Patricia Power: 'I always knew I wanted to work in construction'

Keeping an eye on neighbourhood builds as a child laid career foundations for one of Ireland’s most famous quantity surveyors
Patricia Power: 'I always knew I wanted to work in construction'

Patricia Power.

It was a bit like our own version of Disneyland over the wall.

So, don’t try this at home, anyone, ever — ever — but when I was growing up, slipping away after school with a friend from up the road to explore building sites in our neighbourhood seemed like a hop, skip and a jump over the fence into paradise.

Because of the element of stealth involved, it was much better than waiting to slide into the backseat of the car to be whisked off to a 1980s Irish playground.

So, I’m tickled as pink as Patricia Power’s signature high-vis vest when she treats me to similar tales of her own childhood.

This is in response to my curiosity about how she took those first steps on the yellow-brick road to becoming arguably Ireland’s most high-profile quantity surveyor.

“I grew up in the country and ours would have one of the first houses in the area, so every day I and my sister — she ended up doing engineering — after the workers had left the other houses being built in the area, we’d be in there, up the ladders, seeing what had been done that day, watching everything, following the progress. I absolutely loved it,” says Waterford-raised Patricia.

“I knew then I would work in construction.

“We lived in a bungalow ourselves, and later on, we had it converted into a dormer bungalow when I was still in primary school. I remember watching the work being done and being amazed, really amazed, at the skill of everyone working on it — because it is skill, it’s artistry, it’s amazing. That is how I feel. So, I fell into this line of work.”

Dermot Bannon and Patricia Power in Room To Improve.
Dermot Bannon and Patricia Power in Room To Improve.

A degree in construction economics followed secondary school and Patricia went on to become the face of quantity surveying in Ireland thanks to her appearances on RTÉ’s Room To Improve with architect Dermot Bannon.

Patricia now has her own QS consultancy and lives in Ratoath, Co Meath, with her husband Barry and their four daughters.

“I remember I filled every course relating to construction in DIT Bolton Street when I was filling out my CAO form. I am lucky. I chose right. Deciding on courses is such a hard thing to do,” she says.

“I come from a family of four girls but at home, we were lucky, we were always considered to be just kids and we were not made to feel there was anything we couldn’t do. And now I have four girls myself.

“I went to an all-girls secondary school, I didn’t even go to a combined school where there was woodwork and so on. 

"Someone said to me recently, would you not like your girls to go to a combined school, and I said, there was no disadvantage for me going to an all-girls school.” 

Ah yes, it’s that no-nonsense approach that won our hearts as we watched Patricia in action on TV show Room To Improve.

Patricia was involved in the programme, from 2010, for five of the series, and is best known for her straight-talking and for delivering projects on budget — yet always giving due consideration to Dermot’s design aspirations.

Dermot would get slagged for not knowing how to use a calculator

She has since stepped away from the show to focus on her busy practice, Patricia Power Quantity Surveying and Project Management Practice, and clients, which she set up in 2011 and which deals primarily in new one-off houses, extensions, renovations and general home improvements and is a one-stop-shop for all cost and construction advice on the home.

LIFE-CHANGING

But Room To Improve was certainly life-changing. “I am very lucky to be in the area I am in,” she says.

“I appreciate it and I enjoy it. This scenario is something, when I left college 20-odd years ago, I could never have imagined, in quantity surveying. 

"Dermot Bannon and the TV series — Dermot used to get slagged for not knowing how to use a calculator — that created the niche and it was marvellous.

“Dermot and I get on very well and we are still very good buddies. We’re very much in contact. 

"On the show, I think what people liked was that I could always be direct and honest and could rein him back in.”

Dermot Bannon and quantity surveyor Patricia Power in the special Room To Improve: Dermot's Home
Dermot Bannon and quantity surveyor Patricia Power in the special Room To Improve: Dermot's Home

Any potential comebacks planned? “The last time I was on Room To Improve was for a special; you never know, I could be back for a special. I loved it and I loved when I did it but filming a TV series is very very time-consuming,” says Patricia.

Architect and RTÉ Home of the Year judge Hugh Wallace.
Architect and RTÉ Home of the Year judge Hugh Wallace.

At the moment, her sights are on the excitement of Ireland’s “opening day”, Friday, October 22, when Patricia will be joining forces with a host of professionals, including architect and RTÉ Home of the Year judge and RTÉ Great House Revival host Hugh Wallace for the permanent tsb Ideal Home Show which opens its doors to coincide with that date.

The Mitsubishi Electric Home Advice Theatre will feature key experts from Electric Ireland Superhomes, architect Eva Byrne of Houseology and David McConnell of Mitsubishi Electric will share his thoughts on energy conservation in the home.

The exhibition, which promises to gather all sorts of home and building expertise under one roof at the RDS, runs throughout the bank holiday weekend, until Monday, October 25.

SHOWCASE

The show is to be the first major public event where the requirement for physical distancing has been removed, as well as limits on numbers attending.

Lorraine Keane will host guest speakers at the Finished.ie + DFS Interiors Theatre as part of the Home Interiors Fair and other speakers will be architect and interior designer Denise O’Connor of Optimise Design and artist Deborah Donnelly. 

Patricia’s own favourite spaces at home in Rathoate? 

“I have to say my bedroom. I nearly go to bed at the same time as my kids I am so tired after a chaotic day and I just love that half hour’s rest with a book; when you have a good book it’s better than any movie,” she says.

Pieces by interior designer Laura Rinke of Lalaliving.ie who is exhibiting at the Ideal Home Show.
Pieces by interior designer Laura Rinke of Lalaliving.ie who is exhibiting at the Ideal Home Show.

“And my other favourite space is ‘the good room’. I hate using that word but...we have an open-plan area that’s lovely and chaotic but beyond it, we have the ‘good room’ — a relaxation zone, that we use at weekends, Friday and Saturday are the only days I really get to sit down there and watch TV.”

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