Founded in 1810
Collen Construction is a family owned business founded in 1810 with a strong reputation for building quality and excellence.
The building of Killarney House was the most extensive project undertaken by the firm for a private client in the late nineteenth century. The Earl and Countess of Kenmare decided in 1872 to replace their existing family home in south Kerry with a much more impressive aristocratic residence on a nearby site.
The new house was originally designed by an English architect, George Devey, while William Henry Lynn of Belfast provided architectural expertise on the site. Joseph Collen (1856-1941), who began to work for the firm in his early twenties, took charge of the building project.
Railway Bridge, Cavan Leitrim Railway
The firm oversaw the construction of the Cavan and Leitrim Light Railway between 1885 and 1888, laying down the track and bridges for the railway, which extended for thirty-two miles from Belturbet to Dromod. It was a large-scale civil engineering project, involving excavation of soil, preparation of the necessary formation, laying the sleepers and rails and the construction of bridges.
The excavation was a laborious process, carried out by large groups of workers wielding picks and shovels; steam shovels were being pioneered in Britain around this time, but had not yet been introduced in Ireland.
Construction begins on Mulranny Hotel
The firm secured a contract in 1895 with the Great Southern and Western Railway Company to build a new railway hotel at Mulranny, near Westport, working from the designs of Sir Thomas Deane & Son, a well-known architectural practice based in Dublin. The new hotel was completed in 1897. The project provided the first experience of management to one of the younger members of the family; Joseph Harcourt Collen (known as Harky), who was Joseph’s younger son, took a leading role in overseeing the job.
Harky lived at Mulranny for two years, following the example set by his father in Killarney twenty years earlier. Harky collected the wages for the workers, which were delivered by train to Newport every month; as the writ of the Royal Irish Constabulary did not always run to more remote areas of the country, it was a potentially dangerous undertaking. Harky made the journey on one of his racing ponies, carrying a Smith and Wesson revolver for his own protection and the safety of the wage packets.
St. Ita's Hospital Portrane
Collen was awarded the original contract for St. Ita's Portrane in 1896. The construction of Portrane was a vast project that had lasted almost seven years and demanded substantial resources of workers, building materials and capital. It was not only the most significant project undertaken by Collen in its first generation, but also the largest building contract ever awarded to a single contractor in Ireland before 1900.
New Frontage of the Royal Dublin Society
The foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 gave Collen Brothers an unexpected opportunity to re-establish their association with the Royal Dublin Society. The Provisional Government took over Leinster House in 1922, forcing the society to abandon its headquarters in the city centre and relocate fully to Ballsbridge. Lucius O’Callaghan, of O’Callaghan and Webb architects, designed the new buildings at Ballsbridge, while Collen Brothers acted as the general building contractors.
The most extensive phase of the rebuilding programme began in 1926, when Collen was given responsibility for providing a new frontage to the RDS. This involved the demolition of the original red brick frontage of the hall constructed in 1880. Instead Collen constructed new granite faced buildings of a neo-Georgian style flanking the main entrance, which was faced up to bring it into harmony with the surrounding structures. The project entailed the reconstruction of the central features of the frontage; the redeveloped frontage of 562 feet was even longer than before. The frontage and adjoining buildings were completed by the summer of 1928; the achievement of the architect and builders was widely acclaimed both by national newspapers and specialised trade journals.
Fever Hospital, Nass
The medical advisers of the Department of Local Government condemned the existing fever hospital in Naas as unfit for purpose. Kildare County Council was obliged to seek tenders from ‘competent builders’ to replace the existing structure and Collen was awarded the contract in May 1935 to build ‘a new hospital for communicable diseases’ at Naas.
The design of the hospital, undertaken by Vincent Kelly, an architect from Dublin, incorporated separate accommodation and facilities for patients with different illnesses, along with several isolation rooms to facilitate the observation of patients where a diagnosis of their condition was unclear. The new fever hospital was formally opened by Seán T. O’Kelly, the Tánaiste and Minister for Local Government, on 21 July 1938.
Grain Silo at Barrow Street, Dublin
Collen Brothers undertook its first project for the flour milling industry during the Second World War, building a new grain silo for the Dock Milling company in Barrow St. between 1941 and 1942. The project involved the construction of a reinforced concrete silo, containing twelve storage bins with a capacity to hold about 70 tons of grain each.
The job presented some technical difficulty, as a very smooth surface finish was required to the concrete in the silos. Harky’s younger son, Lyal, who had recently graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in civil engineering, took the opportunity to experiment with his own system for achieving a high quality finish. He evolved a new method of vibrating the concrete, which later became a well-known technique and was highly innovative in the early 1940s.
Stand and Tote, Fairyhouse Racecourse
Collen Brothers provided a new stand and Tote for Fairyhouse racecourse in 1947; the new stand was designed and built within eight weeks. The company provided Tote facilities for race meetings throughout the country, including traditional venues such as the Curragh, Punchestown and the Phoenix Park. The breadth of Collen’s activity was striking, as the firm was undertaking building work at racecourses in most counties in Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s.
New Terraces at Croke Park
Collen Brothers undertook a new building project at Croke Park for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) at the beginning of the 1950s. The company built a new reinforced concrete development at the Canal end of the stadium; the above picture shows work in progress on the new terraces.
Ringsend Pumping Station
The most notable – and difficult - project undertaken by the company in the late 1970s was an unusually complex civil engineering job. Collen Brothers won a contract with Dublin Corporation in 1976 to construct a new main lift pumping station at Ringsend, to replace the old pumping station commissioned at the same location in 1906. The completion of the new main lift pumping station allowed the full implementation of the Greater Dublin drainage scheme. The new station received most of the sewerage from both new and old urban schemes, deploying a series of pumps to lift 40 million gallons of waste per day to a height of 50 feet, to allow it to flow by gravity to the new treatment works at Pigeon House for disposal. The pumping station at Ringsend ranked high among the most elaborate, innovative and difficult civil engineering projects completed by Collen Brothers. It was also one of the most prolonged contracts in the firm’s history, surpassing even the long-running Portrane project at the turn of the century.
Tanker Jetty at Alumina Plant, Aughinish Island
Alumina Contractors Ltd., an international consortium led by a Canadian company, Alcan, moved to develop a new alumina plant at Aughinish Island in 1978. The new development required a deep-water marine terminal on the island to import raw materials and export alumina. Collen joined forces with Christiani & Nielsen, a UK subsidiary of a Danish civil engineering company, to undertake the project. The Irish company provided several key management staff, while their Anglo-Danish counterparts supplied the project manager, technical staff and almost all of the necessary plant.
Fonthill Industrial and Retail Park
Collen was appointed by Green Property Ltd in May 1998, after a competitive tender competition to construct a 2000m2 high bay warehouse for D.M.Papers. Following the successful completion of this project, we have negotiated and constructed a further 17 projects with a total value in excess of €65M.
Gateway Mixed Use Development
In 2002, Collen commenced works on Gateway, in East Wall. The project involved the construction of a landmark multi-storey, mixed use, Design and Build development, comprising commercial office, residential and retail outlets.
The gross internal floor area extends to 50,000m2 over eight storeys including basement on a site exceeding 1.2Ha in a densely populated commercial and residential urban area within inner city Dublin.
Tyrellstown Housing Development
In 2008, Collen was awarded the contracts for Tyrellstown Housing Development. This was the largest government housing project of its kind at the time. It involved of the construction of f 232 residential units in 15 two and three storey blocks together with communal welfare offices and a Crèche building. The building area is 21,000 square metres and the overall site measured 70,000 square metres. The development included over 1300 linear metres of road network.
In 2010, Collen celebrated its 200 year anniversary. The firm published a book ‘Collen 200 Years of Building and Civil Engineering in Ireland’ capturing the rich history of the Collen family business.
First Data Centre Client
In 2010, Collen secured its first project with a confidential data centre client.
Collen expands into mainland Europe
In 2013, the company commenced its first data centre project outside of Ireland, in Frankfurt, Germany, for one of it’s confidential data centre clients. This was the beginning of Collen’s flourishing data centre division in mainland Europe.
Blackrock Further Education Institute wins Irish Georgian Society Award
In October 2014, Collen Construction Director Alan Brunton and Contracts Manager Derek McCaffrey proudly accepted the Irish Georgian Society Award for Architectural Conservation, together with Valerie Mulvin of McCullough Mulvin Architects, for the restoration of the Blackrock Further Education Institute.
Presenting the awards, Dr. Edward McParland praised the very high standard of conservation projects submitted and commended the synergy between Clients, Architects, and Contractors in realising these works.
Integrated ISO Certifications
In 2016, Collen became the first tier one construction company in Ireland to obtain integrated ISO certification for the ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2007 standards from the NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland). ISO 9001 is one of the most widely used management tools worldwide while ISO 14001 is the standard for Environmental Management and OHSAS 18001 is the leading Safety Management System.
Opening of German Office
In 2017, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny officially opened the new Collen GmbH offices in Frankfurt Germany/ The launch of our Frankfurt office enabled us to secure work in other European countries and with the support of Enterprise Ireland having already established strategic partners to deliver built-solutions Europe-wide.
Speaking at the event the Taoiseach said: “Collen Construction is an excellent example of an innovative Irish company, expanding its specialist services into the competitive but much larger European market with assistance from Enterprise Ireland. The Government’s focus has been on providing the supports for exporting companies to prepare for the challenges posed by Brexit – building on the recent growth in exports by helping them to consolidate their existing relationships and develop new partnerships.”
Collen expands in to Sweden
In 2017, the company commenced its first data centre project in Sweden for a confidential data centre client.
Jack Collen joins the Company
In 2017, 8th generation Collen family member, Jack Collen, joined the company as an engineer.
NSAI launch ISO 45001 in conjunction with Collen Construction
The world’s first occupational health and safety international standard, ISO 45001, was published on 12th March 2018.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) launched its migration policy from OSHAS 18001 to ISO 45001 and selected Collen to be the first company in Ireland, to go through the IS0 45001 audit process. The launch of the ‘NSAI Migration Policy’ on 21st February 2018, took place on one of Collen’s construction sites and is ahead of the NSAI formal adoption and launch of the new standard.
Irish Construction Industry Awards
In June 2018, Collen attended the Irish Construction Industry Awards in Citywest. Having been shortlisted in 5 categories Collen came away with 2 awards. Block H, a LEED Gold commercial office development, won Commercial Project of the Year and Audi Centre, a state-of-the-art motor showroom, won Retail Project of the Year.
Tom O'Connor joins the Collen Board
Tom O'Connor joined the Collen board in 2019 as European Director.
Annual NISO/NISG Awards 2019
At the 2019 Annual NISO/NISG Awards, Collen took home two awards at the. Collen won the Construction Industrial/Commercial Award and the prestigious Superior Performance Award which is presented to the organisation that best demonstrates evidence that they have introduced proactive measures over and above the legal requirement to provide a superior safety working environment for all.
These achievements are a testament to the leadership, commitment and mindset of the team at Collen.
In line with the company's sustainability journey, Collen's Energy Management System became accredited to ISO 50001:2018 by the NSAI.
The company's Information Security Management System was accredited to ISO 27001:2017 by the NSAI.
Opening of Swedish office
In October 2021, the company officially opened a new office in Gävle, Sweden.
Creating Safer Sites
In September 2021, the company launched its “Creating Safer Sites” program. The program engaged Collen and contractor site teams in a transformational process, through a series of engagement and skills workshops for all levels of staff. As part of the program the company introduced on-site support to embed new practices, individual leadership development of senior leaders, and the creation of a body of internal field coaches to ensure the sustainability of the intended changes.