True as a Compass


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-By Jaime McKee

In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, Australia’s construction industry has experienced an unexpected boom. Spurred by an aggressive stimulus package, new schools, government buildings, and commercial developments have continued to be erected at a breakneck pace. It would be easy, in such a climate, for a company to follow the trend towards growth, looking ever outwards to expand – easy, but not necessarily wise. In an industry and a world which is becoming increasingly globalised, one company has elected to stay true to a rather different value: localisation.

North Construction and Building Pty Ltd is a mid-size construction firm concentrating on civic, commercial, industrial, and multi-unit residential projects. With twenty years in the business, North has concentrated on building strong relationships with a core group of architects, designers, sub-contractors, and suppliers, and as such, it has built a client base as strong as its reputation. Located in Gosford, the company works primarily on the Central Coast, Sydney’s north side, and the Hunter region.

In a recent interview, Tim Cornish, North’s Managing Director, describes the importance of keeping the company local. He cites the many advantages that come with maintaining a regional focus: the long-term, loyal relationships North enjoys with its suppliers and sub-contractors; a locally-based workforce which need not commute more than an hour’s drive to the jobsite; the significant savings in transportation costs and timeframes North is able to offer its clients.

These elements are but a few of the competitive advantages North Construction and Building brings to the table; its exemplary reputation is another. North is known, Mr Cornish says, for paying its sub-contractors on time, managing its work sites well, and running jobs efficiently. “When clients engage us, they can be confident that the company will deliver the service.” Backed by a rigorous set of accredited quality processes, North’s strength lies not with an individual project manager’s CV, but with the entire company, the whole of the staff, the very systems underlying the work. North’s processes, says Mr Cornish, “give clients the confidence that regardless of which team they get, they’ll get the same delivery”. Such consistency of service means that North enjoys a great deal of repeat business, and has become the go-to construction firm for a number of local architects.

Another area where North sets itself apart from the competition is at the tendering stage. Thanks to the loyalty and support of its core group of trades, a rigorous cost reporting and forecasting system, and its reputation for timely payments, North consistently comes in as the lowest tenderer. From the commencement of its service, the company then continues to work with its contractors to develop innovative, value-added designs which save clients money. Says Mr Cornish, “we use our experience to look for alternate, cost-effective ways to do the job, without compromising the quality. We add value all the way through the process.”

North is also quick to identify risks and plan strategies to mitigate them. The firm carefully reviews each design for feasibility and future sustainability, looking at such factors as durability of materials, potential ingress of water, and environmental considerations. This assessment process, paired with North’s continuous onsite monitoring, ensures a quality outcome.

Such comprehensive systems have enabled North to take on significant and high profile projects. The Avondale Retirement Village Aged Care Facility represents an excellent example of the company’s attention to cost reduction; initially tendered at $28 million, North worked with the client, Seventh Day Adventist Aged Care, and architect NG Sanders and Associates to scale back the budget, completing the project for approximately $24 million and in a period of only 60 weeks. The firm was awarded a Master Builders Association Award for 2008 Commercial Projects Over $20M. North was similarly awarded for its work on the iconic Cessnock Community Performing Arts Centre. A winner of the 2009 Extensions, Renovations & Refurbishments Over $2M MBA Award, the construction pulled together two heritage buildings, with a new contemporary structure nestled between. The work included asbestos removal, demolition of existing buildings, and retention and remedial works associated with the heritage facades. Even faced with challenges such as an open stormwater channel that severely hampered access, North completed the project in just 44 weeks and to a very high technical standard.

Mr Cornish is quick to assign credit for these successes to his staff. As Managing Director, Mr Cornish is responsible for all aspects of projects from tender through to completion, yet he cites North’s significant staff retention, heavy apprentice and cadet recruitment, and strong training and support programs as reasons for the company’s success. “Looking after our staff,” he says, “is certainly something we spend a lot of time on.” The company’s Vision, Mission, and Values statement is communicated – and its principles extended – to all staff, and efforts are made to treat all team members “equitably and with dignity”. These elements, predicts Mr Cornish, should enable North’s workforce to outlast the inevitable end of the economic stimulus package, and even to grow beyond it.

North Construction and Building prides itself on its professional and ethical approach. Building strong relationships, and working cooperatively with clients, sub-contractors, and all levels of staff, are top priorities for the growing company. Ultimately, Mr Cornish says, North is “a local company that is committed to the protection of the environment in which we live and work”. One gets the sense that this environment refers not only to the natural surroundings of the Central Coast, but to the community and culture that Mr Cornish and his distinguished colleagues have built for the team at North. A locally-based company North may be, but it is clear that this firm has a vision for the future, and is here to stay for the long term.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

June 2, 2020, 2:31 PM AEST