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Prestige projects keep Northern Ireland building firm focused on new opportunities in GB

By John Mulgrew

Published 24/02/2016

The headquarters of the Institution of Engineering and Technology
The headquarters of the Institution of Engineering and Technology
The interior of the Fetal Medicine Research Institute

Northern Ireland building giant Gilbert-Ash has completed work on two major projects in London worth a total of £44m.

The Belfast-based firm, which employs 119 people, has finished work on the Fetal Medicine Research Institute.

And on Savoy Place, also in the centre of London, it's just finished work on the headquarters of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET).

Ray Hutchinson, managing director of Gilbert-Ash, said: "Both of these projects have been particularly exciting to work on, not least because of the clients involved but also because of the way they have brought together traditional features with a very modern sense of style.

"Our work has demonstrated how practices and technologies can be used to bring important historic buildings up to modern standards in a sustainable way."

The Fetal Medicine Research Institute is a 5,255 square metre building, which also includes King's College Hospital.

The £22m project involved the partial demolition and refurbishment of existing terraced houses on the site, while keeping the front facade.

The IET project included refurbishment to preserve Savoy Place's historic character, and saw a number of improvements being made.

The parent company of Gilbert-Ash said last year it will continue its focus on contracts in Great Britain after reporting an 11% slump in turnover to £73m, down from £82.3m.

Ards Holdings had said skill shortages are a growing problem for the industry as activity in the construction sector picks up.

Pre-tax profits at the firm, which has carried out major contracts closer to home, including the Causeway Visitor Centre, were £448,396 during 2014, down 15.6% from £531,016 in 2013.

But the directors said they were "satisfied" with the company's underlying performance.

Gilbert-Ash has secured a number of major contracts in Great Britain over recent years.

These include the refurbishment of the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

It also landed a £13m contract to refurbish and extend the National Army Museum, and the £20m refurbishment of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.

Closer to home, Gilbert-Ash also completed a series of restorations on the Crown Bar on Great Victoria Street - Belfast's most famous pub - alongside the National Trust.

The bar, which has been looked after by the National Trust since 1978, has been returned to its full Victorian splendour following a six-week project which saw floors, ceilings, stained glass windows, tiling and booths delicately repaired.

As well as construction contracts, Gilbert-Ash also works on retail and commercial fit-out projects.

Northern Ireland construction-linked firms have been flocking to Great Britain for big contracts in increasing numbers. This week Creagh Concrete said it had won a deal worth up to £27m in Scotland, supplying containers for low-grade nuclear waste.

Belfast Telegraph

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