Putting Principles and Professionalism First

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

In Australia’s construction sector, the most successful businesses are those with the ability to maintain a sound and steady vision for the future. For Stephen Edwards Constructions Pty Ltd, the founder attributes the company’s industry-wide success and many repeat clients over the past three decades to steady expansion, reliability, professionalism, quality, and taking a cooperative approach with clients for all projects.

Since 1979, when he formed the company bearing his name along with wife Jennifer, Stephen Edwards has witnessed many changes in the nation’s construction sector. Back then, the couple worked out of the second bedroom of their home, and started with one employee. Today, over 30 years later, Stephen Edwards Constructions boasts a staff of 48, comprising 25 office staff, 10 foremen, a truck driver, an apprentice, several carpenters and leading hands.

“In the first year, we probably completed $300,000 worth of work,” says Mr Edwards, Owner and Managing Director of the family-run business. “In 2010, we completed over $50 million worth of work.” One project led to another, and today, Stephen Edwards Constructions has successfully completed 517 wide-ranging projects in education, aged care, industrial, and commercial sectors, as well as community buildings ranging from libraries to council chambers, to medical centres. The tasks have varied considerably over the years, but the company’s commitment to quality and a friendly, cooperative-styled approach to all building projects has remained the same.

“It’s probably fair to say the whole industry has become more cooperative over recent years,” comments Mr Edwards, who studied engineering and worked as a project manager for a number of well-known firms, including John Mowlem & Co, formerly one of the largest construction and civil engineering companies in the United Kingdom. Years ago, he says, the approach some contractors took towards their customers was confrontational, even downright antagonistic, and included using legal means to pull apart contracts to uncover loopholes and weaknesses. “That’s hardly a cooperative approach. The problem with that adversarial approach is, you can win the battle, but lose the war, in that certainly that client won’t use you the second time around.”

A better approach to business, says Mr Edwards, is one of mutual cooperation, respect, and a bit of give and take. For the company, kindness has not only earned Stephen Edwards Constructions a stellar industry-wide reputation, but decades of repeat business from long-time clients who couldn’t imagine using any other firm to take on and successfully complete their valued projects. “Your ultimate objective isn’t just to make a bit of money out of the current job, but to be rung-up by the client for his next job as well,” comments Mr Edwards. “That’s what I would call a cooperative approach, and a lot of our work is repeat work.” For one private client, for example, the company has worked on 30 distinct projects, primarily medical centres.

Range of Services

A medium-sized builder, Stephen Edwards Constructions believes client satisfaction and a competitive pricing structure are a few of the reasons for its ongoing success. A time-tested team approach towards projects enables the company’s experienced estimators, project managers, and site staff to meet all construction challenges, and to provide planning, design, construction and cost planning services as needed.

“We’re builders, and we offer clients design and construct proposals,” says Mr Edwards. “Sometimes people know what they want, but don’t know how to get there, so we can provide a design service facilitated through council and then construct the project, and this can be done as a hard dollar tender, or perhaps as a construction management contract where you’re getting essentially a fee for building the project.”

In the construction business for over 30 years, Stephen Edwards Constructions is a proud member of the Master Builders Association (MBA), and has won a total of 8 awards for excellence in construction based on its high degree of workmanship and use of the highest quality subcontractors. The company has substantial Occupational Health and Safety measures in place, along with environmental and quality systems accredited by Davis Langdon (DLIQ) to relevant Australian Standards. Additionally, Stephen Edwards Constructions also holds Best Practice accreditation with the Department of Finance and Services as well as Contract Works, Public Liability, Professional Indemnity, and Home Owner Warranty insurances.

Education, Commercial Projects and More

The company has built an impressive and lengthy portfolio over its many years in business in a variety of sectors. Selected as a builder for the Australian Government’s recent Building the Education Revolution (BER) initiative – which witnessed the construction of new infrastructure as well as modernization and refurbishment of thousands of schools nation-wide – Stephen Edwards is now completing the last of its 26 schools. In the field of higher learning, the company has undertaken a number of landmark projects for The University of Sydney. One of these was the St Andrews College new residential wing. To maintain the structure’s heritage appearance, the building was constructed using traditional materials and methods. Incorporating features such as a slate roof, stone cladding, and precast stone window surrounds with lead glazed windows, the five-level structure includes an attic space and accommodates 36 self contained rooms, mostly with attached ensuites.

“St Andrews College is one of our most famous projects,” comments Mr Edwards proudly of the classic, award-winning building completed in 2008, for a cost about $6 million. “It features all the traditional elements that you might see in France, in that it is sandstone faced, has a slate roof, a little European-style courtyard and an arch to go into the courtyard. The building looks terrific, and it wouldn’t look out of place somewhere in the middle of Paris.”

One of the company’s better-known projects, St Andrews College is joined by many other successful school constructions, which include the Chester Hill North Public School for the Department of Finance and Services, the new Music Centre for Our Lady of Mercy College, and the Early Learning Centre for The Kings Preparatory School.

Rail Heritage and Government Projects

“Our long term clients have been government departments, and a few select clients who are in the business of continual building work rather than just exploitive building work,” says Mr Edwards. “We have taken on a great deal of institutional work, such as hospitals, schools, and private schools, which have been our core sources of work.”

Over the years, Stephen Edwards Constructions has taken on a number of unique jobs for Australian Government departments, including Trainworks. A comprehensive interactive display of Australia’s railway history, Trainworks was officially opened to the public in April of 2011 at Thirlmere, New South Wales. The company was responsible for two major buildings and associated works with combined value of over $15 million. The projects involved the construction of the Exhibition Building, a 2,000 square metre exhibition space with a shop, cafeteria and theatre designed by architects Jackson Teece. The multi-stage project also saw the company construct a new round house building for diesel and steam trains, relocate an existing turntable, and undertake various rail work and infrastructure, along with associated civil works across the site.

“The entire project was a great success,” says Mr Edwards proudly. The roundhouse – the first constructed in over 60 years – required a considerable deal of pre-planning and input from all sides. The building is undeniably impressive, and includes seven new roads (i.e. railway tracks), a full size spray booth for trains, a diesel service pit, a tri-level road service pit for steam and diesel trains, and an ash pit constructed on the site. “It is Australia’s newest and biggest rail experience, which reflects the NSW Government’s commitment to sharing the best of RailCorp’s rail heritage collection,” commented Minister for Transport John Robertson of the new facility, which will not only serve to celebrate and preserve the State’s rich railway history, but provide a major regional tourism destination.

“A steam engine can be driven into the turntable, which swings around, and from there, the engine can go into the roundhouse building and be worked on,” says Mr Edwards of the project, which was unveiled by Her Excellency, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales.

Health and Aged Care

A leader in health-related projects, Stephen Edwards Constructions was responsible for projects such as the Ginniderra Medical Centre for Primary Health Care, which won the ACT Master Builders “Excellence in Construction Award” for best commercial fit out under $3 million. The 1,600 square metre project – completed in just 16 weeks – saw a full internal fitout to an existing building, which was converted into a new medical centre comprising general practitioners, specialists, radiology, physiotherapy, dental, and a dispensing chemist.

Others, like Miranda Aged Care for Doherty & Associates, saw a staged redevelopment of an existing nursing home transformed into a state of the art 80-bed facility catering to residents requiring high care and low care for dementia. Built in three stages, the Centre was specifically designed to meet new Federal Government aged care guidelines introduced in 2008. This project, along with others like the St Josephs Village for St Vincents Hospital, ably demonstrate the company’s abilities to tackle diverse projects with professionalism and pride.

“Moving forward, the company is very stable, and there is fresh talent coming into it,” says Mr Edwards. “We’ve gotten where we are – and we get a lot of repeat work – because we are reliable, we are cooperative, and we’re non-adversarial.” There are, he says, plans in place for his sons to take over when he retires, and to continue the ongoing policy of sustainable growth. “At present, we are completing around the $50 million mark per year, and our ambition is to try and increase that by $10 million a year, per year, over the next five years, so that in 2016 or 2017, we are completing $100 million worth of work per year. We have been around for 33 years, and we intend to be around for at least another 33.”

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’?

July 14, 2020, 10:18 AM AEST