One of the toughest categories in the Building Awards was dominated by a firm that bristled with technical innovation and smart business ideas
This category was aimed at specific subcontractors - not specialist divisions of main contractors that undertake, for example, housing refurbishment work.
- Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering
Piling and ground improvements specialists rarely get to bathe in the limelight as their best work is hidden underground. So all the more credit to Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering for wowing our judges this year. And 2008 really was a bravura performance: turnover increased 30%, with profits double those of 2007 - its first year of operation. Its plans to become the biggest beast in the sector within the year were boosted by the capture of Branlow to deliver mini and micro piling and the creation of a geotechnical division to remediate contaminated land, while its Pennine division has spread overseas. It has also been developing software that determines the most carbon-efficient piling design for any given project. And all the while it's been getting on with the unsung business of preparing the ground for schools, roads, retail, offices, residential and any other kind of project you care to mention across the length and breadth of the UK. Plenty to warrant a Kate Winslet-style acceptance speech here …
It's not often you can say that one of the most visually striking schemes in London has been the work of a demolition contractor. But Keltbray's startling “upside-down” dismantling of an office tower at 20 Fenchurch Street turned heads in the City throughout 2008 (as did an impressive profit hike of 40% to £7m). It spent the year turning heads in the media, too: it was named one of the 10 companies to watch by the Sunday Times' Profit Track.
- B&K Timber Structures
Since it was formed in 2007, B&K Timber Structures has devoted much of its time to the tricky business of making supermarkets look stunning. And its work for Asda, Tesco and most notably Sainsbury's in Dartmouth dispels the notion that out-of-town stores need be little more than steel-framed sheds. As steel prices rose, B&K made structural timber a cost-effective alternative, which helps explain why it expects turnover to rise 75% for 2008.
- Balfour Kilpatrick
With turnover increasing 45% over the past three years, Balfour Kilpatrick has become the go-to M&E contractor for high-profile, time-sensitive projects such as airports and schools. This is partly because of its successful adoption of modular wiring systems on schemes such as the £37m Stoke schools PFI, which has helped slash installation times. No wonder 87% of its turnover is repeat business.
Even at the height of the boom, a profit rise of 600% was something to celebrate, so hats off to roofing and cladding contractor Lakesmere for performing such a feat. That it did so was largely thanks to seeking out (and carrying out) larger, complex contracts, and using innovations such as the latest 3D modelling and a bespoke planning control system. The fact that it has an accident frequency rate of just 0.09 is, for such a high-risk sector, an even finer achievement.
Many of the prestigious projects of the past couple of years bear the mark of walling, roofing and cladding contractor Lindner, from the ceiling discs of Heathrow Terminal 5 to the steel cladding of the Broadgate Tower in the City. Add to that its work on the St Pancras redevelopment and the Westfield White City shopping centre, and it's hard to imagine what London would look like without this all-rounder.
- Swift Horsman
At a time when contractors could be forgiven for not wanting to spend too long looking to the future, this joinery firm has made quite a statement of its commitment to apprentices by setting up its own training centre at its Hertfordshire headquarters. There's plenty to inspire the trainees, too: recent projects have included such glamorous London gigs as Terminal 5, Kings Place in King's Cross and the Broadgate Tower.
- Wilson James
Terminal 5 (£4.3bn job with restricted access site, one of the busiest airports in the world, etc) should have been a logistical nightmare. That it wasn't was almost entirely thanks to logistics contractor Wilson James, which dealt with up to 4,000 deliveries a month through its consolidation centre. The fact that, in June, BAA awarded the firm the largest ever logistics contract in the UK for the next five years speaks volumes.