Rosin Bros

Tools of the trade

Adviser, designer, project manager, educator, marketer – there is a lot more needed in the tool bag these days for builders in an industry facing big challenges. Canberra’s Rosin Bros are keenly aware of this, redefining their role and looking for ways to add value to their business, and what they can offer their clients.


Ian Bushnell

HIA members Robert and younger brother Danny Rosin followed their builder father Andy into the building industry two decades ago but these days they see themselves more as consultants than just constructors of homes. University educated – Robert has a background in architecture and Danny in construction and management – they see opportunities in broadening their role to provide a start-to-finish service that still results in a quality outcome but also advises and educates clients along the way.


It’s time, Robert says, to elevate the builder to having a similar status as other specialists such as engineers and designers. He believes having a builder as an adviser and a partner in the design process before ground is broken can prevent misunderstandings, manage client expectations and keep unexpected cost blowouts in check.


Robert says their firm, Rosin Bros, which specialises in knockdown rebuilds in Canberra’s older inner suburbs, is moving to provide more in-house design where it manages a project from the outset, with a more intimate knowledge of the brief.


‘You can avoid scenarios where you get down the track and people go out and get quotes from builders and it’s way in excess of what they may have been anticipating,’ he says.


In an environment of rapid change and increasing complexity, not to mention the building quality issues that taint the entire industry even if the problems are mainly in the apartment sector, trust is vital and information is the currency.


Design options, contracts, an increasing range of new building materials, sustainability and energy efficiency – there is a lot for consumers to grapple with. Rosin Bros sees that hunger for knowledge as an opportunity for outreach, holding information nights, posting informative blogs, exhibiting at home shows and utilising social media to educate the public, while raising their brand awareness at the same time.


In many respects it’s a long game. The information nights are only now bearing fruit 18 months since they kicked off but Robert says a business in such a highly competitive sector cannot rely on mere word of mouth.


‘As a builder we just want to be front of mind when the time does come, be it 18 months or two years when they push the button and want to build, and part of that is being continuously in front of them in different shapes and forms.’ 
And despite that fierce competition, Robert also sees great value in learning from your peers, joining a builder business coaching group about four years ago.

He admits the process of managing a building company was an eye-opener, and the coaching group has been pivotal in helping the brothers to implement systems and processes, benchmark the business against industry standards and know their numbers.

‘Part of that was networking with other builders around Australia,’ Roberts says, of which HIA has a long history of providing members, such as conferences, specialised events and trade nights. 

‘It doesn’t happen a lot but it’s probably key for builders to benefit from talking to other builders. If it’s a building type issue or whatever, some other builder has faced that and tackled it, and has a solution to how you might address it. If there was one thing I’d be pushing other builders to do it’s more of that.’

That networking also brought Rosin Bros to the attention of the TV show Love it or List it, for which they are the designated Canberra builder. There have been a few false starts but when a Canberra segment airs this year, the Rosin brand will be raised to new heights.

The Rosins’ father helped build Canberra through the 80s and 90s, and now as the next generation are also part of another great period of change in the national capital. Robert can remember how his father used manilla folders to manage all the project documentation but Rosin Bros today has embraced technology for its administration and project management, including a client portal.

‘Everyone onsite – designers and consultants – all have access to the same information, so we’re avoiding any miscommunication or people having different versions of documents,’ Robert says.

Web-based software allows clients to see all their selections, follow work schedules, see photos and documents as they happen.
Rosin Bros

'the rosins’ father helped build canberra through the 80s and 90s'

The Rosins are helping to reimagine the older suburbs where owners of single dwellings still want to enjoy the leafy amenity but own new homes that are energy-efficient and able to provide their desired lifestyle. Again, it’s an opportunity to educate clients on how good design can achieve the desired results without building out the block.

‘We are trying to convince and persuade people about to go down the knockdown rebuild route to bring back the size of what they’re trying to build, to make it easier to heat and cool, and put some of that money into better fixtures and mechanical services,’ Robert says.

They want people to think about how their house sits in the broader context, and how it sits with its neighbours architecturally. They can see an interest in more modular designs with flatter roofs but Robert has also detected a trend away from open plan, with the use of differentiated spaces to create more interest and privacy. 

But staying abreast of new materials hitting the market, such as metal and composite cladding, panelling, foam and metallic, and imitation timber finishes, adds to the complexity of modern residential building.

‘Keeping on top of the amount of new material that is available, needing to be educated about how to install those materials, and how they perform [has been a challenge],’ Robert says.

The next big leap for the firm, which builds 10–15 homes a year will be scaling and staffing an increase in the volume of new home builds. Robert says the firm, and the industry itself, is facing a skills challenge and the next five to 10 years will be critical as the old school tradesmen who learnt from the post-war migrant craftsmen begin to retire. Without getting more young people into trades, the industry is facing a break in the passing on of skills.

The Rosins have always been HIA members, like their father who was an ACT branch president, and benefited from its services such as insurance, contracts and online education. Traditionally, the Association has been one of the go-to sources for business related assistance, says Robert.

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