Taking Responsibility

Devco

Having celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, Victorian project and construction management company Devco is in a good position to reflect on the many ways in which the building industry has changed over the last quarter century.

Construction in Focus talked to joint Directors Romando Nascarella and Paul Launech, and Business Development Manager Peter Helfer, who agreed that the role of the building contractor in particular has become broader in terms of both managerial and technical requirements.

Devco operates mainly in the traditional tender market but has seen the way in which many of the characteristics of design and construct project delivery are emerging in today’s market. This trend increases the building contractor’s responsibility. Indeed, the very definition of project management on the construction side is “becoming the realm of the building contractor in terms of permit requirements, sustainability certification and the management of the technical challenges of a building, less from the consultant’s point of view and more on the building contractor,” explains Mr Nascarella. In some ways this plays into the hands of a quality operator such as Devco: “the consultants are tending to rely more on performance specifications in particular disciplines and building contractors like Devco now are recognised more for their level of expertise – technically and in construction management methodology.

Given the evolution of Devco over 26 years, Mr Nascarella forecasts that, “we can look toward the future and see more design and construct projects – with this style of project delivery not just in the private sector but also into the public sector. Increased responsibility is being allocated to the builder, who is now required to work more with the consultant team in the realisation of the building design being mindful of maintaining design integrity and this requires a more collaborative approach.”

Devco has developed its expertise with its project managers and dealing with consultants, subcontractors and suppliers, to deliver the project in a manner that meets the client’s expectations in terms of timing, quality and cost.

A trend toward more D&C work is a good fit for Devco, as it puts more emphasis on the skills and expertise needed to successfully manage such projects. The company’s senior executives stress that the company is very much a commercial builder too, needing to keep the profit margins healthy. But there is an emphasis on organisation and administration to make it easier for consultants to deal with Devco. “There is a family feel to us. We are more like a traditional builder of a bygone era than in today’s environment; in general the architects, consultants and others who have engaged with Devco speak highly of the way we and our staff [Devco employs around 80 people from its base in Williamstown, in Melbourne’s southwest] conduct ourselves. That is the culture that emanates from within the organisation.”

Aware that standing still is dangerous in this industry, Devco is looking to expand into new sectors. At present, much of the company’s work is in education and local government projects. The company wants to continue to win projects in those areas but transition into healthcare, justice, aged care, retail, and commercial (essentially, anything a large company might want – be it a new office block, a showroom or a warehouse). The company has grown steadily but slowly over the quarter-century – carefully not biting off more than it can chew. Now, Mr Nascarella and fellow director Paul Launech believe they have the right resources – both physical and in personnel terms – to be able to handle bigger projects in greater volume and in more varied sectors.

Mr Nascarella is confident that the industry around Victoria is in for a better year in 2014 as conditions slowly improve. He can be assured that Devco’s slice of the action will continue to grow, as it picks up valuable and challenging contracts (Hume Regional Tennis Centre and San Carlo Aged Care Facility are recent examples) and again demonstrates its expertise in successfully putting a project together.

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 17, 2019, 4:55 AM AEDT