating 10 years in business this year. Founder & Managing Director Declan McCabe looked back on a fruitful first decade for the Donegal headquartered practice and outlines the shared vision which has served the practice well to date.

With offices in Donegal and Sligo, the practice has undertaken a number of award-winning projects nationally and internationally and has gained national acclaim in recent years for the architectural and cultural success of its ecclesiastical projects.

The uniqueness of many of its residential, commercial and mixed-use projects has been met with excellent levels of client satisfaction, commercial success and media praise.

The progressive practice aims to produce contemporary design, responding to and respecting the history of the contextual architecture whilst delivering practical and sustainable solutions. 

“We started off with just the two of us and the country was at a low point in 2012, I don’t need to spell it out!” Declan recalled. “But, year on year, we’ve built the business up to become probably one of the busiest practices, certainly in Donegal, in the North West region and we extend down the Atlantic corridor as well.

“We opened a satellite office in Sligo in 2016 and we currently employ 9 people between the two offices.

“We started off working between the private and commercial sectors but now we are doing a lot of work with various local authorities. We have a lot of regeneration projects on at the moment, town and village renewal, under the new 2040 framework. It is really interesting work and it’s good value work at the same time.”

Has the expansion enjoyed by the practice to date surpassed Declan’s initial expectations? “I would have had a vision to grow it year on year,” he answered. “I would have been ambitious with my expectations. Has the growth surpassed my expectations? No, but it is certainly in line with it.

“We don’t want to get too big because we have been there before. We’re very fortunate to have a professional and dedicated staff who are all local. We have the numbers to allow us take on the big jobs but, at the same time, we have no intention of getting into the 20, 30, 40 staff. We want to keep the business model as recession proof as possible, if there is such a thing.”

McCabe Architects is one of only a few practices accredited in conservation, and specifically qualified to provide expert advice on conservation and adaptation of historic buildings and protected structures.  

Exceeding clients’ expectations, taking concepts where they’ve never gone before and discovering singular design solutions for discerning clients, all put high demand on the practice.

Declan and his team have carved a niche for approaching ideas from new perspectives, with a serious respect for emerging technologies.

The ongoing success of this approach is best demonstrated by the large number of clients who re-engage the firm time after time, and those who are referred to them by happy past customers.

“Our key attributes are delivering a real good service, listening to a client to get a real understanding for what they want and then trying to deliver on that. And the other thing is producing good quality design and work. We liaise with the respective contractors to achieve that. It’s attention to the detail really.

“Any of those clients you look after them and, in turn, they look after you. That’s what business is about, it’s about trying to find more clients like that which will sustain the business by coming back to you. Also, we do a lot of one-offs and we might not see those clients again but, at the same time, that’s fine. We might get a referral from them which is always good too.”

McCabe’s team of experienced and qualified architects and designers will plan and manage your entire project from start to finish and can handle both large and small projects including domestic, commercial and industrial builds.

Declan & Co. adopt the same approach on all projects. Step 1 is arranging a meeting with the client prior to the stage of planning in order to get to know them and hear their ideas for the project. During this informal meeting, they will create a brief based on the client’s needs, wants and determine the budget.

The design process is deeply influenced by the site’s context and a site visit is essential before commencing the design stage. This is crucial as each project is tailored to consider its setting, as well as the client’s brief and the building regulations.

If a client hasn’t yet found an appropriate site to begin their new build, they can help! Based on their experience, they can recommend suitable sites in the Northwest based on your requirements.

Once the brief has been created and the site has been chosen and visited, McCabe Architects can then begin formulating the design. They will meet with the planning authority to ensure that they have the ‘go-ahead’ for your proposed build.  They have vast knowledge of relevant Planning Regulations in Ireland and can therefore assist with designing a hassle free construction.

When detailed drawings have been completed to the client’s specifications, they can then agree a price and ensure that the build the client gets, is the build they had in mind.

Once the building begins, they will continuously review and inspect the site to ensure that all work is being carried out as planned. Following a site visit, they will send the client a detailed report so that they are kept up to date with the ongoings of their project. These inspections will ensure that the build is being constructed according to the building standards required by law.

Once all the above has been completed, McCabe Architects will provide all necessary certificates of compliance and an owners manual which helps the client to understand how to run their new build efficiently.

“We do a lot of work with some of the pharmaceutical companies in and around Sligo and Donegal,” Declan revealed, “and then some of the other related businesses. We have a good mix. We do a lot of school work, we would have two architects specifically focused on school work all the time.

“Across the board, it’s a mix, 50% Government work and 50% private work which is the business model that we are trying to run now rather than having all of our eggs in one basket.”

Highlights of the past decade includes winning the ‘Tourism & Hospitality Project of the Year’ at the 2019 Irish Construction Industry awards for Cé Rath Maoláin (a striking public convenience building on scenic Rathmullan Pier) and the ‘Residential Project of the Year” at the 2020 awards for Forest House, a building which was designed to blend seamlessly into its stunning secluded setting at Kilmacrennan, Co Donegal.

“We also won ‘Best Practice outside the greater Dublin region’ at The Regional Excellence Awards which was a huge accolade for us,” Declan stated. “Across the board, across the different sectors and different types of projects, we always apply the same principles – good quality and attention to detail,” he added.

Having ticked all the boxes to date, Declan revealed that there are plans in the pipeline to open a third office in the not too distant future.

“The future is looking good,” he asserted. “I always had this 10 year vision where we would start in Donegal, and then, with a growing client base in Sligo, we moved into Sligo in 2016. At the moment we are doing quite a bit of work in and around Galway and, ultimately, I would like to see us open up another regional office in Galway to serve the clients in that area,” he concluded.

For more information on McCabe Architects and the services they provide, contact Declan and the team today for a free no obligation consultation.

Donegal Office


Old Laghey Road.

Donegal Town

Co Donegal

Tel: 074 97 43012

Sligo Office

Business Centre,

Brooks Building,

Finisklin Road.

Co Sligo

Tel: 071 93 00554

Website: www.mccabearchitects.ie

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, April 2022, Vol 8 No 4