McAdam: Seven decades of enhancing communities

McAdam’s original vision of partnership is enshrined in its evolution and expansion into one of Northern Ireland’s largest multi-disciplinary practices.

This year marks a significant milestone for McAdam as we celebrate 60 years in practice. During that time, with the support and encouragement of so many friends and clients, we have expanded from a small engineering consultancy into one of Northern Ireland’s largest multi-disciplinary practices providing services which include water and environmental consultancy, civil and structural engineering, architecture, project management and health and safety advice across a wide range of sectors and clients. Our success over the last seven decades has been built on the calibre of our staff, our client and community focus, and an unwavering commitment to provide the best possible service.

This approach was embedded from the inception of the company by our founder, Fred McAdam, who established FL McAdam Civil Engineers in Frances Street, Newtownards in 1963. Initially the practice worked extensively for both Newtownards Borough Council and North Down Rural District Council on local infrastructure works.

In 1968, Fred invited Architect John Bell to join the practice. This was a bold and exciting development with both McAdam and Bell recognising the benefits of a locally based multi-disciplinary practice supported by other like-minded specialist sub-consultants. They recognised the benefits this could bring to McAdam Design’s expanding client base and this ‘partnering’ approach remains to this day.

Fred resigned in 1975 to pursue an illustrious career with the World Bank but such was the indelible mark he left on the company it still bears his name. After Fred McAdam’s departure, the company fell under the expert stewardship of John Bell and John Hearst. They registered McAdam Design as a company in 1979 and it flourished in terms of staff numbers and scale of work, receiving national awards for water engineering and residential projects. Success continued and by the late 1980s McAdam Design were established as a key delivery partner for both the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Department of Environment water service.

In 1990, Bell and Hearst retired and a new Board of Directors was established, comprised of John Crothers, Jack McBride, Eddie Russell, and Alan Boyd. Significant operational improvements were implemented including CAD as a design tool, securing ISO 9001 Quality Assurance, and adding project management as a service.

McAdam Design were now well placed to support local clients as Northern Ireland finally received much needed investment in schools, healthcare, and water. Our growing reputation allowed the company to secure positions on key government frameworks whilst also enjoying project wins on many significant engineering and architectural schemes.

McBride and Russell resigned in 2000 and Alan Boyd was joined by Mark Oliver, Martin Hare and Reynold Anthony. The next eight years witnessed substantial company growth with staff numbers increasing from 30 to over 80 professionals, however, the family feel of the business remained. This growth precipitated a relocation to larger offices in Belfast at Montgomery House on the Castlereagh Road which remains the company headquarters to this day.

During the 2000s our growth strategy continued to embrace Fred McAdam’s original vision of partnership, exemplified by key collaborations with internationally recognised designers such as Daniel Libeskind, Wilkinson Eyre, Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, AFLS&P and WSP. Embracing these new collaborative delivery models, we delivered a range of challenging projects such as the North-West Gas Pipeline (Fingleton McAdam) and Northern Ireland’s largest Schools PFI. (Belfast Schools Partnership).

We were deeply shocked in June 2018 when our Managing Director Reynold Anthony died unexpectedly from a heart attack. He was a father figure to many and his passing was felt by both our company and across the wider industry. Whilst his loss resonated with the company it was a testament to the fortitude of McAdam’s senior staff that this catastrophe was overcome with minimal disruption to our project delivery.

In the aftermath of this tragedy and with Mark Oliver due for retirement a significant re-structure of the business was required. Maintaining continuity was important so Martin Hare remained on the board and was appointed Managing Director, whilst being joined by four new Board Directors in 2019. The new Directors, Fergus Kerr, John Findlay, Neal Kerr and Stephen Harding were all promoted from the existing senior management team thus ensuring the quality, culture and partnering values of the practice were retained whilst infusing the company with a new energy and direction.

After successfully navigating the Covid-19 pandemic and a move to hybrid working in 2020, the new Board of Directors took time to reflect on both the history of McAdam Design and the coming challenges our clients and staff would face in the future.

McAdam’s involvement in the award-winning Peace Bridge in Derry exemplifies its commitment to excellence and local community betterment.

To provide direction and focus we distilled our core purpose into one simple statement: “McAdam are committed to enhancing people’s lives and wellbeing through the design and delivery of innovative and environmentally aware projects which create a sense of place and leave a sustainable legacy for the next generation.

To deliver on the above our services extol and embed our core company values:

  • to minimise the impact and maximise the benefits that our work has on the environment and people around us;
  • to support our staff in developing their careers, provide equal opportunities and supporting educational and apprenticeship schemes; and
  • to enhance the communities in which we work through delivering a legacy of sustainable projects.

Reflecting on the positive impact our work has on local communities, the new board decided to enhance our commitment through the creation of a new CSR fund. This fund has, to date, supported amazing organisations such as Water Aid, Live Here Love Here and the Lagan Dragons. By mixing direct funding and charitable donations with employee involvement schemes we are providing much needed support to our local communities and helping to instil a sense of civic pride. This has been enthusiastically embraced by all our staff.

With renewed energy and drive, combined with an updated brand, the latest iteration of ‘McAdam’ has proved a success growing to 140+ staff, increasing our senior management team to 10 technical directors and 16 associates. We have secured BSi accreditations for H&S (ISO 45001) and BIM (ISO 19650) to add to our existing Integrated Management System (ISO9001/14001/18001).

Also, in recognition of our growing portfolio of work in the Republic of Ireland we have recently established McAdam Design (Ireland). In 2024 we are expanding our Board of Directors to include Chris Cheater to support our architectural service delivery.

Reflecting on the company journey and the projects delivered over the last 60 years we are extremely proud of a practice that with the help of nearly 550 fantastic employees has enhanced our local communities in so many ways whilst retaining the the core partnering values instilled by our founder Fred McAdam.

T: 028 9040 2000

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