Macdonald & Lawrence: Wood experts wanted worldwide

Working in the Antarctic might seem like a long way to go for staff members from Mill Bay's Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd.

Working in the Antarctic might seem like a long way to go for staff members from Mill Bay’s Macdonald & Lawrence Timber Framing Ltd.

But conserving historic timber buildings, like those left over from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s missions to the cold continent at the bottom of the world in the early 1900s is just part of what the 12-year-old company does.

Macdonald & Lawrence, which currently employs almost 60 workers, designs and builds timber structures, and conserves and repairs historic buildings made from wood on Vancouver Island and all around the world.

The company’s work includes well-known European projects such as the building and installation of a new hammer-beam roof for Britain’s Stirling Castle, and the restoration of the fire-damaged Windsor Castle.

Mike Marshall, one of the four owners of M&L, said the company’s teams were involved with the construction of Richmond’s Minoru Aquatic Centre, which has a timber roof, and an ongoing project to build an 8,000 sq. ft. wooden outdoor deck at the Road House Bar at the Whistler ski resort. Locally, the Kinsol Trestle benefited from M&L’s expertise.

“We’re also involved with a lot of other major projects right now, but we are under non-disclosure agreements not to discuss them publicly,” Marshall said. “We’re a growing company and we’ve already spent about $10 million in the Mill Bay and Cowichan Valley areas since we started, including about $2 million in wages for our workers alone.”

The company had its beginnings with Gordon Macdonald, who was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, and Britain’s Stephen Lawrence.

Both had worked together in the wood-construction industry in Britain for 10 years before founding M&L.

Marshall joined the M&L team in 2013 and brought with him extensive knowledge of wood processing, design and construction.

His portfolio includes such well-known projects as the Richmond Olympic Oval and the Bow River Pedestrian Bridge.

The fourth owner is Greg Martin, the company’s current CEO, who brings his managerial and organizational skills to the table.

Marshall said the majority of the company’s staff are professional carpenters, with more than half coming from the Valley and surrounding areas, and the rest from around the world.

He said M&L also looks to suppliers from the Valley and surrounding areas, including Canadian Bavarian Millwork & Lumber and Duncan Iron Works, for as much of its supplies as possible.

“Assisting the local community is one of the stated values of the company, so each of us owners participates in the community in which we live in some professional manner,” he said.

“I live in Mill Bay and have M&L and myself active in the Rotary Club there and the many community projects the club is involved in. We’ve also donated our expertise and some supplies towards the construction of the new band shell in Brentwood Bay and the construction of viewing towers and trails in the Somenos Marsh. We’re always looking for ways to give back.”