Company Profile: Bovis Lend Lease
David Lehmann, Bovis Lend Lease’s Managing Director – China tells Sophie Loras how winning the tender to construct the Australia Pavilion at World Expo has had huge benefits for the business’s long-term China projects.
A site visit to the Australian Pavilion in September 2009 gave the clearest illustration yet, of just how far ahead Australia has been in its expo preparations compared to many of the more than 200 other participating countries and organisations.
At that time, the Australian Pavilion, designed by Melbourne architects Wood Marsh in conjunction with Think!OTS, was casting shadows over the skeletal frames of the other pavilions in the Oceania section of the World Expo site as it stood proudly boasting its newly fitted BlueScope Steel outer shell – deliberately designed to rust in time for the May opening into the deep ochre colours of Australia – while its neighbouring pavilions literally struggled to get off the ground.
The Australian Pavilion is one of the few pavilions at Expo using an international constructor – Australian contractor Bovis Lend Lease, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Lend Lease Group – which won the A$49.15 million tender to provide construction, exhibition and technical operations services to the pavilion in 2008. It has been a satisfying win for Bovis Lend Lease, which will now have the opportunity to showcase its capabilities in China on what will be a world stage when the Expo opens in May.
To enhance that exposure, Bovis Lend Lease has also become a gold sponsor of the pavilion, providing additional in kind construction support in the form of green elements such as rain water harvesting, smart lighting and initiating a green building expertise mission between Australia and China and providing an interactive display in the pavilion.
“We are very proud of the fact that we are able to represent Australia as an Australian company and for my staff, who are mostly Chinese, contribute to the success of an event that is even larger in scale than the Beijing Olympics,” says Bovis Lend Lease’s Managing Director China, David Lehmann.
Working on the Expo site and in China in general hasn’t been without its challenges – especially coordinating the many facets of the project between the principal architect in Sydney, consultants in Hong Kong and Shanghai, the client in Canberra and exhibits and equipment coming in from all over the world.
“Although small in scale compared to other projects we have done in China it is very high profile, technically challenging and we are working for a very important client for us – that being the Commonwealth of Australia – who we have done a lot of work with not only in Australia but across Asia,” says Mr Lehmann.
For Bovis Lend Lease, which has been in China since 1993 and has offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei, winning the tender at the onset of the global financial crisis, has also played a significant role for the company as it rode out 2009.
“It allowed us to carefully choose and target other projects without having to panic and scramble to win just anything,” says Mr Lehmann.
Long-term the company hopes its China business will reach a scale similar to some of its more mature operations in Australia, the UK and the US with the wider Lend Lease organization expressing an interest to invest in China in the short to mid-term. “We are certainly seeing a rise in activity as multi-national companies increase their investment in China which they are not doing in other parts of the world,” says Mr Lehmann. “With MNCs as our core client base this is very encouraging.”
With that optimism however, there remains a level of realism when doing business in China, with the competition like nothing Lehmann has encountered before any where else in the world.
“We are up against not only local companies but also international companies like ourselves who see China as a huge part of their future global business. This brings with it a very competitive environment,” he says. “For China the biggest challenge is the pace which is extremely fast – whether it’s business or just life in general it doesn’t stop but at the same time it’s pretty exciting and – keeps you on your toes.” ■