Excellence in the Centre

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-By John Boley

Paul Graham did not originally hail from Alice Springs – his origins are down south in Adelaide – but after 14 years in the centre of the continent he has built up Asbuild NT to the stage where “we are recognised as one of the largest construction companies in Alice Springs.”

Asbuild director Paul set up the company in 2007, mainly carrying out minor works and fitouts, but seizing larger opportunities whenever they arose, such as for the major works in Alice including the expansion of the jail, multi-unit transitional housing developments, medical clinics, as well as numerous school and college expansions. “The BER incentive also helped our company get itself established,” says Paul. “We started out with just three employees and at one time engaged 52 employees. Our staff today includes two construction managers/estimators, a full time safety officer, a contracts administrator, a financial controller and administration staff.” As well as eleven carpenters, four apprentices and a machine operator.

Alice Springs is renowned as a transient town, he admits, which often reflects in high turnover among workforces. Despite this, Asbuild has a high retention rate of employees and in fact most of the current staff have been with the company since day one. “We foster a friendly workplace culture and this mainly carries on into the employees’ social life. Training is highly important and employees have regular training and refreshment.”

At present, Paul admits, the area is not at its economic best. “At the moment we, like others, are experiencing a lull in the industry here due in no small measure to the Northern Territory government’s lack of spending. Unfortunately because of this we had something of a gradual reduction in staff during 2011. However, we have retained our apprentices, as I am a firm believer that we as a company need to invest in people for the future of Asbuild. Hopefully, when the industry improves it will allow us to re-employ.”

Although it is relatively quiet at present, there is talk of a number of projects coming up in the next few months and Paul is optimistic. “Normally, when you hear such talk it generally happens. In any case, we have had some good days in the past few years.”

The lack of work being released to tender at present is a concern for the entire region’s industry, he says, but the NT government authorities have recently signed a deal for the Ichthys project in Darwin, a gas mining project “that will require quite a lot of infrastructure which may have a positive effect down here in Alice for our business. The lack of work in town at present has got us looking further afield and we are pricing some remote projects.” Expertise in working in remote areas is not something every builder can boast, but Paul says “we are set up; we have equipment, machines and trucks, and the right team. We can do and have done remote projects very successfully.”

Business has been brisk despite the relative lull in the region, and Asbuild has recently completed a number of major projects, including Living Waters School Resource building, RFDS redevelopment, the Charles Darwin University learning centre and accommodation buildings, the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Stadium/Multi-Purpose hall, an 18-unit village for seniors, a 24-unit transitional housing development, the redevelopment of a family/sporting club, a McDonalds drive-through upgrade and art galleries, to name just a few on a very diverse list.

“The Alice Springs Correctional Centre was a significant project for us as it was our largest to date with a value of 10 million dollars. Asbuild was relatively new to major projects at the time of being awarded the contract, but we completed the project on time and we used a majority of local content and businesses with the exception of specialist trades required by the Correctional Centre.”

In what could be seen as a statement of confidence in the future, Asbuild has just completed its own new office and depot on Smith Street, Alice Springs and at time of writing was due to move in in late February. “This shows a commitment that Asbuild is here to stay,” says Paul.

Asbulid has attained third-party accreditation in quality management (ISO 9001), OHS&W management (AS 4801) and environmental management (ISO 14001). We are currently in the process of obtaining federal accreditation which will allow us to tender for federal government funded projects. This should provide other opportunities for us.”

The Asbuild website stresses that the company is “striving to display honesty, organisation, attention to detail, diligence.” Paul says this attitude is important – “we are a young company with open and innovative minds. We take the time to listen to our clients’ needs and we will constantly confer with the client to make sure we are on the right track and that they are happy and getting what they expected. We make sure we avoid surprises for the client.” A company slogan is ‘On time, On Spec, On Budget’. “We place significant emphasis on our analysis of a client’s requirements, particularly in estimating the extent of the works and costings.”

To that end, “we will confer with their project managers as often as daily just to ensure that the documents are transparent, so that when we pass them on to our contractors, they understand as well.” Paul says he is a firm believer in being fair and transparent in business and strives to give vendors, suppliers and subcontractors “a fair and equal go-to quote for works and pay these businesses on time. Some that we partner with now are long-standing relationships gained through mutual trust. We want to continue to grow and in turn provide benefit to the local community.”

Asbuild is currently having its website rebuilt, so “watch this space. I believe our company is very well recognised in the Alice Springs community through our initiatives, such as sponsorship of sporting clubs, individuals, school scholarships.”

How would Paul sum up Asbuild’s core competence? “Architectural construction would represent us best; our staff and management enjoy challenging projects that have flair.” Demonstrating this, in 2008 Asbuild was engaged to construct a new architecturally designed sustainable rammed earth building at Alice Springs Steiner School, designed by local architect Stephen Lumb. In 2010 Asbuild was engaged for a second time by the same architect and school board to construct another learning facility at the school. “I think this repeat business is a good representation of the type of company we are.”

In the same way, although less than 10 per cent of Asbuild’s business is in the residential sector, Paul says all its projects are “special to us in one way or another. We recently built four houses which were designed by local architect Susan Dugdale Architects & Associates. It was rewarding to be able to offer the owners a sustainable building they can call their home and bring their kids up in and have good memories.”

Asbuild can do “anything from design and construct to pricing from people’s plans – a very broad range of services. So you can come in with a set of plans and we can price them up or you could come in with no set of plans and say, ‘I really want to build a living room on my house, how do I do it?’ So we can do anything from concept to completion.”

Asbuild is a shareholder in another company known as Green Well Developments, which was established in 2011. Green Well Developments was successful with a tender to provide a newly constructed 5 star NABERS rated building for the NT government, who will lease the building for a period of 15 years, Paul explains. Asbuild will be constructing the new 2,500 square metre office building, due for commencement in the latter part of February 2012 and completion at end of this year. “This is a very exciting project for Asbuild as this will be the first 5 star NABERS rated building in Central Australia; not only a sustainable building, it is a very smart looking building which I believe will enhance the look of the Alice Springs CBD.” The building was again designed by Susan Dugdale Architects & Associates.

With its wide range of successes in a short time, says Paul, “if you are considering building, come and see us at Asbuild. We can assist from concept to completion by utilising local companies from design, engineering, certification to landscaping. We guarantee to make you comfortable and feel at ease when discussing your needs and sharing ideas. We will strive to give you accurate costs and issues up front and take the worry out of your project.”

And to end on a personal note, Paul says his wife Nadine has been involved in the business since its establishment. “I believe her efforts in contracts administration and putting together tender proposals have also led to our successes.” He adds: “I would also like to offer a special thank you to my staff – keep up the good work, team – my family, our vendors, suppliers, consultants, past and present clients and all those who have supported us over the years. I look forward to many more years of doing business and socialising into the future.”

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 16, 2020, 10:56 AM AEST