Sligo sustainability champion is changing the construction industry for the better

A Sligo man is making sustainability a priority for one of the country’s leading construction firms.

Alan Cawley is the Senior Sustainability Manager with John Sisk and Son (Holdings) Ltd and among his goals is a 50% reduction in water use intensity within the next three years compared to the 2019 baseline.

John Sisk and Son (Holdings) Ltd has an environmental champion on every one of its sites across the country and, with the help of Irish Water’s Water Stewardship Programme, it aims to put a stop to the wastage of clean drinking water. 

Leaks have been fixed, low flush toilets have been installed and recycled water is used for wheel washes and dampening down sites. 

Pictured (L to R): Pat Barry, CEO, Irish Green Building Council; Alan Cawley, Senior Sustainability Manager, Sisk; Yvonne Harris, Housing Programme Director, Irish Water; and Jack Brennan, Environmental Officer, Cairn Homes.

Graduating with a degree in Construction and Project Management in the middle of a recession left the Castleconnor native scratching his head but a career sidestep and a Masters in Environmental Systems has seen him leading the way when it comes to sustainability in the construction industry.

Since joining the construction company in 2016, Alan has introduced a plethora of sustainability initiatives, including a total revamp of mains water use on the company’s high-profile sites across the country like Bonham Quay and Project Kells.

“Irish Water’s Water Stewardship Programme has been instrumental in helping us meet our targets. We identified areas where we could make water savings and actions were taken but then we were struggling to get to the next level of conservation and the Water Stewardship Programme is a great way of getting there. 


“In 2021 we reviewed our systems and processes with 17 people completing a day course aimed at senior and junior engineers who are environmental champions on our sites,” explained Alan.

“Water mapping opened our eyes up to areas of high water usage. You can see where the water is coming in on site and exactly where it is going. Small changes like low flush toilets or waterless urinals, fixing leaks instead of walking by them, and having a trigger hose on site rather than a turn cap tap can make a big difference.

“Some demolition projects use water to reduce dust rising but there’s no reason to use mains water. Rainwater harvesting is important and has been implemented across many of our projects. These are all easy wins and should be implemented. It’s not just a matter of saving water there are money savings too.”

When Alan began his third level education the country was on the crest of the Celtic Tiger wave. Jobs in construction were ten a penny but sustainability was only a whisper. However, the tide soon turned, the jobs pool dried up and sustainability chat became louder.

“The environmental side of construction began to grow and today everyone is happy to support sustainability initiatives. My role ten years ago when I was working as an Environmental Advisor is completely different to what I’m doing now; there’s much more of a focus on holistic sustainability now.”


Alan supported the development of Sisk’s 2030 Sustainability Roadmap, which was launched in December 2020 and includes 21 targets.

“We always had environmental KPIs around water, energy, waste and even sustainable timber but over the last number of years, and maybe Covid was a driver for it, we’re going much deeper. This has led to us becoming a carbon neutral business with offsetting last year and by 2030 we want to be carbon neutral without the use of offsets.

“We want to have 1.7m trees planted by 2029, to coincide with Sisk’s 170-year anniversary. We look at the lifecycle of buildings and even have targets on social value. We study the work we are doing in locations, how we are dealing with the community, how are we making sure this is good for the people around, what can we do for the local environment that will improve things? Small changes can make a big difference to the world we live in.”

All businesses can reduce their water consumption and save money on their bills by taking part in Irish Water’s free online water stewardship training. You can start your training today. Check out

Meanwhile, Irish Water recently launched a new guide, Water Stewardship and Sustainability in the Construction Sector, outlining how businesses in the industry can conserve and reuse water. The guide is available to view online at