Retired Senior Manager of Engineering &
Sustainability, 101 Collins
Ross Boreham was the client’s Project Manager for 101 Collins from the ground up – literally – working with the build contractor from 1988 to 1991, then leading as Senior Manager, Engineering & Sustainability for 30 years until his recent retirement in 2020. Ross believes in doing things right and doing things once. He has been at the core of establishing 101 Collins’ premium reputation as a benchmark for reliability and innovation, future-proofing the building and leaving a legacy for future generations.
When did you start working at 101 Collins?
I started working at 101 Collins Street in 1993, so 27 years ago. In 1988, I was working for McLachlans as part of the consulting management team involved in the design and tendering process, and then as the Project Manager when the builder came on site. I was then seconded to 101 Collins Street for 12 months as chief engineer during construction.
I started my career at Maunsell and Partners – an engineering consulting firm for bridges and roads, including the Tasman Bridge restoration. Starting in Melbourne, I was based in Canberra for a year and a half after having been in Hong Kong for a time to work on bridges and tunnels. On my return to Australia, I joined the Ministry of Transport and worked on the Flinders Street station redevelopment before joining McLachlans, where my first job was 101 Collins Street. Project management looks at all the aspects of a project, from relationships with consultants and making decisions on how to build, to dealing with construction teams and getting it built as quickly as possible without compromising on quality. The three factors of project management are time, cost and quality. If you get the balance right, you’ll get the best result.
What does a building like 101 Collins bring to the Melbourne CBD?
It really adds something to the city. You see the impact of the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building on the New York skyline, that’s what creates the city’s character. 101 was always about delivering the best service for our customers, as well as reflecting the culture, arts and talent that make Melbourne one of the most exciting cities in the world. The foyer was designed to be a flexible space, to exhibit Melbourne’s arts culture or house a café, which 30 years ago, was well ahead of its time.
It has a spectacular outlook from each floor, and the end-of-trip facility and wellness centre are just sensational. Nobody can match that. When you get to 101 in the morning you feel like you’re home even though you’re at work.
How has 101 Collins stood the test of time and why?
When we first set out to build 101 Collins, the owners had the foresight to build a building without compromise, with generous spaces and a back of house infrastructure that allows the building to grow and adapt over time.
We have two goods lifts rather than one, so tenants are serviced without delay. We built capacity in the cabling risers because we knew power and communications to tenancy floors would expand one day. We designed the buttress on each side of the building to increase the maximum number of traditional corner offices from four to 12. We invested in backup generators that were large enough to power the building (both base building and tenant supply) for seven days, which means the power could be down across Melbourne and our tenants would be unaffected. It can’t be understated how valuable the decisions made in 1988 by the building owners are for tenants today and into the future. That’s what gave us such a tremendous foundation and will see 101 stand the test of time.
In 30 years, you must have seen a lot of changes. Can you tell us about some of them?
In the first five years, we had some very high-profile tenants and our primary goal was to make 101 as reliable as possible so they could run their organisations without interruption. As technology and buildings advanced, we were conscious of keeping up. In 2000, when sustainability came into focus, we were able to upgrade the common area lighting and reduce our energy consumption in those areas by nearly two-thirds with LEDs. These measures took us from being reliable to being at the leading edge of sustainability.
The first slogan we ever used was ‘101 Collins, 101 Cares, 101 Works’. We wanted 101 to never seem to go off the air, it just ran. During power grid failures we have continued to operate because of the backup generators, and we got through the year 2000 (Y2K) without any issues. Uninterrupted first-class service was always the goal and the two GMs I have worked for during my career at 101 have been fantastic, as have the owners who have always made sure the building serves its customers in the best way possible without compromise.
Can you tell us about the famous plant room / wine room story?
Well, our original fuel tanks were in the ground and we were concerned about the potential environmental issues of that. So, we removed them and put them in a newly constructed basement room. We completed the project and were so pleased with the outcome that we thought, “Gee, this room is going to stay so clean and at such a comfortable temperature, we should put a wine cellar in here!” We thought it would be a great spot to store some wine for ourselves, but then we thought that might not go down too well with the owners. So, we scaled back our plans by putting in a table and a couple of chairs and a nice bottle of wine. The owners were quite happy!