Building Partnerships

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

When it comes to construction, building designs may have changed over the decades, but quality workmanship never goes out of style. For the past 60 years, Cox Constructions Pty Ltd has been at the forefront of many of South Australia’s general commercial structures, churches and schools, and has earned a great deal of respect and repeat businesses from companies and institutions like McDonald’s restaurants, Mobil petroleum, Shell petroleum, local and state governments, and the Catholic Church.

Comprising Cox Constructions Pty Ltd and Mykra Pty Ltd (trading as Cox Asset Services), Cox Constructions realises business is about a great deal more than simply designing and building quality structures – it is also about creating long-lasting relationships built on a solid foundation of trust, respect for clients, and jobs produced on time and on budget. It is a family tradition that began decades ago, one that has been passed on from father to son and in time, grandson.

60 Years of Family Tradition

“Originally, the company started with my father and my uncle, and it was called B & R Cox Builders,” says Christopher Cox, the company’s Managing Director. The “B” in the original name came from Cox’s uncle Bernie, a bricklayer, and the “R” after Cox’s father Ronald, a carpenter, with Christopher’s mother working as the business’s bookkeeper. Back then, the company worked on housing projects, with Bernie and Ronald expanding from homes to commercial construction, including banks, with Ronald befriending an Adelaide-based architect named Sir Eric von Schramek, known for his quality work, especially in the area of ecclesiastical architecture. Together, they were involved in creating numerous banks and commercial projects, eventually creating over 120 banks in South Australia. In time, Bernie decided to concentrate his efforts on bricklaying, while Ronald took over the company with his wife. The company was renamed R. Cox Constructions Pty Ltd, and soon took on projects for prominent clients like McDonald’s and Shell petroleum.

Today, the company continues to create work for well-known companies, a tradition carried on from father to son through Christopher Cox – learning carpentry in his youth from his father, and from the company’s then-construction manager, Kevin Richards, who taught him a great deal about the building industry. “Fantastic bloke,” reminisces Cox, 56, who has been managing the company for the past 30 years.

Cox Asset Services

At Cox Constructions, the company provides a range of services to its many clients. Able to design projects and see them through to completion, the company also project manages, handles tenders, and more. Additionally, Cox Asset Services – an integral part of the Cox Group – provides maintenance services and small construction works to a wide range of regular clients including government, local government, insurance firms, and private businesses.

The company, with supervisors overseeing eight operatives in vans, performs commercial and domestic maintenance, breakdown and other work 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a one-hour response time for all trades. Every year, Cox Asset Services handles about 1,000 insurance-related jobs, and is able to assess, oversee, and price repair work virtually anywhere in South Australia, advise insurance companies on the details, and complete the repair or restoration work once the price has been accepted.

Both Cox Asset Services and Cox Constructions Pty Ltd are quality assured companies, and compliant with ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems for delivery of construction and construction management projects, tender projects, design and construct projects, maintenance, and associated works. Additionally, Cox Constructions hold all relevant licences, is a pre-qualified builder with the government, and is able to take on numerous government projects, including schools.

Preferred Contractor

“Fifty per cent of our turnover would be schools,” says Cox of his company, whose credits include Callington Primary School, Eden Hills Primary School, Henley High School, the Rostrevor College Science Centre, St Columba College, and many others. Known for quality work and timely delivery of projects, Cox Constructions is also one of a few preferred contractors for a number of well-known companies. Since the company has the necessary petroleum accreditation, it often takes on projects for Mobil and Shell, such as fuel depots, petrol stations, and recently an office block located inside one of their bitumen depots.

“A lot of times, if a client has a fast-tracking project, they’ll come to us and negotiate purely to cut out some of their tendering time and negotiation time,” says Christopher Cox. “They can come to us and negotiate a proposal they’re happy with, and we get on and build it quicker that way.” Along with Shell and Mobil, the company is one of several preferred builders for McDonald’s.

Along with building restaurants for the word’s largest hamburger fast food chain, Cox Constructions recently completed a new Ronald McDonald House in Adelaide. Dedicated to the health and well-being of children, the Ronald McDonald Houses serve as a home away from home for families, a living quarter alternative to hotels or motels where they can stay close to their children while in hospital, sometimes for months at a time. For Christopher Cox, the experience is both satisfying and humbling, knowing that the building his company constructed will help to make lives a little bit easier for families of sick kids.

“We built the original one here 10 years ago, and now we’ve gone and just completed the second one, which is a three-storey building just a few hundred yards from the children’s hospital,” says Cox. The initial house he constructed a decade ago was more of a motel-style facility with shared community kitchens. Since that time, the McDonald’s charity realised that some families can remain residents for a long time, sometimes a year, and designed the new building as self-contained apartments with their own kitchen, TV, internet facilities, and more. “I was on the building committee again for this one, and I’ve donated a lot of time and effort into creating a beautiful building for them,” says Cox.

Like many builders, Cox Constructions prefers to create excellent work within certain parameters. Many of the company’s projects are budgeted up to a maximum of $10 million, and it typically creates structures up to four or five storeys. Over the years, the company has built a significant portfolio of commercial structures, churches, schools, and more. Not only able to do the job from start to finish, Cox Constructions offers design and construct, where the firm teams up with architects and engineers to put together design and construct packages, so clients have a choice in how they’d like to see their projects progress.

With many completed projects – such as the RAAF Base Accommodation, Christies Beach Medical Centre, McCormack Centre for the Environment, Fire Station (Renmark) to name a few – the company’s portfolio is wide-ranging, including apartments (Fusion 5, Sky on Metro), schools (Immanuel School, Tabor College), churches (Hope Valley Uniting Church), restaurants (KFC – Whyalla), and other jobs (Woolworths / Caltex Fuel Station – Mawson Lakes).

Hard-Earned Repeat Business

Over the years, times and technology have changed, but Cox Constructions has earned and maintained a great deal of respect in the industry through time-tested values like guaranteed quality and service, a commitment to good working practices, offering experienced operators and subcontractors for every task and project, and proper response times and key performance indicators for clients. With a full-time staff of about 50, the company works with a large number of subcontractors – 750 in total – who do all the site works. Located at the same office in Klemzig for over 30 years, Cox Constructions prides itself on maintaining strong family values, keeping prices competitive, and being open with its clients.

“One of the reasons we get a lot of repeat business is because we are a family-run company,” says Cox. “Clients can pick up the phone, and speak to me directly at any time and for them, that’s a big plus.” The Cox family tradition of working closely alongside clients will continue, as Cox’s son Callan, 23, is a part of the company. In his final year at the University of SA completing a Bachelor of Construction Management and Economics, Callan serves as a Project Administrator/Estimator. Much like his father, Callan started working in the family business as a teenager, and has learned a great deal from his dad.

“Callan does a little bit of everything, because that’s the way I was brought up,” says Cox, whose wife also works for the company in accounting. The Cox family remains not only proud of its work over the past six decades, but of its ability to deal with the day to day realities and necessities that come with running a family-owned construction business.

“I’m still the sort of guy who will walk out into the backyard, jump on the forklift, and unload the truck, and help the guys load the vehicles in the morning, and I’m bringing up my son the same way – I made him get a forklift license,” says Cox, laughing. “In the building industry, sometimes you have to be a little bit grey before people respect you!”

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 27, 2021, 2:14 AM AEDT