“they introduce you to the people that are doing the job. You know who you’re dealing with.”
What They Tell You is Pretty Much Spot On
In this interview, Robert reflects on over a decade of experience observing Porter Consulting Engineers (PCE) problem-solve and deliver on projects in many different contexts. Here he shares his personal opinion on why PCE is so highly regarded in the sector.
I understand that you recently retired. Can you describe the role you retired from?
For the last 11 years of my working life, I was a Senior Development Manager at LandCorp, and then that became DevelopmentWA. My main responsibility was doing residential, industrial and commercial land developments within regional towns. I was working everywhere from Geraldton out to Southern Cross, and right down to the South Coast.
When did you first work with Porter Consulting Engineers, and what did you engage them to do?
At LandCorp, we were trying to deliver a number of very small and “once in a generation” projects on behalf of regional local governments and were experiencing difficulty in trying to get engineers and contractors interested in doing them. They were pretty much-considered nuisance projects.
I amalgamated a number of projects and put them out to tender in an effort to attract private sector interest. PCE was one of several engineering companies that tendered to design, cost, tender and construct that initial round of projects. PCE has been awarded contracts for other projects since 2010.
What sort of work have they done since that initial engagement?
PCE assisted us to do feasibility on developments, to design and document projects, to tender and appoint civil works contractors to construct and service the projects. Where servicing issues arose, PCE was able to negotiate with government agencies and local governments to make sure that the project was “fit for purpose”, compliant and constructible.
What is Porter Consulting Engineers’ point of difference?
PCE is considered to be a mid-tier engineering firm with sufficient in-house resources to do the work that was needed to be done. I found PCE to be very professional and responsive, focussed on delivering an outcome for the client rather than chasing billable hours. I found that for the projects I was undertaking, PCE was more responsive and better suited than some of the larger engineering firms and had the in-house capacity that the one or two-person engineering firms lacked.
Can you comment on their level of industry knowledge?
PCE are up front with clients on what projects they will and won’t take on. When they do take something on, they have the expertise and resources within the organisation to follow the project through. I had PCE engaged in project feasibility and conception, design, tendering, awarding of contracts, client superintendent of contractors and inspection at the conclusion of the maintenance liability period. PCE demonstrated they are proficient in engineering designs and documentation, contract management and delivering quality projects to a budget. It’s a well-rounded team that they’ve got and have continued to maintain over the time that I’ve dealt with them.
How would you describe the quality of the work that’s been delivered? What are the elements that have impressed you the most?
I think I’ve done something like 20 or 30 projects with them over that time. They have been very honest in terms of what the project requires and what it will cost. They’ve taken projects from concepts to detailed designs, worked with us to secure competitive construction tenders and made sure the final project is delivered. I cannot recall a project that went over budget, notwithstanding we did encounter some unforeseen issues along the way. PCE actively worked with the contractors and with us to find solutions to issues that arose, to minimise the solution’s impact on the project budget and to ensure a fit for purpose and a compliant final project.
Can you recall examples of innovative solutions that they brought to you?
I was working in multiple small country towns, producing a small number of lots in each or providing alternate development options. I’m also aware that PCE has done some very large projects in the metropolitan area for the organisation and the private sector.
In regional towns, water management, traffic solutions and construction and servicing solutions are critical. The servicing agencies and local governments have limited finances and resources to go back and fix things. PCE has assisted local governments to contain, infiltrate or conserve every drop of water that happens to fall out there. PCE has actively worked with service agencies and local governments to provide innovative servicing solutions within our projects that are easy to maintain into the future. More often than not, they’re not high-cost solutions, but they’re practical solutions that achieve the outcomes required.
Can you offer any feedback on Porter’s interest in and knowledge of sustainable solutions?
I’ve attended numerous discussions with service agencies, where PCE has promoted an alternate level of servicing for subdivision lots, rather than just accept the norm. PCE have brought their technical knowledge to meetings with Western Power on issues such as microgrids, battery storage and so on, in developments.
PCE assisted us to talk to the Water Corporation about some of the standards for fire servicing and so on, in subdivision. PCE were prepared to get involved in those discussions and were able to provide engineering perspectives to support alternate development approaches.
PCE has high standards of ethics as a core company value. Can you describe evidence that you’ve seen in your dealings with them?
I found PCE to be a very ethical company. Where they had given us fixed price quotes to do work, they have delivered engineering solutions without cutting corners. They worked with the client and the local governments to make sure that they delivered a product that everyone was comfortable with and was fit for purpose. They dealt with all the stakeholders in a very professional and ethical way. I certainly have no problem recommending them from an ethical viewpoint.
How would you describe their planning and execution process? Were the advanced timelines accurate and were the services delivered on time?
Generally, yes. I’ll put a caveat on that in that I knew our projects were always fill-in projects for the company. So again, I worked with PCE to make sure that they had plenty of lead time so that they could do their other work as well as fit us in.
When we did need to bring a project forward, the PCE team would get together with us and give us a delivery schedule. Usually, they met their deadlines quite comfortably. So much so that we were able to pre-programme project constructions to make sure we avoided wet weather and so on. PCE also understood that we had internal approval and financing processes that needed to be accommodated before we got final sign-offs.
What about the budget setting? Were the quotes accurate? Were any changes well communicated?
Yes, very much so. If PCE gave me an estimate of what a project was worth, I could rely upon that. When we did get to tenders, generally, the tender prices were close to what was quoted by PCE. During construction, they managed the construction phase to make sure that we remained within budget and there was no cost overrun. So, from a financial viewpoint, I was very pleased with what PCE did for us.
In terms of communication, what are they like to deal with as a company in terms of communication?
You could pick up the phone and talk to the staff within PCE at any time. I felt that they were never too busy that they wouldn’t get back to you and sort out a problem with you. I found they were also prepared to give us engineering advice even if it wasn’t a project that was on their books or it was something that was a “once off”. I never felt concerned when I contacted them on an issue or one of our officers needed an opinion on what seemed a menial issue. They were always extremely helpful and certainly gave their time to us quite willingly, and provided good quality advice.
The PCE approach is based on a high level of personal service?
Yes and more importantly, when you do catch up with them, they introduce you to the people that are doing the job. You know who you’re dealing with. After that initial meeting, emails go backwards and forwards very quickly. In that sense, it’s very much a personalised service that they provide.
There were instances where we did feasibilities for local governments, but did not proceed with the project. We put PCE in contact with the relevant local governments, and there were instances where those local governments independently engaged PCE to do a project. We encouraged the local governments to engage with PCE and ourselves as we developed the projects.
What do you nominate as their point of difference?
I think the point of difference is that PCE is a mid-tier engineering firm with competent and motivated people engaged to do the work. When they take you on as a client, you feel like you’re being treated as a valued client, and they are committed to assisting you to get your project up and running.
If you were speaking to someone looking for a reputable Perth civil engineering company, what would you tell them?
I’d suggest that if you are looking for civil engineering firms to undertake a project, you include PCE in your list. They are worthy of a phone call or email.
I have also had an association with PCE through my JDAP and local government employment for more than 30 years, and appreciate David Porter and his team’s capacity to deliver professional traffic and engineering advice. David was able to communicate detailed engineering concepts to laypeople in a manner that they could quite clearly understand what was going on. That ability to explain things has certainly rubbed off on the rest of the PCE team. You never feel like you are asking a stupid question of them, and they don’t treat any question as being stupid. They will always give you an answer. The PCE team are well respected, and what they tell you is pretty much spot on and can be treated with high regard.
“They are good blokes. They’ll get the job done and try to get it done as cheaply as possible. It’s more of a quality service.”
Tao Bourton is the co-founder of property developers Yolk Property Group. The company portfolio includes private subdivision projects as well as commercial and residential developments. In this interview, Tao discusses his experience working with Porter Consulting Engineers over the last ten years.
How would you describe your company and your role there?
I’m one of the co-founders of a property development company.
When did you first work with Porter Consulting, and what did you engage them to do?
I first engaged them for engineering services about ten years ago.
What type of work have they done for you since that initial engagement?
We’ve always had projects with them since then. Constant projects, new projects coming out, one’s closing, new one’s starting.
What are the reasons you prefer to work with Porters instead of other consultants?
We are not exclusive to Porters. We do work with other engineers. Porters are on our tender panel. They’ve made it on the tender panel, and they stay on the tender panel, which is not an open book that anyone can get on.
I just appreciate the level of experience that they bring to the table. They don’t put a junior on a project which may flounder around. The senior people are always aware of what’s going with a project and they’ve got a lot of depth of experience. They work well with contractors and are fair and reasonable to all parties.
Can you comment on the level of industry knowledge?
How would you describe the quality of the work delivered to you? What are the elements that have impressed you most?
When it comes to the complex issues, I am impressed with how they can work through with the agencies to get the best outcome. How they look to maximise the engineering design to reduce costs and push boundaries against the authorities to keep costs down.
Can you give an example of the innovative solutions they brought to you?
We were piloting a lot of new ideas in one of our projects that involved a lot of recycled materials. There was a lot of working with all the agencies to give them comfort and also working with contractors in the areas of installation and costs. They’ve got that technical expertise to work through and figure it out, which is what you need in areas of innovation.
Can you offer any feedback about interest in and knowledge of sustainable solutions?
They’re always keen to explore how they can push the boundary and set new benchmarks. So in the current climate, you can barely get any materials. We’re not doing anything at the moment because we are struggling to keep a project on track. However, in a normal world with no supply chain issues, Porters are keen to research to see what is globally and nationally being rolled out and how it could be implemented here. So they are certainly at the forefront in terms of interest in sustainable solutions.
Can you describe any evidence you’ve seen in your dealings with them of those ethical standards?
Contractually, when we’ve been dealing with contractors, they are always working through what is fair and reasonable for both parties. Porters will redesign to save construction costs even though this might also reduce their percentage fee. They will look for a win for the project. They’re up there in the top-tier firms. They are definitely a respected firm.
How would you describe the planning and execution process? Were the advanced timelines accurate and services delivered on time?
Yes, all fine on that front.
Do you have any feedback about the financials? Were the quotes accurate?? Were any changes well communicated to you?
What’s your experience of the standard of personal service?
Really good. I can always get one of the directors, one of the senior people. I can always get through to them. In some other companies, you don’t necessarily get to talk to them. They try to restrict contact. You aren’t getting that senior experience oversight on the project. If you were to compare them, they have more senior people with greater oversight than other teams. They’re more of a boutique, mid-sized engineering firm versus the big boys who naturally have one top dog. Porter gives you access to senior people.
Are there any other points of difference?
Mid-size means you’re dealing with the owners of the company. So you’ve always got more of a care factor when you’re dealing with an owner.
If you were speaking to someone looking for a reputable Perth civil engineering company to work with, what would you tell them about Porters?
I’d refer them to other clients.
What sort of thing do you say?
They are good blokes. They’ll get the job done and try to get it done as cheaply as possible. It’s more of a quality service. You’re not paying for bells and whistles of big marketing expenses. They’re just here to get the job done and smash it out and do a good job.
“I think Porters know their market, don’t over-promise, and deliver on what we agree is what we need.”
Gary McCullough works for the City of Canning. He has worked closely with Porter Consulting Engineers (PCE) on several projects, including the award-winning Cecil Avenue West upgrade. In this interview, Gary describes his experience working with PCE and what he feels they bring to a project.
What is your role there at the City of Canning?
I’m the Senior Project Leader for the Canning City Centre Regeneration Programme. I’ve been doing this work in Canning for six years.
When did you first work with PCE? What did you engage them to do?
Porters had been doing some work for the City of Canning for quite a while before I joined. They were involved with gaining grant funding for the City and the design geometry of key roads we wanted to improve, specifically Cecil Avenue West.
What sort of work have you been doing with them since then?
We’ve worked with PCE via the WALGA panel on the main road infrastructure and upgrades, including new roads. Porters assisted with the concept design, detail design, and providing pre-tender estimates for the work so we could take it through our council to get approval to deliver the work.
What are the reasons behind choosing PCE?
They’re easy to work with and accommodating of our sometimes changing requirements. They service us at a pretty high level, mainly through Brad and others. They’re very responsive when we need changes made. They do that quite quickly and come back to us with some options whenever we need them. It’s always a two-way dialogue.
PCE has some highly experienced people on their team. Can you comment on the level of industry knowledge?
Porters have got very good industry knowledge for the sort of local authority work that we do. I know they also do a lot of subdivisions for other developers and private developers. However, in terms of work for the local authority, I think their knowledge is very high in terms of getting us through all of the approval gates, through the State government and main roads. They ensure everything is in place so we can proceed and deliver our projects.
What are the elements that have impressed you most about their work?
Their work is of high quality on our projects which can be fairly complex with multiple stakeholder relations. The City is sometimes reliant on their flexibility to change things whenever we need to suit differing stakeholder requirements. It’s vital when developing road projects through land that’s privately owned (Scentre Group), which involves acquiring land from them. We’re also working with the State government to acquire land from them to widen our roads and carriageways. PCE has always delivered outcomes for the City, and it’s a very timely service that we get.
Can you recall an example of innovative solutions that PCE has brought to you?
Porters have come on quite a bit with the innovation side, working with landscape architects to lead these public realm projects. We are trying to move away from just delivering road infrastructure to delivering public realm infrastructure, which cars and buses use. We’ve got dedicated laneways for buses, which could be used for trackless trams in the future without the loss of trees. I think that’s been a good learning curve for all of us, and it’s put Porters in good standing for delivering other projects like this.
Can you give any feedback on their interest in and knowledge of sustainable solutions?
The sustainability side of our work is about maximising the landscaping to ensure pedestrians have a much-improved environment for them to enjoy and use. It is about creating greener environments. Porters have been working with landscape architects and us for the last four years. We’ve won an engineering award with Porters for Cecil Avenue Central for our innovative paving and heavily landscaped road infrastructure, which sets a standard for this type of infrastructure in Perth. PCE certainly can claim to be delivering much more sustainable infrastructure.
PCE has got a high standard of ethics as a core company value. Can you describe any evidence you’ve seen of this in your dealings with them?
Yes. We have used Porters currently in a role as Superintendent for our project. This means working with the city and the contractors to ensure that those ethical standards are maintained throughout the project delivery. This is important work because it keeps everyone honest about what we’re doing. Certainly, PCE and evidenced through Brad’s stewardship of the Superintendent role, have been important for us to deliver on time and budget.
How would you describe their planning and execution process? Are the advanced timelines accurate, and are services delivered on time?
We’ve been delivering projects through unprecedented times of COVID, with the price of materials going up, and contractors are harder to engage and pin down their prices. It’s been a bit of a challenge for all of us, but generally, PCE has performed well.
Do you have feedback specifically on the financials?
Yes, the financial side of things is well communicated. They are competitive with their quotes to deliver projects. They also have a little bit of a competitive advantage that they have carried out so much work in the Canning city centre. Their knowledge of the area is helpful in getting accurate costs to do future work, and their costs to deliver that future work is reasonable.
Obviously, they go through the WALGA panel as well, where costs for consultants and contractors are tested, so we’re quite comfortable with the fees that are charged and the estimates that they give for future work.
How is PCE to deal with a company in terms of communication? What elements do you value?
They are clear and honest in their advice, which the City values. We’ve mostly dealt with Brad and a few others before. They’re all very good at communicating, responsive, and open to our calls at any time. We’re probably quite a major client, so you might expect that. But nothing is ever too difficult, and everything’s very timely in the responses we get back. We’re very comfortable with the way that they deal with us and communicate with us and also the other contractors that they work with.
PCE has personal service as a core value. Can you comment on that?
Without being too cliched, I think they walk the talk. They’re very good at delivering a high standard of personal service, and we welcome that. We’re probably a demanding client, but they always give us what we need and are good at it.
What do you feel is PCE’s key point of difference?
I think their knowledge base of the kind of requirements that we need to deliver the projects is high. I value their ability to communicate with us quite quickly and accurately. They can accommodate the timeframes and deliver the skill sets we need. They’re very good at articulating what needs to happen. They are also valuable in knowing where, as a local authority, our gaps are.
If you were speaking to someone looking for a reputable civil engineering company, what would you tell them about PCE?
I would say that they’re good value, knowledgeable, and reliable. I think Porters know their market, don’t over-promise, and deliver on what we agree is what we need.