Making paperwork the business
WILD GEESE: Sinead Branagh, ZuTec, Abu Dhabi:Working in the Middle East is hard for a woman but Sinead Branagh has made a virtue of being mobile
WHEN SINEAD Branagh developed the idea for an online database for construction documentation, she knew she had a good concept. But she never believed it would become a global business that would take her all over Australia, Asia and the Middle East.
After graduating with a degree in estate management and property economics from Oxford Brookes University in 1997, Antrim-born Branagh, who grew up in Co Wicklow, met environmental engineer Brian McGuire, owner of engineering company ZuTec. He shared her vision for a digital solution to the mountain of paperwork required to design, construct and maintain a building.
Branagh became ZuTec’s second employee in 1999. The company took on one software developer in a small office in Dún Laoghaire, and the result was the development of a “digital facilities guide”, an online database to store catalogues, maintenance manuals, construction drawings and technical documents which are handed over from contractor to client at the end of a build.
The password-protected database could be accessed remotely during construction or throughout the life cycle of the building in order to obtain maintenance information for any of the systems in operation.
They secured contracts early on with Beaumont Hospital, University Hospital Galway and University Hospital Cork and, within five years, ZuTec had expanded internationally with offices in the UK, Asia, the US and Australia. “The pivotal moment for us was winning the contract for the Dundrum Town Centre in 2004,” says Branagh. “It was then that we realised we had the potential to go global.”
ZuTec secured a tender worth € 1 million for the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium in 2006. As its largest overseas contract yet, it marked a turning point for ZuTec and for Branagh who moved to London to manage the project.
“Although I am a company director, my main role is in operations, ensuring projects are delivered on time, on budget and to a high quality that our clients will be happy with. Wembley was such a big contract for us that it was important I was there to oversee it,” she says.
A contract for London’s Westfield shopping centre development, the largest urban mall in Europe, followed.
From London, Branagh travelled to Australia to work on the Melbourne Convention Centre and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Victoria. A stint in Macau working on a casino complex followed, before she moved on to Qatar to oversee documentation for the Doha International Airport development and for the past two years, Branagh has been in Abu Dhabi working on a number of different projects, the largest being the Cleveland Clinic, a “seven-star” specialist hospital due for completion late next year.