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By John Daly
The facilities management sector is undergoing a revolution as more people return to offices, requiring businesses and organisations to provide safe and secure working environments.
A Cork-based engineer originally from the Gaeltacht in Dún Chaoin, Grainne de Mórdha joined BAM having completed a degree in civil engineering at NUIG. She worked on construction sites for six years as a site engineer, and in 2013 started as an operations manager for BAM FM Ireland, progressing to her current position of general manager, BAM Facilities Management Ireland.
Much of Grainne’s work focuses on identifying future transformational trends of the FM sector, such as the increased use of robotics and technologies to optimise workplaces, enhance user experience and increase productivity.
Her first ever site-based project for BAM was the iconic Cork County Library HQ, and she has since introduced first-to-market robotic technologies, including the world’s first user-intuitive computer-aided facility management system, BIM 360 Ops.
Grainne was also at the helm of the team which recently won FM Team of the Year as operator of a 25-year contract for the Courts Bundle PPP Project.
“The FM industry is very much a people-focused industry, so I spend a lot of my time managing solutions for our clients, building users and the 100 BAM FM team members. I ensure we deliver a quality, people and organisation-focused FM solution that enhances our customers’ environments.”
No day is the same, a major plus to keeping the job interesting, she agrees.
“I currently manage the BAM FM project portfolio, which includes 19 public-private partnership facilities. These are long-term performance-based contracts. Our full portfolio includes projects from the education, judicial, retail, and commercial sectors.”
In addition to PPP projects, her teams are responsible for the planned and reactive maintenance of mechanical and electrical systems in the Swords Pavilions Shopping centre, Technical University Dublin, Tallaght, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, and the Irish Examiner building at Blackpool in Cork.
“I get involved in all stages of projects: tendering, operations and lifecycle replacements. The operational element varies a lot and covers planned preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance, energy management, caretaking, fire safety, energy management, landscaping, cleaning and housekeeping, lifecycle replacement of assets and many more.”
She adds that members of her team saved the lives of two building users in recent times, having deployed their defibrillator and working with emergency services.
“Definitely, no day is the same.”
Technology has been a hot topic in construction and facilities management in recent years, as we live through a new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0.
“BAM is committed to using the most innovative technology and we are always improving service delivery and trying new and better ways of doing things. We were the first company worldwide to achieve BIM4FM using the Autodesk suite of products, and we have a fleet of robotics that supplement our service delivery in our PPP facilities, including robotic mowers and vacuums.”
Internet of Things devices and smart buildings solutions are key innovations helping better management of environments and combating the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses.
Sensor technology and analytics are used to monitor desk occupancy, ventilation systems and cleaning regimes, in addition to temperature and humidity sensors used to improve comfort and minimise the chances of spreading viruses.
“I would expect to see occupancy and indoor air quality dashboards as the norm in buildings post Covid-19, so that building users can choose themselves what areas of the buildings they would like to use.”
Admitting to being uncertain at age 18 what career direction to choose, Grainne remembers the academic subjects she most enjoyed were focused on problem solving and creativity, leading her toward engineering.
“I opted for undenominated engineering in NUIG initially, as this gave me the opportunity to decide which type of engineering was right for me; mechanical, electrical, civil, bio-medical etc.”
While the past would have seen the construction sector as a mainly male preserve, the gender balance has evened out significantly over recent years.
“We have definitely seen an increase in women choosing careers in construction. BAM actively promotes women in construction through our in-house Women in Construction campaigns and has been a Silver Sponsor to the CIF’s International Women’s Day for a number of years.”
The company also participates in the STEPS programme and the annual Engineers Ireland week ensures girls at second level are exposed to the wide variety of career opportunities available in construction.
“If I focus on our own FM team, the gender balance typically shifts depending on the role. However, within the BAM FM operations management team, we have a 50:50 ratio.”
Given that we are now in the midst of State exam season, Grainne’s career advice to young people and graduates is focus on what you are interested in and what you like: “Once you do that your job won’t feel like a job. The FM industry has progressed a lot in recent years and there are fantastic opportunities available including diplomas, degrees and post-graduate qualifications. It’s a rewarding, diverse and exciting industry to work in.”
As to the most challenging and rewarding projects she has worked on so far, Grainne cites the company’s PPP projects.
“BAM has a unique offering where we finance/fund projects, develop designs, construct, maintain, operate and carry lifecycle responsibility of major projects. We currently operate 19 PPP facilities that incorporate a long-term 25-year maintenance and lifecycle contract. This enables us to provide a whole lifecycle solution for assets as we have the in-house expertise for each element.”
BAM is committed to sustainability and is the first and only construction company in Ireland to have an A-listing on the Carbon Disclosure Project, one of 277 companies worldwide.
“It is very rewarding to work with clients who are genuinely committed to the sustainability agenda and meeting carbon neutral targets.”