Relishing a Challenge

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-By John Boley

Minuzzo Project Management (MPM) is a family-owned company with a proud history in South Australia stretching back more than 50 years since Reno Minuzzo founded the building business, Minuzzo Construction. The name was changed some years ago to reflect the way the portfolio had broadened, and Reno’s son Garry, Chief Executive Officer, explains that the company’s core competence is building, but that it prefers to offer and be involved in the full range of building services. The company establishes a close relationship with the client at an early stage in every project, working collaboratively to see it through to completion.

MPM focuses on being a specialist building contractor and providing excellence in service, buildability and performance of construction, which can certainly amount to more than ‘just’ project management. The term “˜project management’ has become rather confusing these days and Garry says he sometimes has to explain that the company’s aim is to be integral to every project and add value to every step in the process. This approach can be of real benefit to the client – “that way, it’s possible for us to deliver what is best for the client including exceptional quality in response to the client’s budget.”

A client requirements are always different, “that’s the beauty of our industry. Nothing is the same, every building (or development) is different and every client has different requests, needs and expectations. For every project we identify the optimum solution for the client whether it be design and construct, project management, or construction management”.

That said, the simple hard tendering model (necessary with public sector work where taxpayers’ money is concerned and where MPM is very active) is not always the best way to take full advantage of what an accomplished construction company has to offer. The traditional industry approach calls for a tender on a set of documents with a number of other builders. The problem with this model is that there is a lack of feedback to the client and everything depends on the consultants, the architects and the design team to make sure they have delivered a project in accordance with the client’s needs. As a result, the client can often find themselves in the dark about the true project cost.

Garry sees better value for both sides in other arrangements. “To me, the whole industry is the wrong way round.” He would prefer to see the builder involved at an earlier stage because it’s the builder that is most aware of the fluctuations in the marketplace and thus the overall cost of each element of the project. “It’s better for everyone if it can be a team environment.”

Hard money tendering is very adversarial – very ‘you versus us’ – and if there is even the slightest problem with documentation, there can be a lot of problems on site as a result. That, says Garry, “can bring about the risk of confrontation and finger-pointing between the various parties on site.” MPM is keenly aware of this dynamic, and looks carefully at every project before taking it on, always looking to maximise the team aspects of the services it can offer.

The company prefers to apply its skills to challenging projects, something a little more complex than a simple “˜four walls, a roof and a floor’ warehouse. Garry says that company staff thrive when there are specific obstacles to be overcome on a project. The challenge might lie in the site conditions, the buildability of the project, or a combination of factors and scenarios. But “the more challenging the project, the more our team meets expectations and achieves the best for the client.”

MPM never shies away from the complex projects and is skilled in a wide range of developments and its portfolio is rich with fascinating results. Among recent projects, Garry expresses his pride in the restoration of the Old Adelaide Stock Exchange. The existing structure was surrounded by multi-storey buildings, leaving the comparatively tiny three-storey building sitting among the tower blocks with no street elevation. MPM had only a laneway to access the structure, no building area and an extensive set of heritage conditions to address. Half the building was original, with its timber staircase, while the other half was refurbished in a modern style, with two floors taken out and a modern auditorium installed with a state-of-the-art theatre for the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAUS) – the only one outside the UK.

There’s also the Port Elliot primary school, located about 70 minutes from the Adelaide CBD on a greenfield site. As Garry says, “It’s a state-of-the-art primary school with wireless networking, premium playing fields, state of the art gymnasium and tennis courts plus modern classrooms for all grades – a very exciting project with many challenges.”

The recently completed Starlight Express Room undertaken at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital is another outstanding example of the breadth of work MPM manages. “This project took time, but has been richly rewarding,” says Garry. He and his team worked on the project for almost three years, which included touring interstate children’s hospitals to gain an understanding of how the Starlight Children’s Foundation operates and how the space in Adelaide would be utilised by the children. “It’s a very engaging room,” he says, the aim being to get the children out of the ward and away from the sense of being in hospital, and into an environment where they can just be children. “There’s a fantastic art room with a wide variety of creative materials and equipment, laptop computers provide online access to games and learning programs, and a stage area, with a huge drop-down screen, provides a true theatre atmosphere where children can watch the latest movies. It’s truly an interactive space in which children, and adults alike, can be children.”

Working in partnership with another company, MPM was able to generate a standard blueprint for other Starlight Express Rooms that will be rolled out within hospitals Australia wide. Based on this model an Express Room is currently being built in Melbourne and another in Brisbane, while a third is at the planning stage in Western Australia. “The Adelaide Starlight Express Room is the blueprint,” says Garry. “It’s fantastic to see the kids enjoy the room. They come in from their Wards and have the world upon their shoulders, but within 5 minutes you can see them change dramatically into fun loving children. It’s unbelievable!” Not without its challenges, this project actually involved a separate multi-million dollar extension being built above the MPM team at the same time, “so we had another builder on site and we had to coordinate through them. That was an additional challenge.”

With such a range of projects under its belt, MPM remains a proud family company and Garry says it is “big on family values.” A third generation, Daniel Minuzzo, is working for the company full time after completing his university studies. He says that the South Australia market is quite aggressive at present, reflecting an overall tight supply of building and construction projects throughout Australia. MPM is typical of medium sized companies in the South Australian building sector facing pressure from below – in the form of the small builders – and from above, in the form of large, national corporations. MPM has the advantage of combating these building pressures by truly adding value. “We know and understand our marketplace and we can bring other specialised trades on board that are unique to the project at the earliest opportunity”, says Garry, who also underlines the importance of a personal approach to every client.

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, 10:45 PM AEDT