SAISC and SASFA member, Spiral Engineering is a construction company based in Johannesburg and operates throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries.
Currently a market leader in architectural decorative steel and metal work, Spiral was established in 1990 from humble beginnings. “We took over a small workshop, no bigger than a double garage,” says Colin Kirkland, Managing Director of Spiral “now, we now employ 120 plus people”.
What Colin Kirkland from Spiral Engineering values most about the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction:
What I value most is the networking, the input and the camaraderie of people in our industry all working toward a common goal and trying to grow the industry within a predominantly concrete based building thinking in South Africa. I value the amount of work the SAISC puts in in trying to grow the use of Steel. We are doing things today in Steel that I don’t think would even have been thought of in the 90s. It was all concrete structures and maybe small facades. Now you have major facades, and major structures going up in steel.
Something else I value highly is the exposure the SAISC gives the industry through Steel Awards. It showcases to the rest of the professional engineers and architects what can be done in Steel. We’ve been involved with the awards for many years, and you can see the progression in the use of Structural Steel and specifically in the architectural side.
Initially, the company specialised in spiral staircases and balustrades but soon identified the need to diversify. “We grew and started taking on more structural steel projects, mostly architectural structural steel, predominantly tubular. The sort of structures that most other people really avoid, that’s the stuff that we thrive on” asserts Kirkland.
Spiral’s involvement with commercial developments started with Southgate Mall, followed by Northgate Mall, Cresta, Fourways and many more. The company has managed to expand while firmly maintaining a dominant market position in their initial area of specialisation. “Most, if not all of the spiral staircases in the Sandton Precinct have been done by Spiral Engineering” Kirkland confirms with pride.
It’s no secret that market conditions in the industry have been challenging for an extended period. Kirkland explains that in order to mitigate this, Spiral modified their business to effectively serve different market segments. “We are diversified in that we have 3 workshops: structural steel, stairs and balustrades, and lastly the stainless steel workshop. When the one is quiet, the other is busy. There’s always a bit of movement between the different divisions, which enables us to be adaptable” says Kirkland.
A key factor in Spiral’s success story is the willingness of its team to engage with and adapt to the needs of its clients. “It’s not easy, but what’s important is getting out there and speaking to your clients, understanding what their requirements are and trying to fulfill their needs” says Kirkland.
A current expansion avenue for Spiral is green building, which Kirkland sees as a future focus area. “We’ve started incorporating stainless steel green walling into the architectural steelwork side. It’s a great opportunity to work with landscape architects and bring the green element into steelwork. I think that’s going to bring another dimension and more work into the steel industry” says Kirkland. One of Spiral’s 2017 Steel Awards entries, an architectural feature in the redevelopment of the entertainment center at Sun City, is a great illustration of this.
Kirkland finds satisfaction in completing complex jobs well. “The day to day running of a business is challenging, but at the end of the day, the job is completed, the client is happy, and in 10 years you can come back and see what you’ve done – that’s what really excites me.”
When asked about what the future holds for Spiral, Kirkland expressed confidence in his team and their solution seeking work ethic. He attributes their steady growth to innovative manufacturing techniques, dedication, emphasis on detail as well as continuous training and development of staff. “I’ve been involved with the business from day one, and I take a personal interest in every project we do. One of the main sayings we have, when we’re looking at a job, is ‘Lets looks for reasons to do the job’ as opposed to why not to do the job. Everybody in the company has that mindset. It sometimes bites us because we end up doing some really complicated stuff, but looking back it’s been quite rewarding because what we have done has been our marketing. People see what we’ve done, and when they’ve got something special or more complicated they turn to Spiral Engineering.”