One of the largest construction companies operating in Wales is celebrating its 30th anniversary of being based in Cardiff, and its 150th year of trading internationally.

BAM Construction – which was recently appointed to refurbish Port Talbot’s derelict Plaza Cinema and which operates across the South of Wales from its offices at Newport Road – has delivered over 100 schemes in the country since its very first way back in 1877. The company has released a list of its jobs and a set of historical photos.

Cardiff Telephone Exchange, 1976
Regional Director for BAM in the Western region, Tim Chell, who lives in Caldicott, said:

“In 1877, our predecessors built the Sessions House in Usk, Monmouthshire for court proceedings. The building is still there. Back then it connected to Usk prison, and we recently set up a programme to help rehabilitate low-risk prisoners back into work, and by chance, found the first person we took on was incarcerated there.

“We began trading before the motor car, telephone or the camera were in popular use. In those days we used steam trains or ships or a horse and cart to move materials. Our early jobs were during the Second World War and largely industrial. Now, we are recognised around the world as pioneers of innovation in technology. For example, BAM build the world’s first 3D concrete printed bridge. In Wales, we’ve created amongst the most modern hospital and university environments in the world over the past few years.

“Our operations in South Wales saw us open our own dedicated office here 30 years ago in 1989. But going back to our origins, our track record in Wales includes clients like Morris Motors, the Royal Navy, the AA, British Rail, British Oxygen and the Post Office. We’ve built for every major supermarket, created county council headquarters, and our iconic buildings include the grandstand at Leckwith Stadium and the National Museum of Wales.”

National Museum Wales
BAM was behind Cardiff’s telephone exchange and the original Welsh College of Music and Art in the 1970s plus factories for Metal Box and ES&A Robinson – two long-lost industrial giants – during the 50s and 60s.

Across the Western region BAM now employs over 150 people and has a supply chain of well over 1,000 people, with annual turnover regularly exceeding £100 million. Mr Chell revealed the secrets of the firm’s success.

Cardiff Telephone Exchange
“Our secret is twofold. Firstly, we can develop, design and manage our own buildings. We have our own architects and engineers, we are problem solvers, and understand every facet of how to house people whatever their environment.

“Secondly, we are not full of warm air – we do what we promise. Our culture has a deeply embedded collaborative and open ethos. That makes us natural players for the new era of frameworks such as Designed for Life for the Welsh healthcare estate. Ever better partnership working and giving back far more to the community than just buildings is the future for the construction industry.”

In fact, BAM’s largest ever scheme in Wales is the £130 million Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr (Caerphilly Local General Hospital) completed in 2011. It’s a far cry from the £11,200 cost of building Usk Sessions House back in 1877.

Asked to choose just one highlight from his company’s track record, Mr Chell is fairly confident that people will recognise the building.

“In 1949 we completed the Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil. Fifty years later in the 1990s, we built an industrial unit facing it. That remarkable building has remained one of the most recognisable icons in Wales. Sadly it is ten years since production there ceased.”

Mr Chell says that much has changed in the way people use buildings.

“Our buildings are far more attuned to their users now with intelligent systems to save or harvest energy, and the data we capture from the build allows them to be maintained to a much higher standard. The way we build is more sustainable, allowing for re-use and recycling of materials. Safety has altered out of all recognition.  The stablemen of yore have been replaced by drone pilots and virtual reality engineers. It’s a different, far more exciting world we live in. I’d start again now if I could.”