Construction & Property Development Articles
Last week saw the second running of Green Building Day, the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) symposium on environmentally sustainable construction. Representatives from building and construction companies from all over the country descended on Sydney to discuss the trends and opportunities that will influence the future of sustainable construction in Australia.
There are numerous issues that will affect green construction works in Australia, from the changing way we work and shop to the vagaries of the Asian economies. However, one factor is unlikely to change any time soon and that is our continued interest in green design and construction – in Sydney, Australia and globally.
Orjan Lundberg, the GBCA’s Director of Green Star Operations, discussed the real impact of the Green Star certifications at Green Building Day. Based on data collected over the past 10 years, Lundberg revealed the impressive legacy of Green Star certified buildings: thousands of cars off the roads, millions of litres of drinking water kept in our dams and thousands of truckloads of waste kept out of landfill. The next phase of Lundberg’s research will focus on the financial value of Green Star certification.
If our experience as a Sydney design and construction company is anything to go by, Lundberg will likely find that Green Star certifications represent good value for money. Australian clients are highly green aware and sustainability is increasingly cited as a consideration when planning construction works.
Health is a major consideration for clients when it comes to choosing green building materials. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), for example, have been found to cause all manner of respiratory problems and allergies, particularly in babies and young children. And certain paints, carpets and treated wood products have also been shown to contribute to the degradation of a building’s air quality.
Landfill is also a consideration for green aware clients undertaking construction works. By using more environmentally sensitive (i.e. biodegradable) building materials, construction companies are able to reduce the amount of waste they generate, thereby saving landfill space.
There are a number of ways for clients and design and construction companies alike to contribute to a greener building industry. Salvaging existing materials for use in renovations and new builds is a great, cost-effective solution. Using recycled materials in another, as is using materials from sustainably grown forests. Eliminating the use of products that pollute or that are born of toxic manufacturing processes is another way that construction companies and clients can contribute to the greening of the Australian building industry. Finally, by giving preference to locally produced materials, the construction industry can reduce transport burdens and, therefore, reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There is no doubt that the future of Australian building will be green. And we believe that is a good thing – for clients, construction companies and the environment.
When you engage a building company to carry out any kind of construction works, you want to be sure that you are dealing with professionals. Specifically, you want to know a few things.
First, it is important that the company is financially sound. The last thing you want is to get involved with some fly-by-nighter.
Second, it is important that your building company of choice is known for doing quality work. Going back to your builder with a laundry list of repairs is never fun.
And third, prior to beginning any construction works, it is paramount that you establish the company’s OH&S bona fides. In this increasingly litigious society of ours it is absolutely crucial that you deal with a company that is committed to a safe workplace.
Of course, there are other things you might want to know—for instance, a company’s environmental policies—but how do you establish with any degree of certainty that your preferred builder is up to the task? You ask to see their certifications.
A building company will typically be certified across a range of areas including OH&S, Environment, and Quality. At Patterson Building Group, we hold certifications in:
- Quality Assurance to AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008: Quality Management Systems
- Australian Government Building and Construction OHS Scheme
- Occupational Health & Safety Accreditation to AS/NZS 4801-2001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems
- Environmental Management to AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004: Environmental Management Systems
- Best Practice Prequalification with the Department of Finance and Services
- Commitment to National Code for Practice for the Construction Industry
All our certifications were subject to rigorous Best Practice Accreditations by an independent, third party auditor. That is key.
Independent audits provide verification of a company’s systems and processes. They are useful for businesses because they provide a baseline from which continual improvement in certain areas can be measured, and they are important for clients due to the confidence they inspire.
And Best Practice Accreditations do not just involve a bunch of box ticking. The process invariably highlights areas where an organisation can improve its practices. And a good audit will also highlight areas where a business is performing well, so that other departments or divisions may implement the successful practices and/or processes.
For us, as a Sydney construction company, Best Practice Accreditations allow us to tender for new work. This is particularly true if we are talking about university construction contracts or government work. And they inspire confidence in our prospective clients, which is invaluable to our continued growth.
Anyone who has ever experienced an apartment building by a certain large property developer who, in the interests of propriety shall remain nameless, can attest the level of finish in many new Sydney construction projects often leaves a lot to be desired. From cheap finishes to plaster thin walls and poor plumbing, Sydney residents and businesses have been subjected to sub-standard construction by Sydney developers for years now.
It is not difficult to see how we got to this point. The construction market in Sydney is highly competitive and developers are always working to a price. And that price necessarily dictates the level of finish, quality of workmanship and attention to detail. But we believe in delivering quality every time.
While other building contractors in Sydney are bent on squeezing out every last percentage of profit margin, our focus has always been on excellence in construction first and foremost. For one thing, we take pride in our work and have no desire to be known as anything other than a company that produces quality work. Secondly, we firmly believe that we are only as good as our last project and we simply cannot afford the bad PR that seems to follow some of the bigger players from development to development. And, of course, it should go without saying that we want our clients to have the best possible work that their budget allows.
Value is important, too. We want our projects to represent good value for money to our clients on the day we’re engaged to carry out the work and for years to come. And by delivering a quality offering, we go some way to realising that goal. For us, quality equals value. Quality ensures comfort, durability and return on investment.
No matter what the job is – whether it is a new house or a refurbished university dorm – at PBG we make sure we get it right the first time. The last thing we want is a client coming back to us in a year’s time with a laundry list of problems. It’s also the last thing that any client wants.
Now, why should you trust PBG?
Well, for one thing, we’re not the biggest building contractor in Sydney, so we have no choice but to try harder than some of the bigger boys. That said, we’ve been in the construction game in for 18 years and have successfully delivered quality projects worth in excess of $200 million. And being quality builds, we believe the results will continue to speak for themselves well into the future.
Trust is something you should expect from building companies that advertise high standards of service of design and construction. Alas, there are endless examples where building companies have broken this trust and left their clients frustrated and disappointed with the building industry. Patterson Building Group is here to meet expectations by living up to its promises of excellence, reliability and passion.
Undoubtedly, there have been instances where you’ve required the services of a tradesperson – whether you’re considering building work, or indeed in the event of an emergency. Perhaps your method of selecting the “right company” entailed a quick flick through the phone book or a Google search. Here is where the problem lies – you’re placing your trust and building project in the hands of a company you know very little about.
At Patterson Building Group, we encourage you to take on board the following advice so you have a building company at your service that’s as equally committed to the positive outcome of your project as you are.
First things first, shop around! Patterson Building Group is confident enough with our versatility, reliability and cost-effectiveness for you to compare our services with competitor building companies. By shopping around online for various building and construction companies, you should be able to locate satisfied customer testimonials with ease, proving these companies live up to their accreditation they claim. No testimonials, no trust.
Secondly, compare quotes. Patterson Building Group tailors our quotes to our clients’ budgets and projects. Value for money is an important factor – and while Patterson Building Group makes budgets work as hard as possible, we never compromise on the quality of design and structure. Be wary of building companies who promise to cut costs – they may deliver an equally substandard job.
And finally, if it’s not in writing, it’s a write-off. All building and construction quotations should be received in writing. If your current builder hasn’t provided you with a written quotation, you could be in line for disputes, miscommunications and overall legal wrangling. Patterson Building Group’s written quotations steer clear of any confusion. A detailed breakdown of design and construction with costs attached to each item reduces our clients’ uncertainty and builds trust.
At Patterson Building Group, we place our clients’ building and construction needs at the highest level of importance. We boast a reliable record of projects that do not cut corners, extort uninformed clients or go beyond timing and budget for the sake of exploiting your business. Trust is a key value that Patterson Building Group has built upon solid foundation.
Design trends for 2013 and beyond
Commercial project designers and architects are on the leading edge of a new era within the construction industry, and building and construction companies are bringing a whole new generation of ideas to life.
One of the leading trends within the construction industry, particularly within the green building movement, will be biomimicry – using patterns found in nature and biological systems in efficient designs and engineering.
The building and construction industry has been the hallmark of civilisations throughout history. With each passing era, the resourcefulness and skill of those realising the ever-changing design landscape has brought modern building and construction virtually to the point of science, and this new trend will be no different. The building and construction companies able to adapt will thrive, those that struggle from the outset will simply cease to exist.
Beauty more than skin deep
The exciting thing about the green building movement is that notes from nature will not only be evident in the façade. Natural designs have inspired many architects to even explore hive-like structures to streamline and improve cooling and ventilation systems in building, copying habitats from nature to improve efficiency – greater numbers of people able to fit in the same space with more room than is currently being utilised.
The wisdom of Mother Nature will become far more prevalent in both aesthetic and functional design.
Other trends appearing to make comebacks are modular design and prefabrication – both time efficiency and sustainability being some of the primary arguments for these blasts from the past making re-appearances.
Architects, project owners and general contractors all hail these methods as being faster and greener than many existing methods, as well as helping lower building and operating costs.
The introduction of energy-efficient glass is predicted to increase as well, meaning we’ll be seeing less of the drab concrete facades and more of the mirrored effect – a great thing if you’re a glass cleaning contractor!
Over the coming years, the construction landscape is poised to go through a reboot of sorts. Many evolving techniques and design elements will begin to proliferate, casting outdated and inefficient methods currently being used to a dinosaur-esque conclusion. Environmental responsibility, energy conservation and resource management are hand-in-hand with unhindered imagination to bring about an entirely new and exciting era of design and construction.
February 1, 2013, signals the implementation of the Federal Government’s new Building Codes, replacing the existing Implementation Guidelines for the National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry. They’re designed to operate together with supporting guidelines that set out Commonwealth procurement obligations.
The Government’s main aim with the introduction of the new Code is to streamline the entire process, giving building and construction companies, irrespective of location nationally, one set of rules to be governed by – there are some who are already hailing the freeing up of red tape and delays by having one national Code. It will be interesting to see how the new Code functions practically. We’ll definitely keep you posted on this.
Basically now, any expression of interest or tender for specified building work after this date falls straight under the new Code. Any building contractors or building industry participants covered by any version of the Guidelines will be subject to the Code, irrespective of when any tender of expression of interest was submitted for the Commonwealth funded building work. This means the new Code applies retrospectively where appropriate.
So, what are the main changes then?
- The Code gives additional guidance on the behaviour expected during the enterprise agreement bargaining process.
- Building contractors and building industry participants must not refuse due consideration to a proposal on the ground that a third party has indicated it will not procure, or will only procure, services from a person covered by an industrial instrument that contains a particular provision.
- The new Code also stipulates that notification of breaches, voluntary remedial action, or other matters relating to the Code, must be registered within 21 days of having become aware of such situations. This notification must be lodged with the Director of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.
The onus is thus on all building industry participants to be aware of, and implement any necessary changes within their organisation to comply with the new Code.
Any questions, issues or queries should be directed to a member of the Workplace Relations and Safety team – it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when we’re talking commercial building-scale projects.
Like anything when it comes to grants, if your application is to be taken seriously, an extraordinary amount of preparation work needs to be done.
Firstly, and most importantly in the whole process is reason. Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you, for the council, or your neighbours?
Keep in mind that a council is made of people, and most people really do want to help other people. But if they were to help everyone that asked it, they’d be spending far more than they were earning. Obviously, it’s wise to cull.
If your building project is also serving a need for the council, or performing a service that the community will benefit from, you’re far more likely to be taken seriously. In saying that, it’s still quite hard to actually secure a government grant for a building project – and we’re not saying this to entertain negativity, rather because these situations crave honesty and realism.
So, let’s go from the standpoint that the council has deemed your project to be something that can benefit both yourself and them (the council), and they feel that this is also in the interest of the community at large, what are the next steps?
Well, you really need to present every side of your argument. If you’ve done all the work for the council, and they feel as though you’re being upfront with them, success is far more likely. If they have to go and perform all manner of inspections or impact reports, your building report is probably going to end up in the rejection pile – with all the other ones.
So, you’ve outlined the positive sides of your project, what are the negatives ones – both long-term and short-term? Are you going to require extensive rubbish removal? Will there be a marked increased in heavy vehicle traffic? What environmental impact will the building project have? What are potential noise issues? What potential damage can occur to protected features of an existing building – every single thing needs to be considered. In this situation, architects engineers and competent builders will be your best friends.
And don’t just settle for the first ones that come along. Try and find those professionals that have done this sort of thing before; that have had the experience (and potentially the right contacts) with council procedures – that know the sorts of things they’ll expect. Now, this is beginning to sound a little scarier from a financial standpoint, isn’t it? But consider things from the council’s perspective – if you’re not willing to spend the necessary money to present a thorough report and submit a comprehensive application, why would they be willing to spend any money on doing these things? Whether you like it or not, this partnership is going to rely on you being the assertive, active one.
It’s their money you’re trying to get after all.
There are countless aspects to contract negotiations. If you‘re dealing with good negotiators, the process can be quite smooth, but smooth doesn’t necessarily mean good for you, either. Fine print has the potential to hide many things. It’s impossible to know whether you’re dealing with total honesty at every step of the way; now we’re not saying everyone is out to rip you off – quite the opposite. Generally, people are honest and do business honestly, but there are the select few that have ulterior motives. All we’re saying is be wary.
Like any negotiations, it’s a process; back and forth, ironing out, amending. Our purpose with this is to provide a few simple tips that can really empower you throughout the whole process, ensuring it does run as smoothly as possible.
The best thing you can do is your homework. We cannot stress this enough. Proper preparation about what your project involves will be your strongest asset. You will speak with authority and feel far more included through the whole thing. Rather than be told what should happen, your opinion will be sought throughout, and you’ll feel a genuine sense of ownership for the project. This is part of being a good negotiator.
You might also be entering a whole new vocabulary here – most importantly, do not be afraid to ask what terms and expressions mean. You should never agree to something you don’t know the meaning of – exercise humility often if needed.
Good negotiators are also flexible, and tend to solve problems easily – and this includes both sides of negotiations. Which means you as well. If your partners (and let’s be honest they are partners for the duration of your project) can see you’re willing to be flexible, it’s remarkable how much more flexible they can be, and actually, the quality of solutions to problems. Will is the key here, if they see you viewing them as a partners, they’ll move Heaven and Earth to solve just about anything.
Also, don’t feel awkward about talking price. The whole project is running on what things costs – materials, services and more, so you’ll find most people are also willing to negotiate when talking price. Again, if you present an open, honest side, that’s generally what you’ll be greeted with.
Regardless of whether they represent owners, design professionals or contractors, effective negotiators enter into potentially difficult negotiations in essentially the same manner. They solve problems. Make no mistake – there will be plenty of problems, unforseens and unexpecteds. Expecting these will ensure your sanity is somewhat intact at the project’s completion.
And when you work with the right partner, they will work towards a project’s completion that will put a smile on every face. We always have.
Living and working on a building site
This may not apply to everyone, but if you find yourself living on your building site, the keyword here is flexibility. Yours. Life will not be the same – it’s easy to scoff at this statement, but it’s also very casually considered when planning. Life will be vastly different. You will not be comfortable, you will not be relaxed, it will be tough; it will test your mental and emotional strength.
Now, down to business:
Whether you’re living on a building site, or just want to keep things moving, the rules are roughly the same. It firstly helps to have a plan. We’re not talking about building plans or architectural plans – we’re talking practical. What is practically viable to start with? Do you need to divide your house into quadrants, or thirds, and concentrate on one piece at a time? Do you need to confront something in its totality, throughout the house, before you think of doing anything else?
If you’re re-doing the floors, you need to consider whether you think it’s best to do the floors first, or last. There are very good arguments for both. If the floor joists and beams need replacing, we’d suggest the floor is your first consideration. Things can get very dusty, and broken, if you’re dealing with floor joists and beams as your last project. Ask your builder for his recommendations. He’s there for this very reason. If you’re doing things yourself there are a few essentials. Running water makes life much easier; keep the water running, keep the project running. Also, a bath is a great unwinder after a hard day’s work. If you’re powerless, in the AC/DC sense, you’re going to need to organise something to deal with this. Which leads onto our second point – good planning.
Good planning is essential – no matter how generous, there aren’t many neighbours that will appreciate you waking them up at 6.30am, extension cord in hand, wanting to “borrow” their electricity; especially if you’ve been waking them up every other morning with the trusty ol’ hammer. Tee this up well in advance.
Also, there is nothing more frustrating than being delayed from progressing because you’re waiting for something to arrive. Timber, tools, it doesn’t matter – it’s a delay. Plan and pre-order.
Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions, either; true gold is revealed in dumb questions – and you can bet your bottom dollar they won’t be the dumbest questions the guy at the building supplies shop has been asked. Also, it’s their job to know things. They are a wealth of information.
Weather can be unpredictable, but if there’s a roof over your head, work doesn’t have to stop.
Simply by putting a little thinking and some common sense into your building site, work need never stop. It will make life so much easier
Trains are generally considered a backbone of national transportation. Late or not, trains help keep countries, and businesses, running as best they can. And arriving with every train also comes mountains of considerations in the construction of rail sites, stations and other core requirements within the rail sector.
Lets’ face it, any commercial construction company can build to specifications – that’s why specifications exist, so they can be understood by anyone in the industry. But in our game, experience counts for more than anything.
Common sense will tell you first time around for anything is going to be riddled with obstacles, as you get a feel for things. Having worked through more than just a handful of rail projects, we’ve finely developed the ability to pre-empt potential obstacles, confront them before they arise, and transcend them as best we can. And this is really about more than simply problems, but rather processes – what things do on rail projects, how they should run, and the best ways to allow as smooth a process as humanly possible. We know this business really well.
Have you got the time?
When you know something back-to-front, apart from being able to place more focus on the standard of your work (as opposed to learning as you go), time is a massive element, or rather, the saving of said time. How many of us have to ‘think’ about walking? Have you ever watched a child learning how to walk? Slow, cumbersome. Experience has meant we can now run – fast.
Just a few other things to Consider:
- Stations and railway buildings are often built alongside – or under, or over – other rail infrastructure elements such as track, bridges and structures, electrical distribution, overhead wiring, signals and communications. Things as simple as a walkway take on a whole new dimension when there are potential dangers at every turn, so efficient design is imperative. This goes beyond simply improving traffic flow, encompassing such aspects as safety efficiency and comfort.
- Now consider the above in the event of peak hour traffic, or fire, or flood, or any other disaster scenario; they once again take on another level of difficulty.
- A large amount of maintenance and development work on stations and building assets can only be undertaken safely when trains are not running, making constructability and maintenance important considerations in design of new stations and buildings, or alterations and additions to existing ones.
Everything we’ve done as a commercial construction company has been an opportunity to learn, take on board what we’ve learned, and implement appropriate actions. Our clients will see this from the very beginning – Patterson Building Group are not just a construction company, we’re commercial construction experts, and this is mainly thanks to our vast experience.