Custom Built Luxury

Nu-Steel

Nu-Steel Homes conducts all the legwork in establishing a build, working with local builders all over Australia, and the solid relationships it has forged with these builders is a driving force behind the company’s success. Its General Manager, Lee Janssen, spoke about this unique offering and the company’s drive to serve all of Australia without compromising quality or service.

Traditionally, many homes have been timber framed, and the affordability and tremendous popularity of this building material means that most tradespeople are more familiar with timber than the less common steel. Timber frames aren’t susceptible to rust or corrosion; however, steel frames have their own distinct advantages, such as resistance to termite infestation or moisture. These steel framed structures are not only lightweight compared to timber frames, but have a greater strength to weight ratio, have a longer life cycle and don’t twist or warp like timber frames.

Nu-Steel Homes was founded in 1981 and was originally rolled out through individual license agreements. There were, at the time, a host of individual operators in different towns across the country, but it was a little disjointed. The current owner bought the national rights and everything has now been re-branded under one head office in the Sunshine Coast, QLD, giving the company unity and consistency.

Nu-Steel Homes specialises in custom design along with steel frames. In essence, a client will come in with a block of land and their own plan and ideas, or a desire to use one of the many choices that can be viewed on the Nu-Steel Homes’ website. Nu-Steel Homes then turns this vision into a completed home, performing all of the design work and managing costs and materials. “We take them through 3D modelling, organise the approvals and appoint the builder,” explains Mr Janssen. “Every now and then a client will want a plan off the website, but our speciality is that we can accommodate them as much as we need to in terms of designing the home with their own touches.”

The only limitations the company faces have to do with the different councils spread out over Australia and their requirements for what can and cannot be done. For example, councils have different requirements with regard to building height and distances from property boundaries. Builds must of course be feasible in terms of engineering and client budget. Any house featured on Nu-Steel Homes’ website can also be altered based on client needs. By using CAD 3D software, the design will be evaluated and set in motion from there.

Because it services all of Australia, Nu-Steel Homes has built up a network of preferred builders that it can call on in any given area. “We really support having the local builder working on the tools and liaising directly with the client,” says Mr Janssen. “This is not a standard practice for most building companies; a lot of them will have one supervisor looking after fifteen to twenty jobs at any given time. The client doesn’t know who’s coming and going, who the builder is, or who is managing the site on a day to day basis.” Nu-Steel Homes supports having a local builder in each given town to deal with the client one on one, finalise details and finishings, and more.

A call for a new home can come in from a thousand kilometres away. Nu-Steel Homes takes clients through the design process, costs and all of the front end work and manages the job from there on. In any major town or centre the company will always have a preferred local builder (or even two or three) that will pitch for the work. In areas which are a bit more isolated than others, at times, it is necessary to have crews who will travel.

With its unique business model, Nu-Steel Homes keeps it easy for the builders. Typically a small builder will have to do a lot of advertising, cost of sales, overheads, taking the client through the design process, etc. “We make it really easy for them by taking all that work off their hands. So, when we go to a builder and tell them about a job coming up, it’s more or less ready to go. We do all of the design work, the planning, the engineering, and it is ready for certification to get built. That can be anywhere from a two to three month lead time in the design phase before the build would actually start. We do all that in-house before the builder even knows about the job. We take all the hassle, all the paperwork.”

Nu-Steel Homes arranges all the materials to site in coordination with the builder and client, so that the builder does not have to worry about chasing suppliers, following up on potential defects or supplying warranties at the end of the job. All the builder has to worry about is putting the house together on site and keeping the client happy. The company always chooses builders with at least ten years of experience and the necessary skills to erect steel frames.

Because the company services the entire country, there can be many different design considerations depending on the area. “If we are doing a house in North Queensland that is in the tropics – a high cyclonic zone. The house that is built there will have to be a lot stronger with engineering and reinforced with different design parameters. In a place like NSW, we are building in a lot of bush fire zones. These homes have to be designed completely differently to a home done in the tropics. Being a national company, we have to deal with all these different variables depending on the location of the build.”

In terms of the architectural design, Nu-Steel Homes has done it all. One of the company’s clients wanted three hexagonal pods joined together via breezeways whereas another wanted a castle look with parapets. Being able to create these unique one-off buildings is what Nu-Steel Homes is known for.

The design can be anything from a colonial-type build to a modern glass style with clean lines resembling a beach home. It gets a lot of jobs on steep sites as using steel frames makes it easier to build on those blocks of land; steel framing has a better strength to weight ratio and these buildings are also lighter compared to their timber framed or masonry counterparts.

Following the Global Financial Crisis, the biggest challenge in the building industry is financing. “The banks have tightened their lending criteria on a lot of people. So, people have a block of land which they are trying to build a home on, but they are realising how much they will need to borrow and getting the money has been an increasing challenge over the past five years.” For Nu-Steel Homes, another challenge is that, in most cases, it manages jobs remotely through 3D modelling and remote log in features, and will never meet the clients face to face. “That always poses a little bit of a challenge. In that way we can’t get that sort of rapport that comes with meeting them in person.” However, more and more people are becoming accustomed to communicating and doing business via the internet, and to offer peace of mind, Nu-Steel Homes will often have a representative travelling to key areas.

As it already covers Australia, instead of geographical expansion, Nu-Steel Homes is now concentrating on targeting key areas. “We want to build really good homes in specific areas rather than to blanket Australia,” Mr Janssen says. “We want to do some more bench marketing in different areas. We will be showing off the homes we are building a bit more than we currently do.”

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’?

June 2, 2020, 3:53 PM AEST