Northrop Newcastle celebrates 30 years of engineering excellence

A familiar part of the Newcastle landscape, Northrop Consulting Engineers is celebrating their 30th anniversary in the region.

Established in 1992 by Principal and Northern NSW Business Manager Neil Petherbridge, the Newcastle business has come a long way from a single person office to the well-known thriving business it is today, employing over 130 engineers, designers, draftspeople and business support team members.

Neil attributes this success to the quality of the people that the business has been able to attract.

“Businesses are only as good as their people. Murray Northrop, Northrop’s founder, left a great legacy of how to do business and thinking outside of the box, but ultimately, he was a people person and took a deep interest in his people.”

While Northrop Newcastle is now a successful business, there were challenges in the beginning.

“Coming off the back of ‘the recession we had to have’ with 18 per cent interest rates, there was very limited work in the region and lots of competition,” says Neil.

“It was either a feast or a famine. You were busy either trying to get work or trying to do the work. Finding the right people to build a great team when you didn’t have a reputation in the market was challenging. Massive fluctuations in workload were also difficult to manage as we started to win larger and larger projects.”

The practice of engineering has also changed a lot over the last 30 years.

“Initially we produced drawings on a drawing board using film. If you made a mistake you had to scratch it out and redraw it and you could only do this a couple of times before you went through the film.”

“Computer aided drafting was in its infancy and structural software was very basic. Complicated models could take all night to run and would often have errors and crash meaning you would have to start again the next morning,” continues Neil.

Great client partnerships led to amazing projects

Northrop has had a significant impact on Newcastle’s skyline having partnered with clients on many important projects.

The first being the Life Sciences Building at The University of Newcastle. This building was unique in its construction methodology and form. One of very few full precast buildings with a 21m cantilever on its northern end extending out over the road and a 6m cantilever to the west. Northrop developed a unique coupling system for joining the reinforcement in the precast element for this project. The building won an engineering excellence award in 2001.

Lee Wharf Stages 3,4 & 5, Harbour Pier and Azura soon followed reshaping Honeysuckle and Newcastle East.

Next was the Landmark building in Charlestown and the twin towers of Sky Central including the bridge over the Pacific Highway.

Then back to the city, Northrop completed The Lume, Huntington and The Verve Residences (currently the tallest building in Newcastle), the New Council Chambers, Newcastle East End Stage 1 and The Store Redevelopment.

Northrop was asked to design the Newcastle Memorial Walk. A highly collaborative job and fitting tribute to our diggers, the project won a national engineering excellence award - one of only six given out for all engineering disciplines across the entire country that year.

At the same time our land development team have been busy with a large range of projects covering everything from the promenade works stretching from Merewether Beach to the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club through to the brand new township of Huntlee that will house about 20,000 residents when complete.

Northrop has also been engaged to carry out structural and civil engineering services for the $835M John Hunter Health & Innovation Precinct. The project will deliver updated and enhanced facilities, providing additional capacity to meet the demand of the Greater Newcastle, Hunter New England and Northern NSW Regions.

“This project will not only create vital jobs and attract top talent to the region, it’ll put Newcastle on the map in terms of a world class health, education and innovation precinct” says Neil.

Supporting our local community

Just as our clients support us, Northrop realises the importance of giving back to our community.

The Newcastle business has donated to many local causes over the years including Port Stephen’s Koalas, Surfest and Coffs Harbour Life Saving Club, as well as supported national events including Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, World’s Greatest Shave and the Push-up Challenge.

Northrop Newcastle is also incredibly proud to be a gold sponsor of Ronald McDonald House, having raised more than $400K over the past 22 years to support the families of sick or injured children.

“Northrop’s donations to Ronald McDonald House over the years exceeds $400,000!! And this does not include their in-kind support that is also substantial.

The team at Northrop exemplify the ‘can do’ attitude where no matter how challenging the task (or short the time frame) they will work out a way to get it done.    

It has truly been a privilege to have had the backing of Northrop for the last 22 years as together we have been able to multiply our impact and make a real difference to the lives of seriously ill children and families across the Central Coast and Northern NSW region.”

Ross Bingham, Chief Executive Officer, Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern NSW – full testimonial

Where to from here?

The city of Newcastle has evolved over the past 30 years, with the Honeysuckle precinct coming to life and the rejuvenation currently being experienced in East End and Newcastle West.

“The project opportunities this has created has allowed Northrop Newcastle to evolve with the city,” says Mark Sturgess, Northrop Managing Partner.

“We’ve emerged as the preeminent engineering consultant in town, off the back of our strong partnerships with our amazing clients, and the ingenuity that Northrop’s people bring to our consulting services.”

“What is just as exciting for me is that the city, and surrounding LGAs like Lake Macquarie and the Hunter, are continuing to evolve, led by the transition to the green economy and continued growth as people continue to realise the lifestyle opportunities the Hunter can provide.”

“Northrop will continue to evolve with the area, supported by our focus on carbon neutral and climate resilient design services and our deep connection to the Hunter community.”




Principal | Managing Partner
Mark Sturgess

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