Sharing a vision for six decades

This year, BBR Contech – the BBR Network Member for New Zealand – celebrates its 60th Anniversary. In this special feature, we look at the people whose breadth of vision has shaped the business and those who continue to steer and strengthen it through their commitment to innovation and technical excellence. Paul Wymer who has recently celebrated 30 years with the company, takes us on a journey to meet some of the long-serving team members who reflect on the recent employee awards and a few of their favorite projects.

Today, we are in a position of having more long-serving staff – with over 10 years’ employment – than at any other time in our history. As with many success stories, the BBR Contech history can be traced back to a series of events and, most significantly, to a vision which was shared between key players.

Founding fathers

Our story goes back to the 1950s when Roxburgh Dam in Otago, South Island was constructed by an international joint venture including Swiss-based Conrad Zschokke AG. Zschokke subsequently founded a firm in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, young Kiwi engineering graduate Rob Irwin traveled to Europe and took a job with Zschokke’s firm. In the early 1960s, the NZ market was seeking post tensioning services. So, Zschokke introduced Irwin to Antonio Brandestini who had worked for the firm, but had since founded the BBR business along with two colleagues. From here, the vision of a better built world in the future and the determination to drive it forward together materialized and this mission continues today.

Cultivating delivery excellence

With post-tensioning established on infrastructure projects elsewhere in New Zealand, Mike Lawson was one of the founding employees in the Auckland branch. In 1983, he joined a team being developed by Rob Irwin and Rob Robinson to provide a range of post-tensioning services and is now our longest serving staff member. The work was varied and included motorway bridges, rail bridges, water reservoirs and related work in the development of New Zealand’s heavy industry infrastructure.

For Mike, it all started with post-tensioning and those early days saw involvement with the BBRV wire system and then a transition to the BBR VT CONA CMX strand system used today. His operational, technical and management skills were developed across a wide variety of projects – involving post-tensioning, ground anchoring, grouting, heavy lifting and MRR. He was involved early in concrete repair and structural upgrading projects requiring innovations – like impressed current cathodic protection and FRP strengthening – contributing to some of the largest projects ever undertaken using these techniques. He then went on to apply all this knowledge into attaining international quality and safety certifications for the business.

More recently, having returned to his posttensioning roots, Mike has held an operational and technical management role related to PT slabs on grade and multi-storey posttensioning. Key achievements include The Pacifica Building and Foodstuffs Distribution Centre. Mike notes that the success of these projects is the result of a full team effort and the leadership and experience of some of our most experienced supervisors and skilled operatives.

Teamwork principles

Bojan Radosavljevic has worked in the BBR Contech Wellington branch for over 25 years. Structural upgrading and seismic resilience feature strongly here and his team has delivered a wide range of projects to repair and strengthen bridges, buildings, roads, wharves, tunnels, reservoirs and wastewater infrastructure. However, Bojan regards the North South Junction rail tunnel upgrade project in 2010 as one of the most memorable.

A number of existing brick-lined rail tunnels were to be lowered and strengthened, during a non-extendable four month track closure. BBR Contech was responsible for work stretching across five separate tunnels and involving installation of some 1,750 rock bolts and 500m3 of grout. Technical and operational challenges were encountered which saw the project operating 24/7.

Bojan credits this project with embedding the principles of teamwork, collaboration, planning, resilience, dedication and commitment – he has never been associated with a project that was so difficult on every level. The whole professional team worked tirelessly to overcome the difficulties and deliver a successful result on time. He has a special photo on his wall that was taken in the tunnel just prior to completion – to recognize the achievement and record the successful delivery of this work. He looks to this project – and the photo – for his motivation and inspiration whenever his BBR Contech team face high demands and challenging circumstances.

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