Why innovation and sustainability have played a key role in Creagh Concrete’s 50-year history 

Celebrating its 50th year in business in 2024, Creagh Concrete (Creagh) is one of the UK’s largest producers of precast concrete products for a range of market sectors. As a leader in the industry, Creagh is at the forefront of research and innovation, changing the way people think about concrete and bringing new solutions to construction. 

Based in Northern Ireland, Creagh has grown to occupy manufacturing sites across Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England to bring the business closer to its UK customers. With its uber customer focus and values of respect, expertise, and accountability in mind, Creagh ensures that all products deliver unparalleled quality and reliability, as well as bringing new levels of efficiency and performance to the industry. 

This results in innovative products that are changing the future of the construction industry. Spantherm, for instance, is an insulated, precast concrete unit (IPCU) flooring system, and with several benefits, it is paving the way for the next generation of sustainable structural flooring systems.   

Commitment to quality 

Creagh has also launched Rapidres, a fast-track offsite cross wall build system ideal for applications such as apartments, student accommodation, hotels, social housing. Regardless of what a clients’ project entails, Creagh can provide a solution designed with engineering expertise and manufactured with innovative production methods, as well as expert customer service. 

We sit down with Seamus McKeague, Creagh’s CEO and Joint Chairman, to learn more about the company’s innovative products, the projects they’re being used on, and what the future holds for the construction industry in terms of precast solutions and offsite builds.  

“As a leading player in the construction industry, Creagh has carved a distinguished niche for itself with a rich history dating back to its establishment in Toomebridge, Northern Ireland, in 1976,” Seamus opens. “Over the years, we’ve grown into a renowned provider of high-quality precast solutions in a journey marked by our commitment to innovation, sustainability, and excellence in both design and manufacturing.  

“Today, the business is synonymous with delivering cutting-edge solutions for a wide range of construction projects, including residential, commercial, and infrastructure developments. With a focus on meeting the evolving needs of the construction sector, we consistently demonstrate a dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of concrete construction.” 

Reflecting on the company reaching 50 years in business, he continues: “Our 50-year tenure is a remarkable achievement and one that we are very proud of. Several factors have consistently propelled our success, most notably the combination of quality, innovation, adaptability, sustainability, and a commitment to our people and communities. 

“Specifically, a steadfast commitment to quality is the cornerstone to Creagh’s success, as we consistently deliver top-notch concrete products and services that meet, or even exceed industry standards. Our reputation for quality fosters trust among our clients and stakeholders, leading to long-lasting relationships and repeat business. 

“As industry leaders, we’re constantly innovating. This adaptability and the rate at which we adopt cutting-edge technologies and construction methodologies ensures that we stay ahead of trends and continuously meet the evolving needs of the market. In addition, Creagh’s emphasis on sustainable practices not only reflects a responsible corporate method, but also resonates with a growing environmentally conscious consumer base.  

“However, it’s important to note that the success of Creagh would not be possible without our skilled and dedicated workforce,” Seamus adds. “Combined with our community engagement, our team of incredible people have established a positive working culture that extends beyond the workplace. We support various community initiatives like sporting events and clubs, and for the last 11 years, we’ve supported the Habitat for Humanity ‘Big Build’ program.” 

As a mark of its excellence, Creagh was voted Construction Company of the Year at the annual Plant & Civil Engineer Awards. The awards are Ireland’s premier platform of recognition for those operating across all sectors of the industry, so Creagh’s award symbolises its leading position in changing the way people think about concrete.   

Excellence, innovation & sustainability

“Winning this award is a significant achievement that reflects our excellence and leadership,” Seamus states. “It signifies that Creagh stood out among its peers as demonstrating outstanding performance, innovation, and a commitment to delivering high-quality products in various aspects of construction, including project management, safety, sustainability, and overall industry contribution.  

“The award is also testament to the importance of our leadership, employees, and stakeholders in our success, and serves as validation of the hard work, expertise, and commitment we invest in every project. However, we cannot stand still; while receiving the award is a chance to celebrate our achievements, share success with the team, and showcase our abilities to others, it is also an opportunity for further growth. 

“It serves as motivation to continue pushing boundaries, fostering innovation, and maintaining the high standards we’ve become recognised for,” he continues. “The award may also open doors to new partnerships and projects, as it strengthens our reputation and instils confidence in both existing and potential customers. Overall, it is a symbol of excellence and a reminder for us to continually strive for excellence, innovation, and sustainability in our future endeavours.” 

Creagh’s product portfolio encompasses a diverse range of precast solutions, from cladding and flooring to premix concrete, blocks, and aggregates. With innovation engrained in its DNA, the company has added several new products and concepts to its offering during its 50-year history.  

“Although we started off as a small block and ready-mix provider, we’ve grown to be one of the UK’s largest precast providers across a range of categories,” Seamus confirms. “In its early days, Creagh provided agricultural products like slabs or slats for cattle, troughs, grain stores, and livestock cubicles. While we still offer these products, we’ve transformed our capabilities with a visionary outlook on the industry.  

Alternative products

“For example, in 2010, before sustainability was a buzzword, I discovered a different kind of concrete slab while on a research trip in Belgium. We had previously manufactured all our slabs using concrete and reinforced steel, but we identified a gap in the market for a more sustainable, thermal offering, and so we adopted Spantherm. Although we still produce traditional concrete slabs for large commercial projects, Spantherm is an ideal solution for ground floor residential and commercial applications. It’s an IPCU flooring system spanning up to five and a half metres.” 

Providing the next generation of structural flooring systems, Spantherm brings multiple benefits to projects and is designed to be an efficient alternative to traditional, labour intensive beam and block installations. It is produced off-site, meaning no additional site works or laying out is required on-site, redefining the speed of installing a fully insulated ground floor. For instance, a typical ground floor of 90 square metres can be installed in just 90 minutes, providing a level base without camber for timber frame or block construction.  

Seamus elaborates: “When we look at the profile of Spantherm, it is made up of sustainable fibres rather than concrete and steel. It removes the need for steel on the top of the slab, meaning steel is only required within the two sides of the slab. Aside from sustainability, Spantherm also enhances efficiency on site, as it can be laid in a matter of hours and is ready to be built on by the next day. It has safety benefits too, as it reduces exposure to wet concrete and requires less manual handling of beams and blocks.” 

Having been used for a variety of residential projects, Spantherm has gained a positive reputation across the industry, with clients including JEHU Group, Geda Construction, and NRI Civils. However, Spantherm is not Creagh’s only product that is breaking barriers in the industry, as its innovative Rapidres concept offers a revolutionary fast-track build system.  

Revolutionary modular system

As an offsite cross wall build system, Rapidres is ideally suited to multi-storey projects where the layout is consistent across each floor, such as apartments and hotels. It is a high performance precast insulated sandwich panel built offsite, and customers can choose from a wide range of external finishes that can match other buildings. The range of finishes includes smooth, etched, patterned, brickwork, and even printed concrete, offering an individualised and maintenance-free alternative to traditional render systems.  

“Rapidres is a fabulous solution that enables a fast, weather-tight build, allowing earlier access to follow-on trades and ultimately supporting the efficiency of the overall project,” Seamus explains. “Our specialist team design and manufacture these huge panels, which are up to ten metres in length and are prepared with insulation, windows, and even pre-formed balconies attached.  

“With the majority of work completed off site, Rapidres offers a modular solution that minimises the labour and resources required on site, as the panels are slotted together by our team of expert supervisors. This has also grown our service offering, as we’re currently installing Rapidres on somewhere in the region of 15,000 apartments per year. However, with demand for housing across the UK increasing year after year, we anticipate our Rapidres operations to continue growing at a face pace, especially as the industry leans towards modular, off-site construction methods.”  

Significant projects

Rapidres is currently being used for the GH20 Glasgow Harbour project at Granary Quay. It will be an L-shaped, 16-storey development comprising 350 apartments located on Glasgow Harbour, a river-front extension of Glasgow’s West End. Further South, Rapidres is involved with the refurbishment of 191 Old Marylebone Road in London, a well-known hotel in a prominent location in London. Creagh will design, manufacture, and install the single skin cladding panels to the external façade, consisting of a mixture of brier piers and banding with an acid etched wavy pattern to the inset area. 

Turning to sustainability, Seamus details: “Our roadmap to Net Zero strategically aims at removing carbon across the company through Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Our base year is 2019 and we have aligned our objectives with the industry’s ambition to reach Net Zero by 2050, as well as setting five of our own yearly milestones.  

“The sector faces significant challenges due to the nature of cement manufacturing, which is a key ingredient in many of our products and outside of our direct control. We influence change through our membership of several industry bodies, which work tirelessly to eliminate entrained carbon from cement and subsequently our products. Our aim is to decarbonise construction through novel design and collaborative research with industry partners and academics from leading universities.” 

As our conversation draws to a close, Seamus reflects on what makes the business unique. “Creagh is a passion project for several individuals across the family, but we’ve taken it to a position none of us thought possible in recent years,” he states. “Not only has Creagh grown to be a major player in both the UK and Ireland, but our diverse service and product offering can cater to a range of applications and requirements. 

“Our senior leadership are passionate about reinvesting profits back into the business. We’re investing in a new steel factory here in Toomebridge and we’re constantly implementing new digital technologies to enhance our production processes. Further afield, there’s potential to open an additional factory dedicated to manufacturing Spantherm in England. Although we manufacture Spantherm at our existing sites, we’re anticipating increased demand for the product over the next five-to-ten years, meaning investment into additional facilities will be required to satisfy demand. 

“We have a strong order book and we’re looking forward to seeing the impact our innovative products will continue to have on the industry as we prepare to work on lots of prestigious projects across the UK,” Seamus concludes. “While every company must ensure profitability, we will continue to invest in our people and change people’s perceptions of concrete. One thing is for sure; there are exciting times ahead, and who knows what innovation will come next!”