A company that cares
Based in Britain’s south west, Totus Engineering Ltd (Totus) is a leading Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) firm that continues to exceed expectations by putting its customers first
Standing out in a crowded market is never easy, but for Totus the recipe has always been simple. In a sector dominated by large corporations hobbled by bureaucracy and often detached from their clients, Totus is different; Totus is a company that cares.
“The business was formed in 2010 by three of its current Directors,” Totus Founder Jeremy Kent explains. “We were all keen to come out of a cumbersome and often bureaucratic PLC environment where topics like a reduction in carbon emissions were only soundbites, rather than an embedded desire. My fellow founders and I had a passion to build a business based not only on good engineering principles, but also on strong ethics when dealing with clients and our supply chain alike. At the time, we knew that as a small business setting out on its journey, we cared deeply about our employees and our clients and that was something that would ultimately help to grow the company organically to the size it has become today.”
A dynamic mechanical and electrical engineering company, Totus operates primarily in the education, health, defence, leisure, and commercial sectors. The firm’s diverse skill set enables it to deliver a whole range of projects that suit both buoyant and leaner times.
“Our typical project values range between £20,000 and £10 million,” Commercial Director Antony Martin says. “We don’t set project limits on value at the lower or upper end as we believe we shouldn’t be prescriptive to our clients if they believe their project is right for us.
“Each sector we operate in brings about its own challenges and rewards. For example, designing and installing engineering services within hospitals is complex work within stringent standards, but ultimately it allows our engineers to utilise all of their skills on something very rewarding. We also have sub-sectors such as heritage work within Grade I and Grade II listed buildings that give us the satisfaction that we are contributing to a historical building’s future. Great care and attention go into all of our work and the satisfaction of completing a space for the end user which is practical, efficient, and exceeds their expectations is hugely rewarding for us.”
Though Totus has carried out almost £1.5 million of work in Africa for the Medical Research Council, the majority of the company’s projects have been based in the UK. With three offices in the south west of the country, and an understanding of the intricate variations in the local marketplace, Totus is currently playing a role in the two-year transformation of Truro’s Hall for Cornwall. Working with Kier, Totus was awarded a contract for the MEP installation, which involves a complete overhaul of all building services, including the technical aspect of working in partnership with specialist contractors to install new stage lighting, audio, and visual features. As the project enters its final stages, a detailed commissioning process is due to commence in December 2020 before completion is expected in the spring of 2021.
“We are currently involved in a £10 million mixed development scheme for Kier on behalf of Royal London at Glassfields in Bristol,” Jeremy adds. “The project consists of 20 floors of high-end office accommodation and a 200 bed ‘Leonardo’ brand hotel for Jury’s Inn. In order to reduce carbon emissions by a further 20 per cent over and above current building regulation requirements, an innovative air source heat pump solution was designed for the hot water system to serve the hotel.”
Earlier in 2020, as the true impact of Covid-19 began to be felt across the UK, Totus was contacted by construction company BAM, who was in the midst of negotiations with Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust regarding the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter. Approached to help deliver the MEP installation, Jeremy and the Totus team were understandably proud to be offered the opportunity to support a development that would provide 116 beds within an Intensive Care Unit at a time of national emergency.
“We were immediately keen to be part of something special and that would leave a legacy for the people of the south west long after the pandemic was over,” Jeremy states. “We have extensive experience working with the NHS and are currently carrying out more than £3 million of work direct to the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust where, following the successful completion of Phase 1 during 2019, we were delighted to be awarded a contract for the upgrade of two more theatres and generator works.
“In the role of Principal Contractor, we have considerable experience of managing not only the mechanical and electrical aspects of projects within live environments, but also the surveying, structural, building, and fire protection elements. The same delivery model has been applied to other projects, differentiating us from our competitors and giving the end user one single point of contact.”
Over the last five years, Totus has experienced significant growth and hopes to record a turnover of £25 million over the coming financial year. As the company prepares to celebrate its tenth year in business, Antony suggests that at the root of Totus’ success lies a history of repeat custom generated by the company’s commitment to its core philosophy.
“Consistency in quality and project delivery has been key to our client retention,” he declares. “We care about our employees and we care about our clients and we care about the buildings that we work in. We have never been driven by turnover and our growth has purely come from repeat business and other new clients wanting to understand how Totus can bring something different, as our reputation for being non-confrontational and non-contractual is well recognised. All we ask for is early engagement to enable us to give our clients the best advice in terms of cost, carbon emissions, and robustness of design. We prefer to work in an open book environment on a two-stage tendering process where quality, technical ability, experience, commitment to a zero-carbon environment and health and safety can be assessed alongside our commercial offering.
“Over the years, we have found that we can stay competitive because we have in-house delivery teams for IT and data cabling, air conditioning and ventilation ductwork, whereas most of our competitors outsource these processes. Our core principle of not being driven by bottom line margins – as is so often the case within larger organisations – gives us a competitive edge, enabling us to make decisions regarding our clients that may be driven by loyalty and support rather than just commercial matters.”
As the Government continues to ease Coronavirus regulations, Totus now has 95 per cent of its sites open and is progressing towards being fully operational. Enquiries regarding future business are on the increase and Jeremy is confident that the market will remain buoyant, especially as it is clear that the country needs inward investment in particular within the health, manufacturing and pharmaceutical sectors following the pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“We are finding most of our new enquiries to be of quality and within a tendering mechanism where sound engineering, innovation, and proof of carbon reduction can be scored alongside the commercial price,” Jeremy reveals. “Progress on-site still needs to be carefully planned to maintain social distancing and this has taken an extraordinary effort from our main contractors, our project managers and site teams who have endeavoured to maintain the health and wellbeing of everyone whilst still achieving the efficiencies needed for our projects to run smoothly and on time.”
Right first time
Against the odds, 2020 has also been a positive year for Totus in terms of investment. Over the last 12 months, the company has significantly enhanced its building information modelling (BIM) capabilities, as well as investing in hardware to run its Revit software that enables the firm to integrate MEP services from RIBA Stage 3 onwards.
“These are significant steps for Totus,” Jeremy remarks, “and they provide considerable benefits to the programme and the quality of our ‘right first time’ approach, as well as allowing us to present more accurate information to our clients, consultants, and end users.”
Totus’ first ten years in business have created a solid foundation from which the company can now grow and expand over the next decade. Though still relatively small in comparison to its competitors, the firm will continue to compete with much larger organisations because it does things differently.
“As a business, we are different because of our approach,” Antony reiterates. “Our consideration and the quality of our delivery to back it up, are really what set us apart. We care about what we do. We wouldn’t be where we are in terms of our market position if that were not true.”
Services: Mechanical and electrical engineering services company