Siblings take a smart approach to the future of buildings

As construction firm McKeon Group celebrates 70 years, the third generation of the family business, siblings Tomás and Clíona, are focusing on the smart future with Hereworks.

Originally the technology division of McKeon Group, the expertise developed over the years created the opportunity to form a new, separate company called Hereworks focused on the transformation of buildings into smart, digital platforms in their own right. But with people at the core.

McKeon Construction was established in 1950 by Tom McKeon grandfather to siblings Tomás Mac Eoin and Clíona Molloy. Today it is one of the largest construction, fit-out and building services contractors in the country.

“I think it is up to each generation to challenge itself to drive the next level of innovation”

As Mac Eoin explains it Hereworks emerged out of the technology and electrical division of McKeon Group and now operates as a separate company focused on delivering the digital promise of smart, modern buildings including offerings like AV-as-a-Service, unified communications, system design, digital transformation and more.

The digital future of buildings

“The way to think about is to think about how a person will interact with a commercial building. We do everything from digital signage and wayfinding systems to the AV systems in the boardroom; basically, every technology a person uses to interact with a building. Buildings are getting more and more automated and a lot of our R&D efforts are going into the smart buildings side of things.

“Everything from controlling the lights and heating through internet of things and more creates a multitude of data points within a building. A lot of people talk about smart buildings and putting in a lot of sensors, but actually nobody knows what to do with all of the data that is generated. Most of the time this data ends up in an Excel file or on a dashboard somewhere in a facility manager’s computer.

Smart, happy people

People talking at an event.

From left: Clíona Molloy, Ray McGuire and Tomás Mac Eoin, Hereworks.

“The Hereworks Happiness Platform is about creating a connection between the average user of a building and the building itself”

“What we are concentrating on is a human-centric or human-focused smart building. Aimed at commercial buildings with more than 200 seats, we have created the Hereworks Happiness Platform to help build a happy, satisfied workforce while improving building efficiency, productivity and real estate value. Whether you’re at a hot-desk or the front desk, the Hereworks Happiness Platform is about creating a connection between the you and the building itself.”

That connection takes the form of an app that individual users can use to augment the smart building to suit their needs. In buildings that wish to be more inclusive for neuro-diverse occupants, the Hereworks Happiness Platform could be a game-changer.

“The app updates the building with occupants preferences to create the common ground, inform users of a suitable workspace environment and endeavours to achieve as close to 100pc in terms of a Happiness score.”

The application of machine learning could also be pivotal in helping people managers gauge or predict employee happiness levels taking into account anything from weather conditions to current affairs. “For example, if tomorrow was going to be a hot day maybe it would be a good idea to order in ice-cream for everyone, or if the conditions are stormy or if traffic is going to be bad, recommend working from home.”

The Hereworks technology may also find its time has come considering the new realities of work where most businesses have had to adapt to remote working models and accept those models are here to stay. “It is likely that most people will prefer a hybrid working model going forward. I think we are going to see much more hot-desking but not only that, the use of space inside buildings is going to change as we will see fewer people inside buildings at the same time. Our technology is being built to enable desk booking but also keeping remote workers engaged and in particular, gauging their mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.”

The art of conversation As Gaeilge

As a Gaelic speaker, Mac Eoin was recently one of the speakers at the latest virtual gathering of the Irish language business network Borradh that launched in Dublin this year.

“This is a great initiative and a great way to do business. Not only is it networking through the medium of a language we love and should be communicating more through, but it has actually led to some great business connections and follow-on conversations. So while we are communicating As Gaeilge, it’s great to see some business come out of it too.”

Looking to the future of Hereworks, Mac Eoin believes both he and his sister Clíona are carrying the torch of innovation for the traditions established by his grandfather and his father down through the decades.

“It all boils down to innovation and McKeon Group has always been innovative. My grandfather, he would have been innovative around material shortages for blocks in the 1950s and at one point he made brush handles for the Health Boards. My father is credited with being one of the first mobile phone users in Ireland and we have always embraced technology. My father diversified into mechanical and electrical divisions and now on myself and Clíona’s watch we are embracing the digital future with Hereworks.

“I think it is up to each generation to challenge itself to drive the next level of innovation.”

As members of the National Centre for Family Businesses at DCU, Mac Eoin is also mindful that very few businesses survive beyond the second generation so representing the third generation brings added pressures.

“As a north star we rely on integrity. Integrity is one of the core values of our business and I have to say it is one we take very personally.”

Pictured at top: Tomás Mac Eoin and Clíona Molloy, Here Works

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 21 August, 2020