Unsung heroes work under the radar

30 November 2023

Eight staff members of the St Andrew's College Grounds and Facilities team.


St Andrew’s is renowned for its stunning environment, with impressive buildings and teaching and learning centres, nestled on 13 hectares of beautiful park-like grounds.

People and Business Manager, Justine Scott, says a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to keep the campus in tip-top shape, and functioning at its best for students, staff, and the community. “With a significant number of buildings including 120 classrooms to maintain, and the high standards that are expected of our grounds and gardens, Facilities Manager, Mark McGregor, and his team do an amazing job keeping the campus looking and performing at its best. They are among the College’s unsung heroes.”

Mark McGregor joined St Andrew’s as the Facilities Manager 10 years ago and says the continual development of the campus over that period is a highlight. “The campus is very impressive, and we haven’t stopped building since I’ve been here. I enjoy being part of the planning and design phase of new projects, attending site meetings, and acting as a liaison with the contractors during construction.”

The Grounds and Facilities team has six permanent staff with two very distinct roles – grounds maintenance and facilities maintenance. Mark oversees both sides of the operation, but in his day-to-day role, is more practically involved with the College’s vertical infrastructure. He is well supported by Head Groundskeeper, Mike Seaward, who manages the Grounds team. “Mike has just clocked up over 30 years at the College and does a fantastic job . As well as keeping the grounds highly presentable, the Grounds team look after the sports fields, which is a significant ongoing project. College Custodian, Mike Johnston, supports the team by doing a lot of great work on the cricket wickets. Mike Seaward has introduced lots of new initiatives which have really improved how we operate in the grounds maintenance space.”

The College is fully irrigated to optimise water efficiency. All gardens are on controllers and a drip feed system comes on at night to minimise water usage. In 1996, 72 popup sprinklers were introduced on the front fields, and an Aquaflex monitoring system was introduced in 2009 to take accurate soil temperature and moisture readings. In 2022, this was replaced with a new satellite image system, which monitors moisture, temperature, salinity, and soil fertility. “The present irrigation system on the front field is being updated with new more efficient and reliable sprinklers, which can be operated by Bluetooth to improve water control. We’ve also introduced the latest technology in wetting agents with excellent results” says Mike Seaward.

Contract arborists assist the Grounds team with tree maintenance. The health and maintenance of Strowan Stream is also looked after by the Grounds team. Mike places a big emphasis on sustainability, and health and safety, especially when it comes to the products used in various areas of the campus. “All products are organic and safe for the operator as well as pupils and the environment".

Students on campus grounds by flagpole.Carrying out building maintenance on a large, bustling campus with over 2000 people moving around, takes careful planning, says Facilities Manager, Mark McGregor. “It’s definitely a challenge to do the work alongside student activity. During the school terms we do a lot of planning, so we can complete most of the maintenance projects during the term breaks, unless there is a safety issue, then we figure out how to get the job done straight away. We’re lucky to have a loyal, long-term contractor base, who understands our work environment and accommodates that.”

The boarding houses add a level of complexity, given they are regularly leased out during term breaks, says Mark. “There are lots of challenges, but we all work in together with College and Boarding management to get the work done.”

The Facilities team uses the latest technology to provide efficiencies including the Frankie maintenance request system, says Mark. “Any issues come in via the system, are processed by us, and allocated to contractors or staff via the Frankie app. All our new builds and most of our existing buildings have a building management system (BMS) which controls when the heating and external lighting are turned on and off, which has resulted in power savings and extends the life of the mechanical plant in the buildings.”

Mark and his team are responsible for all the buildings’ Warrants of Fitness at the College, and also at Castle Hill, where they maintain the buildings and do a lot of work to ensure building compliance.

The new Drop Zone area for picking up and dropping off students was another project that fell under the Facilities team, which has resulted in a ‘massive gain’ from a healthy and safety perspective.

In the facilities area, Mark is supported by 2IC, Perry Storr. “Perry is my right-hand man on the buildings side and does a lot of the contractor engagement work. He is also the driving force behind the purchase, maintenance, and safety of the College’s vans and trailers, and is really proactive when it comes to recycling around the campus.”

The Grounds and Facilities teams also look after the various houses owned by the College, which are lived in by House tutors and staff, both on campus, and in the nearby vicinity.

Mark says doing their work ‘under the radar’ is the way it should be for the Grounds and Facilities team. “We are lucky to have such great staff who are passionate about the College and presenting the campus and buildings to a high standard. We couldn’t do it without them and are very lucky to also have such great support from College management.”

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