Morrison Design | Designers in demand

Covid-19 put construction projects on ice and sent shivers through the economy, but Wellington firm Morrison Design says there’s been no cooling off in demand for its services.  
Director David Morrison says the market for its structural engineering problem-solving is buoyant and the firm is cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. “Our forward workload is looking pretty good.”
Before the pandemic, Morrison Design was riding the wave of strong construction activity and turnover was increasing due to the firm winning higher value work.
When Covid-19 hit and level four restrictions were imposed, building projects – and the firm’s on-site work – ceased. Some of the firm’s staff could work from home, however this had its limitations.
Moore Markhams Wellington director Abbey Warner was very proactive and communicative, says David, at a time when he and half-shareholder and wife Anne-Marie were pre-occupied with how the business could keep operating.
“Very early on Abbey got in touch with us and encouraged us to apply for the wage subsidies. It sounds funny, but actually, a lot of firms hadn’t thought about that. We were busy planning and implementing our work from home procedures and we were very focused on that. It was really useful advice from her and it certainly helped keep us going over that period.”  
Receiving regular and helpful advice from Abbey about government regulations and assistance helped ease stress during a worrisome time for the business, he says.
Construction sites reopened and the Morrison Design team were back in the field when Covid-19 restrictions eased to Level Three, but the firm had to implement new health and safety procedures.
“There was a lot of advice coming out from government. It was a moving target and keeping on top of that certainly added to our workload.”
The team had a backlog of work to clear, and a steady stream of post-Covid contracts is now keeping it busy.

Abbey provides quarterly updates on the firm’s turnover and profit, so it can see how it is tracking year-on-year and also forecast the current year’s performance, David says.
“That is useful for us, we can make sure we have got enough tax and GST put aside. It’s also helpful for us to have solid numbers and external advice on how we are tracking – it might feel like we’re busy compared to last year, but the numbers are what they are.” 
The business’ clients are mainly architects with tricky structural engineering problems in high-end residential construction and temporary work – usually scaffolding.
It has designed scaffolding for the high-profile NZ Post building on the Wellington waterfront and for the seismic strengthening project on St John’s in the City Presbyterian Church on Willis Street – one of the capital’s heritage sites.
The business designed a scaffold system for the church’s spire – which was particularly challenging given the church’s shape and structure made a ground-based, square scaffold structure impossible.
“We basically had to devise a scaffold that was supported off the church’s roof. That enabled the repair and painting work to be done. We enjoyed the challenge.”
Photo caption: Morrison Design devised a clever scaffold structure for St John's in the City Presbyterian Church in central Wellington.
Read our earlier article on Morrison Design here.