A Local Landmark

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-By John Boley

Marshall & Brougham hConstructions 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 Brougham and the pair started selling their services to architects as builders and joinery suppliers.

Third generation Andrew Marshall is a director of the Business and like his father John (past SA President of the Master Builders Association) his Uncle Stuart and Cousin James continues the family business. In a recent interview, Andrew explained that in the early days the company would build anything in and around Adelaide – 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 the company grew ancillary services such as a plant yard, joinery shop, plumbing business (Maesbury Plumbers) and a brick works were added. “We were very much a traditional building company, with our own tradesman and apprentices – an old-fashioned Master Builder.

“We still pride ourselves on a fairly traditional approach, being economical with building solutions and delivering a quality building. We appreciate that clients don’t have an open cheque book and want some good economical solutions and certainty to their building projects and we think 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 satisfied 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 AAMI Stadium, home of AFL teams, Crows and Port Adelaide where Marshall & Brougham has built much of the major improvements over the past 20 years. 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 Aged Care clients in this field over the years.

The company does a lot of school projects and church buildings – one example is the St Ignatius Chapel, completed four years ago. This was such a unique project and building experience in that it won both State and National AIB Awards for Building Excellence (projects $2.5-10 m) and AIB 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 Scotch College Boarding House.

One project that presented a number of special challenges was Cedar Apartments west of Adelaide overlooking West Lakes. 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 storm water 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 louvers providing sun shading 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 project was completed 2 months ahead of schedule.

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 recovery later this year.

“Marshall & Brougham people and past projects are a pretty good reflection of who we are and how we try and operate in a fairly tough business. I like to think of our Company as ‘always fair but generous where possible’ – we always try to make things work out for all parties – we’re interested in maintaining relationships with Clients, Consultants and Trade Contractors, not just the bricks and mortar.

“Our corporate strategy in recent years is “measured growth”. We have had lots of opportunities, especially in the last few years, to grow or take on more or bigger projects and more staff – we could have grown with the natural cycle but then we would have had to let people go- our thinking has always been to keep a core of good people and always ensure we can find a satisfying task for them even is less frantic times”

“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 in the office plus a dozen or more site people. “They have been with us for many years and they are terrific people, they get on so well with the clients and each other. My father and I have always been very involved in the local industry, 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. Company employees are encouraged to get involved with their own community activities.

“You get a lot more bang for your buck building capital projects in the 3rd world – for fifty grand you could build a whole school building for 300 kids – where for the same cost in Australia you can barely build a bathroom!” Andrew visited the projects recently; including one to build a library and IT centre for a school and orphanage facility north of Nairobi, in Kenya. “In addition a current project is classroom at the Juba Diocese Secondary School, in South Sudan”. Just as exciting as any BER project.

Andrew is confident of the future. We have experienced a little bit of a dip in recent months- everyone is in the same boat in in SA – but we have some pretty good projects in the pipeline”. Marshall & Brougham’s story is likely to extend through many more decades yet.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 1:49 PM AEST