A Local Landmark

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-By John Boley

Marshall & Brougham has been something of a fixture in the capital of South Australia for more than 60 years, since James Gatt Marshall and his business partner Stewart Brougham established the business in 1948. James was a joiner in the fishing boat business in Scotland who arrived in Australia to become an apprentice carpenter with an Adelaide company; there he met Stewart and the pair started selling their services to architects as builders and joinery suppliers.

Third generation Andrew Marshall is a director and also, like his father John, another past area president of the Master Builders Association. In a recent interview, Andrew explained that the company would build anything anywhere – churches, hotels, schools, sporting facilities, factories, supermarkets, swimming pools, service stations, animal shelters and TABs, to name but a few – in the busy post-war years as it grew, adding ancillary services such as a plant yard and a brick works. “We were very much a traditional company, with our own concreters, tilers an so on – an old-fashioned master builder.

“We still pride ourselves on a fairly traditional approach, being economical with building solutions. We appreciate that clients don’t have an open cheque book and they want some good economical solutions to building, and we reckon we have demonstrated that many times over the years.”

Nowadays Marshall & Brougham’s business is almost entirely commercial although as Andrew says, the company is “not averse to a large private house project. But we are essentially a mid-size commercial builder. “We are lucky to have a high level of repeat business from established clients with a high degree of negotiated business, so we are rarely in the tender market, especially in the last ten years or so.”

One example Andrew quotes is the AAMI Stadium, home of the Crows and Port Adelaide of the AFL, where Marshall & Brougham did almost the entire project. Formerly known as Football Park, the stadium opened for business in 1972 and seats 51,000 people.

“Another example of repeat work is aged care and we are a current holder of an MBA award for excellence in this sector.” Marshall & Brougham has worked extensively with Eldercare and other prominent clients in this field.

The company does a lot of work on schools too, and religious buildings – one completed four years ago is St Ignatius chapel, a unique, round and very distinctive building in Athelstone that won two 2007 AIB Awards: for Building Excellence (projects $2.5-10 m) and National Project of the Year.

Other relatively recent projects the company is proud of include Goolwa Shopping Centre and Woolworths, Bay Junction shopping centre, the Glengowrie Allambi aged care facility for Eldercare and the Jacobs Creek Heritage Winery building – Stage 2.

One project that presented a number of special challenges was Cedar Apartments, northwest of Adelaide on the coast. This development consists of twin eight-storey apartment towers positioned on a common podium level that incorporates basement car parking. The construction is of reinforced concrete columns and floors with an external façade of acid-etched Brighton lite precast panels that are integral to the structure and of which a large proportion are load bearing.

The complex contains 64 luxury apartments, all fitted out to the highest standard, together with 3 commercial tenancies. There are several environmental design considerations incorporated into the construction – the most obvious being the operable shutters that reduce the heat load to the building by some 20 per cent. Situated immediately adjacent to the West Lakes waterfront, environmental management on this project was critically important. Measures taken included stormwater and waste water management to ensure that no contaminants entered the lake or sewer systems, the use of an electric powered tower crane to minimise noise that would have carried to the surrounding residential areas across the water, and potential contamination of the adjoining lake from fuel leakage/spillage. All waste that could possibly be recycled was recycled.

The building is situated on a sand base and is supported by 124 concrete piles driven 24 metres into the ground by the gravity drive method, which is almost silent and creates no vibration, enabling the process to be carried out without disturbance to the neighbouring resort.

A well point dewatering system was installed after the piling process to allow basement, footing and lift overrun excavation to take place, while operable louvres providing sunshading and wind protection were provided to every balcony which also has the added benefit of creating an external enclosed private space. Each apartment has its own hot water system, rather than a central, to minimise overall running costs. The nine-floor building has a site area of 18,787 square metres and a price per square metre of $2,164.91, and took 24 months to completion – right on time.

Thorough planning of the construction process was undertaken prior to commencement, resulting in the resizing of many precast panels to ensure that they could all be safely handled by the one tower crane. Scaffold bridges were incorporated at each level enabling the two towers to be treated as one, thereby greatly increasing the efficiency of the project and enabling one personnel hoist to be used to service both towers.

Setting and maintaining a very high standard of finish, both internally and externally, was critical to the success of this project. The standard was established from the outset by the site managers and was upheld and embraced by a conscientious group of subcontractors. The level of cooperation shared between all those involved in this project was exceptional. Building high end luxury apartments through the depth of the Global Financial Crisis “presented several other unforeseen challenges”, the company says. These challenges were able to be met and dealt with due to the strong relationship between Marshall & Brougham and the client.

The local economy is still at the stage where “getting projects financed and getting them across the line is a challenge still, banks are reluctant to lend the money for all sorts of reasons” but Andrew reckons there will be a strong recovery later this year.

Marshall & Brougham “is a pretty good reflection of who we are and how we try and operate in a fairly tough business. I like to think of us as ‘always fair but generous where possible’ – we always try to make things work well for all the parties – we’re interested in maintaining relationships, not just the bricks and mortar. You have to make money to pay your staff and so on but it’s a tough industry and we try to work things out.

“Our corporate strategy is that although we have had lots of opportunities, especially in the last few years, to grow or take on more or bigger projects and more people – we could have grown with the natural economic cycle but then we would by now probably have had to lay people off – our thinking has always been to keep a core of good people and always ensure we can find something for them to do.

“We feel we would rather stay on the smaller side and do say 6-7 really good jobs a year, jobs we are good at, and do them really well, and not be too ambitious – big is not always better.” Andrew admits, though, that it’s never easy to turn a job down and say to a client ‘sorry, but we just can’t fit it in’.

The company does not have a big workforce – 15-20 plus a dozen or more site people. “They have been with us for many years and they are lovely people, they get on so well with the clients. My father and I have always been very involved in the industry in the region, we feel it’s important to hold up the standards in the industry and have our company well regarded.” Marshall & Brougham takes corporate social responsibility seriously too: “we are building another school building in southern Sudan and one in Kenya, through a foundation we set up called Adelaide for Africa.

“You get a lot more bang for your buck out there – for fifty grand you could build a whole school building for 300 kids where for that over here you can barely build a toilet!” Andrew visited the projects recently, including one to build a library and IT centre for a school and orphanage facility in a village. “The current project over there where we will be spending some time over the next year or so will be in the southern town of Juba, the diocesan secondary school which is to be a really well resourced fee-paying school.”

Andrew is confident of the future, which he says will hold “more of the same”. We have experienced a little bit of a dip – everyone is in the same boat – but we have some pretty good things in the offing” and Marshall & Brougham’s story is likely to extend through many more decades yet.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

August 19, 2018, 7:48 AM AEST