Designing the Future of NSW

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-By Aleisha Parr

The Australian GFC was a game changer in many important ways within the construction industry. Most notably for NSW public domain specialists GMW Urban, it skewed the industry to focus primarily on government projects after private projects were cut due to budget shortages. With this shift, the competitive market became flooded by companies all trying to get the edge on one another and ultimately stay afloat through the difficult times by any means necessary – thereby diminishing the general quality of work while also swelling the competition for pre-established industry specialists who rely on such tenders as their bread and butter.

GMW Urban, since its inception just over eight years ago, has always specialised in public domain works, with about ninety-five per cent of all of its work tendered through government agencies. The breadth of work undertaken in this area by GMW Urban varies across four areas – streetscape and town centre upgrades; landscape construction; design and construct; and pure construction – and can include anything from a street upgrade, to the construction of a community centre or library or aquatic centre, right through to construction of public buildings.

Explains Brett Beauchamp, Managing Director of GMW Urban, “At the height of the GFC it was pretty ferocious because private development basically shut down . . . what has sustained GMW through both the GFC – and now coming out of the GFC – has been our reputation with local and state government authorities and the fact that we do focus on that market area rather than just opportunistically entering it once another area got tight. We were there before the GFC, we were there during the GFC and we still operate in that area. So our focus, our relationships with clients, and our reputation have sustained us through the last two to three years.”

Though private construction projects are now generally back on track the market is still highly competitive. GMW Urban’s ability to weather the storm through maintaining its quality outputs and nurturing its relationships has resulted in the mid-sized company’s continued growth in both capabilities and prestige. Instrumental in this has been GMW Urban’s focus on providing premium, high-end design solutions which require more complicated design work and a high level of quality controls.

This can be seen in some of GMW’s signature projects, such as the design and construction of the Brickpit Ring at Sydney Olympic park; the construction of 1.8 km of Glebe Point Road for the City of Sydney; the full upgrade of George Street through The Rocks; and the design and construction of Western Sydney Parklands Cycle pathways between Leppington and Quakers Hill. These projects demonstrate the unique specialities and strengths of GMW Urban and have helped the company to develop into the strong organisation it is today.

Furthermore, Brett Beauchamp attributes the company’s success to the passion of the individuals who work together within the organisation. “We also genuinely take pleasure from those projects because once you win them, once you build them, they’re there for a long time and they affect a lot of people, so in terms of affecting our culture, it’s not like we’re producing a soft drink, it’s not like we’re churning out t-shirts, we’re actually designing and building things that become part of our community for a long time.”

GMW Urban was established in 2003 to provide necessary public domain upgrade solutions by a group of three partners – Bob Matchett, Andrew Gifford and Scott Williams – each bringing with them unique experience in providing public domain solutions and the passion to provide lasting community upgrades. Together, the three partners grew the business to include public building and civil projects. Brett Beauchamp, the company’s first employee, has evolved alongside the original three and currently serves as General Manager, overseeing a staff of approximately eighty full-time employees and a vast array of sub-contracted specialists.

Recounts Brett, “We simply started by taking our organisation to councils and offering them a solutions-focussed, energetic building company that would take on board their projects, will work with them, will deliver their projects, and do that in a way that’s more akin to partnership than traditional contracting.”

This commitment to partnerships is most evident in GMW Urban’s proactive approach to problem solving, whereby the company undertakes to focus on the design from the start of each project so as to achieve insight into issues which might be present and forecast them earlier to minimise variations in project completion. Bob Matchett, one of the three founders and Managing Director, explains how this process “will not only benefit the project but maybe make it a better construction option or give [the client] a better quality option at no additional cost, without having an impact on the program.”

To accomplish this, the company maintains a youthful vigour. With most staff – including all three founders – under the age of forty-five, Bob Matchett says they are able to bring a unique energy to projects, which differentiates them as forward-thinking, dynamic strategists. He says, “When our clients work with GMW they’re working with a group of people that want to get up in the morning and want to get into the meetings and want to actually solve the problems. So as a culture, we like to think that we’re a bit more energetic and . . . we still want to grow, we still want to enter new market areas. The things that excite us are more interesting, slightly more complicated, definitely more high-design type projects, be they high-design buildings or a town centre where good quality landscaping is involved.”

All told, the company now turns over a yearly profit of $40 million; a figure which Bob Matchett indicates is only the tip of the iceberg of this dedicated company’s capabilities. He reports that local government authorities as well as state government in NSW and in other states across Australia are continuing to increase demand for high-functioning public spaces and public facilities. In order to continue to meet this demand, GMW Urban plans to pursue these larger, more intricate projects in accordance with its guiding principles, refusing to compromise on quality. Says Mr Matchett, “[We must] embrace the fact that communities are demanding more from these things and bring that attitude to our projects and every meeting; then that attitude will underpin our future success.”

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’?

January 18, 2021, 9:30 PM AEDT