16/11/2011 - 10:10

BG&E balances local, international books

16/11/2011 - 10:10

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ENGINEERS Peter Bruechle, Norm Gilchrist and Ernie Evans formed BG&E in Perth, starting with just eight staff.

And while only Mr Evans remains with the business, what they started in 1970 has grown to employ more than 230 staff from a network of five offices in Australia and two offices in the Middle East, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

BG&E specialises in the fields of building structures, facades, bridgeworks, civil engineering and infrastructure and has been responsible for the engineering design of some of Perth’s most iconic buildings.

The company was recently engaged as the engineers for the hospital component of the $1.8 billion Fiona Stanley Hospital at Murdoch. 

BG&E director Robert Johnson, who has been with the company for 26 years, said he had witnessed a big change in the type of work BG&E has secured over the years. 

“In the 1970s our business would have been around 95 per cent buildings and 5 per cent infrastructure,” Mr Johnson told WA Business News.

“Today, I’d say our work is 40 per cent buildings and industrial, 35 per cent civil engineering and 25 per cent infrastructure, including bridges and containment vessels.”

In the late 1980s, BG&E was awarded contracts for the design of the 42-storey Exchange Plaza building and the 56-storey Central Park building on St Georges Terrace.

The company subsequently used its experience in designing these high-rise buildings to branch its services into the Middle East.

In 2002, BG&E established an office in Dubai and went on to become involved in the design of more than 50 high-rise buildings in the period from 1997 to the present.

“It was the Perth projects that gave us the knowledge and the confidence to take on the high-rise buildings in the Middle East,” Mr Johnson said. 

“More opportunities arose in the early 2000s and in 2002 we were awarded a major project called Jumeirah Beach Residences in Dubai; that was for the concept design for 39 high-rise towers. Our appointment was extended to include the detailed design of four of the towers.”

Not wanting to put all its eggs into one basket, at around the same time the company decided to expand its civil engineering service offering in Western Australia.

“We were doing a lot of work in Dubai and I thought we better just look at what we’ve got in our own backyard; we were presented with many other new opportunities in Perth from the initial mining boom,” Mr Johnson said. 

Since joining the company as a director in 2000, Judith Uren has grown the civil engineering team from three staff to more than 40 in the Perth office.

“Over time, projects have become larger, including a very large civil component; so rather than just having a bridge or structure they now have a large road to design and services to relocate,” Ms Uren said.

“So we have developed a civil section to support our structural areas, such that we can get involved in those larger projects.” 

The company has worked for the likes of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group and is currently providing structural and civil engineering services for Chevron’s Gorgon Village on Barrow Island.

Despite a continuing demand for BG&E’s services in WA, Mr Johnson said projects in the Middle East came to a grinding halt with the onset of the GFC in 2008.

“Days before the GFC hit I was in Dubai and was ready to sign a contract for the biggest job we were ever likely to take on,” he said.

“It didn’t get signed and we had started work on the job and by the end of the year it had evaporated … it was massive.” 

A month before the GFC, Mr Johnson said, the company had also set up an office in Abu Dhabi.

“We had to bear that financial burden for a bit in 2009 and 2010, so we consolidated our staff numbers from 35 to 25 in the Middle East,” he said.

“But fortunately for us, during the GFC our Perth office … we began to win some Main Roads design and construct projects and we were also successful with the Fiona Stanley Hospital project, our biggest project to date.”

To further promote its involvement in the oil and gas sector, most recently, BG&E has opened an office in Brisbane.

With a steady growth in turnover of around 10 per cent year on year, Mr Johnson said the company needed to continue to grow in order to secure the larger projects.

“We are cautious about not growing for the sake of growing, but we think we need to grow because the projects are getting so much bigger and we want to get those good projects,” he said.

 

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