Construction giant builds a sustainable future in Ireland

Arup has played a leading part in the State’s most iconic modern architecture, from the Central Bank to Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport

Eoghan Lynch, Arup country director and leader, at the company’s offices in Ringsend, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Eoghan Lynch, Arup country director and leader, at the company’s offices in Ringsend, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Fri, Apr 25, 2014, 01:20

There is an almost-unadulterated hipness to Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks area these days – Facebook’s international headquarters in one corner, Airbnb’s European “home” in another, and a seemingly endless supply of funky cafes and restaurants everywhere.

Despite initial appearances though, the neighbourhood isn’t entirely about skinny-jeaned hipsters, with the Irish base of global consulting engineers Arup tucked in beside the Ringsend bus garage doing its bit to keep things anchored in the real, as opposed to the virtual, world.

Arup is an international giant in the world of infrastructure and all sorts of construction, but the nature of its role – in everything from road design, to town planning to business physics – means it tends to fly under the radar outside its industries.

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Thus, we may be unaware that it has played a leading part in some of the State’s most iconic modern architecture – Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and T2 at Dublin Airport are two of its more recent grand, public projects. In the past, the company has worked on the Central Bank’s much-loved/hated headquarters in Dublin’s Dame Street and on the listed Dublin Bus Donnybrook Garage, also in the city – in short, it has had an environmental influence on a lot of people’s lives whether they realise it or not.

Eoghan Lynch, the boss of Arup’s Irish business for the last three years, describes the company’s role in such buildings as “making sure they stand up”. It sounds simple when Lynch, a confident but low-key Corkman, puts it like that but the long list of company services that he has at his fingertips suggests otherwise.

Founded in Ireland in 1946, Arup these days works as much on infrastructural projects such as roads, schools, energy delivery and traffic engineering (it is a leader in open-road tolling such as the eflow system) as on major buildings. At the moment, it is managing the roll-out of the a free bikes scheme in the Dublin Bikes mode to Cork, Limerick and Galway while, at the same time, working on the N6, the Kinsale Head gas field and, from Dublin, delivering the construction of a new hospital in Vienna.

And that’s just the start of it.

A civil engineer by training, Lynch has worked with the company since 1989, joining its Cork office to work on offshore energy infrastructure after spending a decade in that industry in London. He “migrated” into management and, since landing the top Irish job in 2011, he spends part of his week in Dublin but always heads home to Kinsale for the weekend.

Lynch’s typical working day in Dublin would extend from 8am to 8pm, a level of commitment that he says is common in a business that often involves long stays away from home as projects reach completion.

“You’re on the job all the time. You’re always thinking about it,” he says.

The timing of Lynch’s move into the driving seat at Arup meant he had to oversee what most businesses have experienced during the recession: downsizing. He was already well used to managing people, with the firm’s project management skills among its strongest qualities, but this still wasn’t easy.