Double delight for Clarke Construction

3 Mar , 2023  

Renowned Dublin-based contractor Clarke Construction are celebrating on the double after being shortlisted in two categories at this year’s high-profile Irish Construction Industry Awards. Building Ireland spoke to founder and managing director Colin Clarke to gauge his reaction to this commendable feat.

Annually, the Irish Construction Industry Awards recognise the very best of Ireland’s construction firms and projects. To be nominated for an ICI award is a fantastic accomplishment in itself and Clarke Construction achieved this not once but twice in 2022, having been shortlisted for the prestigious Contractor of the Year as well as Residential Project of the Year for their stunning residential extension / refurbishment project at Stiles Road, Clontarf.

One of many outstanding projects in Clarke Construction’s highly impressive and ever-expanding residential portfolio, Stiles Road, Clontarf was also in the headlines earlier in the year when scooping the “House Extension Refurbishment of the Year” top prize at the 2022 Building and Architect of the Year Awards.

Clarke Construction was established in 2007 by Colin Clarke, who has a passion for helping clients transform their properties into the homes of their dreams. During the intervening decade and a half, the company has established an exceptional track record for delivering only the highest-quality bespoke residential new builds and upgrades.

Very much the archetypal client-focused, hands-on managing director, Colin generously took time out from his busy schedule to relate to Building Ireland what it means to Clarke Construction to be recognised by their peers at the 2022 ICI Awards:

“It is a challenging time within the construction industry, but we work consistently to keep our standards to an extremely high level. Our people have always bought into that, and this is due recognition of their efforts.

“Our team believes that no matter what happens, you must take pride in your work and there is genuine value and reward in that. It is nice to get this recognition for the whole team. I of course have a part to play but it’s the guys on the ground who must buy into and share the ethos of the company, which is to always take pride in our work. It’s testament to them that we have been shortlisted and, when you look at the other projects and companies that have been shortlisted, we are delighted to be there in that company.”

Colin’s passion for construction is immediately evident, as is the emphasis he places on taking pride in one’s work …  is this one of the mantras of Clarke Construction?

“That’s just how I am. If something isn’t right, I’m not a person who can turn a blind eye or walk away from it. The team and I always do our very best and will always make sure that everything is as right as it can be and to the client’s satisfaction before completion.  The staff understand this is how we work; they know exactly what is expected of them and what is simply not acceptable.”

As with any job that involves a team of people, Colin – who employs up to 20 skilled and experienced personnel directly between office and site – is acutely cognisant of the importance of having everybody singing from the same metaphorical hymn sheet.

“Whatever about awards that you may or may not win, when everyone is pulling in the one direction it makes for a far more enjoyable and productive workplace. While work is work and essentially everybody is turning up to earn a living, it doesn’t have to be a challenge to get up in the morning to go to work. We want our staff to work together as a team – as a family, even – and if everybody isn’t pulling together and sharing the same vision then it doesn’t make for a happy working environment. We strive to have a shared focus. This results in a very positive environment, which in turn is conducive to delivering quality workmanship and in turn the results our clients expect.”

For the award-winning project at Stiles Road, Clontarf, Clarke Construction added on a large rear extension while carrying out a full energy efficient renovation of the existing house while transforming the interior space into a welcoming, open-plan living environment. The objective of this project was to create a seamless transfer between the internal and external areas while using a variety of different finishes such as timber, finished concrete, brickwork and rendered products.

The front and garage doors were replaced with new bespoke slatted hardwood versions. The detail incorporated on these front doors was then carried into the house where the same slatted timber formed a full height balustrade for the staircase. With timber being the material of choice for the front doors it was decided to lay an engineered herringbone style floor throughout the ground floor of the house. Meticulous planning went into the setting out of this floor to ensure the finish was perfect throughout.

The kitchen, being the hub of any home, was a top priority. All kitchen units were made from Beech plywood and topped with gorgeous marble countertops, with the same marble used for the sink backsplash. The kitchen was finished with modern hanging lights and large exposed light bulbs.

Access to the utility room was formed through a pocket door off the kitchen. External access to the utility room also allows for the room to double up as a cloak room for the children to come in and remove their shoes and hang their jackets up.

The new rear extension was built from scratch, offering a stunning view from the front door right through the house and into the rear landscaped garden. Clarke Construction built the extension with large joinery made windows and full height slider doors which create a seamless passage from the sunken living room out onto the rear Granite patio area which also provides access to a raised garden.

Within the sunken living room is a large brick-built chimney which houses a new landscape style stove and a recessed TV above. Either side of the fireplace is a brick built seated area which carries through to the external patio area where it acts as an external bench and also a divide between 2 split level paved areas.

The most challenging aspect of this project was the external façade to the rear where constant planning and coordination was required to ensure that the various building elements used fitted in seamlessly with each other. We had structural finished concrete beams supporting the first floor, finished concrete walls either side of the rear slider door, with an archway formed above the patio and a finished concrete parapet wall & soffit above the slider doors. Within these areas we had the brick-built fireplace travelling through the concrete and a secret fix larch pergola structure to the side of the extension. It was a challenge, but a challenge we embraced.

Both Clarke Construction and their client were truly delighted with the overall end result.

As with every project delivered by Clarke Construction, Colin insists on meticulous craftsmanship and unwavering attention to detail:

“We’re clearly not the biggest contractor in Dublin. But, regardless of what size operation you are, you have to be capable of turning out quality projects and these skills come from within the company. Whether you are taking on one or 20 projects a year, you are only ever as good as the last one, which is why each and every project has to be completed to the same high standard. We may not be the biggest construction company in Dublin, but the quality of our work is unquestionably up there with the best of them.”

Colin divides his time equally between the office and site to ensure that there is a constant link between both.

“I like to have my finger on the pulse, to understand what’s going on and to keep an eye on the quality,” he confirms. “You could lose that important connection if you are in the office all the time – there must be a connection between the office and the sites. While very valuable, I don’t rely solely on the information that is leaving the site and believe that by being on site every day I am demonstrating my commitment to the quality I want, expect, and deliver. But It is also important that the guys onsite know that I have their backs. We are a team. While I adopt a hands-on approach with all my clients and with the architects and engineers we work with, it is important to stress that I have excellent foremen and tradesmen on site. The sites will run very smoothly in my absence, but I like to be there at all stages, from a customer’s initial engagement to pre-tender and right through to handover.”

Returning to the Stiles Road project, Colin acknowledges the wonderful teamwork invested by all the stakeholders:

“We were working with a great architect, with whom we’ve worked on many projects, and the client was very engaged and understood the difficulties that can come with carrying out a construction project. They were very open to discussion and were prepared to embrace the experience of building and renovating their family home. When you have a good design team and an enthusiastic client, that makes everything much easier for the contractor. There were many challenges,” the award-winning Dublin-based contractor continues.

“There was a lot of formwork and concrete involved. When you are bringing concrete, brickwork and timber all together, a lot of thought must go in at all levels because anything that is done at the start of the project can have a significant impact on the finish at the end. We knew the early concrete pours were going to be a very visible part of the finish, so a lot of thinking and coordinating was required to make sure that the finished project was exactly what everybody had visualised. While residential construction has become more complicated than it was a decade ago, delivering complex solutions is a challenge that Clarke Construction embraces. Residential is now as demanding as commercial. The same exacting levels of attention to detail are now going into a €1m residential project as a €10m commercial one,” Colin concludes.

“It’s a challenge I enjoy. No two residential builds are the same and each has its own quirky elements, which for me is the fun part of building and what makes it interesting.”

Clarke Construction Ltd.,

Unit 7,

Abbey Business Park,

Grange Drive,

Baldoyle Industrial Estate,

Dublin 13.

Tel: 01 8397907

Mobile: 087 9249434

Email: [email protected]

Web: clarkeconstruction.ie

This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, February 2023, Vol 9 No 2