Margaret Conway of McAleer & Rushe named Construction Manager of the Year

Margaret Conway of McAleer & Rushe has earned a place in the record books as the first woman to win Construction Manager of the Year.

Beating 84 finalists to the trophy, Margaret’s achievement is all the more spectacular because it was her first role as a construction manager. She completed the 80 week project two months early with a clean health and safety record and an Excellent BREEAM rating.

Margaret started working on 9 Adelaide, a nine storey office block in Belfast city centre, as bid manager for McAleer and Rushe.

Appointed project manager at pre-contract phase, she worked closely with client Belfast City Council on a major redesign, reducing the height of the building and saving the client £500,000. An even greater cost-saving measure involved adapting the existing raft foundations for the new superstructure, saving a further £750,000. Her collaborative approach enabled the £22 million project to accommodate substantial late design changes without losing valuable time from the schedule.

In order to keep the programme on track, Margaret showed great adaptability in the sequencing of work.  She divided floor plates into two work zones, enabling fitout to start in the central core area before the facade was completed. Her plant and access strategy kept work streams flowing and the budget under tight control.

Although new to construction management, Margaret has already become a trailblazer for her employer McAleer & Rushe. 9 Adelaide was the first project that the contractor carried out to BIM Level 2. Margaret also introduced a new software system to streamline the snagging process. It has proved so successful it is being rolled out across all McAleer & Rushe sites.

One of only four female finalists to reach CMYA this year, Margaret used her role to inspire and encourage young people – especially women – to enter the industry. She fostered a close relationship with local non profit organisation Womenstec, arranging tours and lectures from local colleges as well as placements for joinery, plumbing and electrical students. Some have since gone on to find work in the sector. Others have enrolled in construction courses.

Margaret’s win follows that of McAleer & Rushe colleague, Paul Marlow who won CMYA in 2016 for a £29 million student accommodation project in Stratford, East London.

CIOB President Rebecca Thompson said: “Margaret is a true inspiration for anyone thinking of entering this exciting and challenging industry. As well as remaining in control of the immense technical and logistical challenges of her day job, her inclusive style has encouraged young people to get involved in construction. Our sector badly needs a more diverse workforce and Margaret shines out as a young leader who is making a genuine difference. We will watch her career with great interest.”

CIOB Chief Executive Chris Blythe said: “CMYA is a unique barometer for management talent in our sector, with professionals of all ages and backgrounds battling for gold and silver medals. Each of our 85 finalists has demonstrated to an independent panel of experts that they are working to industry-leading standards.

“As ever, competition was extremely fierce this year, but Margaret won our judges over with her surefooted leadership style that inspired incredible performance at every stage of the project. She goes into history as the first female project manager to win CMYA. This is an extraordinary achievement, so early in her career, marking her out as one of construction’s greats.”

Martin Doherty, project manager for client Belfast City Council said: “9 Adelaide was a challenging scheme in terms of programme, site logistics and budget. Margaret was intuitive to Belfast City Council’s needs, always focused on delivering the scheme on time, whilst never losing sight of the importance of safety or quality. Her ability to communicate all issues and foster a real sense of teamwork set a benchmark for the project.”

About the project:

9 Adelaide, Belfast

Project: A 100,000 sq ft nine-storey office block

Value: £22 million

Completion time: 80 weeks

Man hours worked: 206,000+ hours


BREEAM Rating: Excellent

About CMYA

CMYA is run by the Chartered Institute of Building for the benefit of the UK built environment sector. All sizes of project are considered and non-CIOB members are welcome to enter.

The awards, which have been running for 39 years, are judged by an elite team of senior construction professionals, many of whom are past CMYA gold medal winners. Judges visit every project on the long list and carry out in-depth interviews with each candidate.
Because the awards uniquely focus on the competencies and skills of individuals, they provide an annual benchmark of managerial best practice across the construction sector. Many past gold and silver medal winners have gone on to hold senior positions.

In a survey, 90% of CMYA gold and silver medal winners said that the awards had had a positive effect on their career. More than half of the medallists said that they were now working at a more senior level and more than two thirds had had a pay rise. Three quarters of medallists who answered the survey also said that CMYA had helped raise their profile within the industry.

In addition, three quarters of employers who regularly nominate their staff for CMYA said that, as well as being good for personal development, CMYA helped define their company as a high calibre organisation. Two thirds believed that the awards helped to develop future leaders.

Further information available at