WORKING on a futuristic building has helped a Huddersfield company become a major player in the field of glass installation.
Dortech Architectural Systems attracted attention with its work on Huddersfield University’s striking creative arts building, which occupies a prominent site on the Queensgate campus.
The company had to overcome enormous technical difficulties in providing glazing for the structure.
Construction company BAM was so impressed with the results that Dortech was elevated to the coveted status of category one supplier – and hired to handle the 1,500sq metres of glazing at the latest university project, a new business school, now nearing completion.
It means that Dortech – once a small company making doors and shop entrances – is now a firm staffed by 60 specialists which regularly lands £1m-plus contracts throughout the country.
“This business school project is taking us to new levels,” said Dortech managing director James Sutherland. “From our background of relatively small projects, we now regularly carry out contracts that are in excess of £1m each.”
Glass will be integral to the appearance and the performance of the business school. Advanced glazing and aluminium framework designed by Dortech will ensure that the building is supremely energy efficient and has a low carbon footprint.
Dortech is the latest in a sequence of local firms to be awarded a key role in the construction of the business school.
University vice-chancellor Prof Bob Cryan made a pledge to combat the recession by awarding work to firms in the local area.
And hiring Dortech provides a double boost to Huddersfield’s economy – because the manufacture of the specially-designed glass units is carried out by Leeds Road firm Dual Seal.
Mr Sutherland acknowledges the tough business climate, but he is determined that the firm – having almost quadrupled turnover and doubled staff numbers over the past five years – will not be forced to downsize.
He said the firm was “robustly managed” and kept cash in the bank.
It also invested heavily in training and educating staff – including computer-aided design specialists and technical estimators – some of whom have been supported on university courses.
Mr Sutherland gained a masters degree in fine art and began his working life teaching video editing and graphics for North Yorkshire County Council. Then he joined mobile phone giant O2 and quickly climbed the management ladder, specialising in demand planning.
After his father Steve, who works in venture capitalism, purchased Dortech in 2004, he persuaded his son to take the helm – which he did despite a big salary cut. Mr Sutherland said his first two years at what was then a loss-making firm were “quite scary” – but using his management skills, the firm was given a new set of values and sense of purpose.
The result was expansion and profitability – and a current order book that includes major projects for work on schools, colleges and hospitals in many parts of the country.