This month we spoke to Tom Moloney, Managing Director at CIS Ireland. CIS work closely with Barbour ABI, and Tom laid out the company’s history, as well as the future prospects of Irish construction as the industry recovers from 2020.
Tom, can you tell me about yourself and your company CIS Ireland?
I am the Managing Director of Construction Information Services (CIS), which is Ireland’s leading provider of construction intelligence and researched project leads. Similar to the service Barbour ABI provide, CIS Online is an extensive database of all construction projects covering the island of Ireland – North and South, from pre-planning all the way through to On-site and completion. We are fortunate to have highly experienced Research Teams, based in Dublin and Banbridge, Co Down, who do a great job at covering all building projects throughout Ireland to ensure our customers receive the most suitable, targeted and profitable leads for their pipeline.
This year CIS celebrates 49 years since the 1st issue of the CIS Report was produced. It began as a simple printed report in 1972, where 20 companies were approached, of which 16 purchased the Report on a three-month subscription at just £19! The first customer of the CIS Report was John Paul Construction Limited, a top tier Irish construction company, based in Windy Arbour, Dublin. To this day, they and 10 of the other original initial subscribers remain valued customers! This loyalty is very important to us and motivates us to continue raising the bar in terms of the service we provide.
From its humble beginnings the company has gone from strength to strength, embracing many challenges along the way such as the Covid pandemic, which forced it, like many other businesses to adapt to new operating norms. In March of this year, we commenced rolling out our new online system, which is aimed at futureproofing the business for the years to come and provide our customers with the highest level of service they have come to expect.
How has the relationship with Barbour ABI been built and developed over the years and how do our organisations work together for customers?
Barbour ABI and CIS have had a long and successful relationship and partnership spanning over the last 20 years. As previously mentioned, the two companies offer very similar services and the central tenet of the partnership is where CIS supplies Barbour ABI with all the necessary data and project updates for Ireland – North and South, which they can offer to their UK customers who are interested in pursuing opportunities in the Irish market.
Over the years we have worked together to ensure our data sets are aligned so that there is clear synergy and a seamless integration. The relationship has allowed both companies to learn from each other to ensure our systems and processes are best in class to meet the growing information requirements of our customers. Our research and marketing & sales teams engage regularly to discuss ideas, give advice, share knowledge and work together for the benefit of both organisations. There is a great appetite out there for the services we provide and I look forward to growing and developing the positive relationship with the Barbour ABI team.
How have lockdown measures differed for the Irish market and how has the construction industry fared in the past 12 months?
The construction sector in Ireland has suffered more that its UK and EU counterparts and a recent study has found that we had the EU’s most stringent lockdown. Apart from critical infrastructural projects, the vast majority of construction grounded to a halt. The last lockdown, which began on January 8th 2021, where only work on essential projects were allowed to be carried out, ended on the 4th May and the industry is now fully operational again.
The impact of the industry shutdown is evident in the figures for the first quarter of 2021 and reflected in our recent Construction Activity Report – Q1 2021, which illustrates in construction value terms the impact on the sector for both jurisdictions. High level percentages based on twelve months ending 31st March 2021 and compared with the similar period to 31st March 2020 for the Republic of Ireland, planning applications dropped 7%, decisions declined 8% and commencements (in this 12-month period) decreased 26%. The corresponding figures for Northern Ireland were – applications dropped 8%, decisions declined 22% and commencements decreased 47%.
How is the future pipeline looking now and how do you see the recovery going for the rest of 2021?
The pipeline activity in Q1 2021 was less severely impacted in terms of planning applications and planning grants. Overall planning applications fell by 8.4% in comparison to the average for 2020, however, applications relating to Infrastructure, Education, Sport and Leisure and Agricultural sectors bucked this trend with increased investment values in applications. Applications for residential projects fell by 6% over the 2020 average but apartment development applications were up 54% to €1.78bn in the Eastern and Midland regions.
Although planning grants fell by 11% over the previous quarter, the overall decline was only 2.9% compared to the 2020 average and 5.9% on the 2019 average, this is a better result than had been expected. In the Residential sector, 225 projects representing a €2.24bn investment and 8,057 units gained approval. Outside of residential, 989 projects were approved representing €1.43bn. Warehousing, Data Centres, Industrial and Pharmaceutical all showed increases over the 2020 average.
The general consensus within the Industry is that pipeline activity will bounce back quickly and for the market to remain buoyant for the next few years due to the demand particularly in the Residential sector and the government’s commitment on infrastructure and publicly funded projects.