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Exclusive | Byrne Looby MD on its expansion

In an exclusive interview with New Civil Engineer, Byrne Looby joint managing director John Byrne explains the reasons behind the latest takeover in civil engineering.

Global civil engineering consultant Byrne Looby has bought structural consultant Sinclair Johnston & Partners (SJ&P) for an undisclosed sum.

The 150-strong firm will now be joined by the London based structures consultant, taking staff numbers to 175. SJ&P was founded by Sinclair Johnston with partner Derek Glenister joining shortly after.

“Part of our strategic growth plan was to bring distinct groups of people into the Byrne Looby Group,” says Byrne. “Those which give a complimentary but distinct, new strategic offering.

“We were in the structural space before, but they now bring a new breadth and depth to that offering. Both Sinclair and Derek would be considered national experts in conservation engineering and they’ve now leveraged that skill into commercial building refurbishment.”

Byrne said Byrne Looby had spent its first decade growing, going international and honing its geotechnical capabilities. Expansion into civil and structural engineering was a natural progression.

“If you look at how it organically happened, if you take for example marine engineering, a lot of the heavy work is geotechnical, you’ve got sea wall design, dredging and soft ground engineering,” says Byrne.

“In highways, a lot of that work is earth movement or part of building structure work is the foundations. So as geotechnical engineers we’ve always been involved in these sectors, but we’ve been evolving to provide a more rounded service offering.”

The new addition is Byrne Looby’s third aquisition. It bought water engineering consultant PH McCarthy in 2012 and marine engineering specialist Cronin Millar in June last year.

“We worked hard even as a small consultancy to keep working on projects that interested us, that motivated us, that we enjoyed and challenged us, and that has helped bringing people into the business,” says Byrne. “That’s been a key catalyst in our growth.

“One of our proudest achievements is that the Shard [a 306m high 95 storey skyscraper in central London] has foundations and a basement retaining structure designed by Byrne Looby.”

Byrne says that after the merger, the company’s operations and branding would remain the same, although Byrne Looby will offer an additional layer of job security, HR and IT capability, and huge opportunities to expand its engineering offering.

To make the new venture a success, Byrne says there are already plans for people across the business to meet on a technical and social level.

“I’m very conscious that if it [the merger] doesn’t work, and I think this tends to be on a personal level. People get worried, anxious and get burdened with the corporate takeover when all they want to do is deliver a service for their clients.

“My philosophy is to be open, honest, transparent, to keep people informed and remove any level of worry people may have.

“We’ve now got a series of initiatives which will bring people together technically and socially to help get to know each other and build up trust.”


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