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By the book

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Arriving at almost 70 years of experience, Western Australia’s Rawlinsons have been a key figure in cost consultancy as well as quantity surveying for Australia’s bustling building industry. HIA speaks to Business Manager Kirsty Maxted about the latest editions of their landmark Handbook and Cost Guide publications and their newly commissioned art direction.
Rawlinsons is widely recognised as Australia’s oldest quantity surveying firm, starting in 1953. In your own words, what does this involve and what kind of services do you offer as a company?

I think our longevity is really a testament to the inaugural Directors and staff and all those who have followed in their footsteps over the last 69 years.

Personally, I have always felt that what sets us apart and allows the company continued success is two main things. 

Firstly, we have always had very high performance standards across a varied client portfolio. But mainly, I think it is our team that makes us special. Everyone takes so much pride in the history of the company and what we produce which allows us to maintain integrity and why we are so well regarded throughout the industry. 

For those that may not be familiar with Rawlinsons, tell me a little about who you are and what you do for the building industry?

Our core services are in cost estimation for both the building and infrastructure sectors, along with Bills of Quantities production and Contract Administration services and a suite of ancillary services such as replacement valuations and life cycle costings. 

The Rawlinsons Australian Construction Handbook and Construction Cost Guide are our annual, nationally circulated publications that have become an industry staple over the last 40 years, providing Australia with up to date cost data. 

The 40th edition of the Hand Book and 30th edition of the Cost Guide

With so much history, do you see yourself as an archive of information and financial trends dating from the past 69 years?

Yes, I think that is a great point. In regards to our consultancy services, Rawlinsons has made significant contributions to the Western Australian built environment. Our experience in iconic and complex projects such as Metronet, the Southwest Metropolitan Railway and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has allowed us to gain invaluable experience and important cost data spanning 69 years.

From a national perspective, our publications are the cornerstone of cost estimating and we are proud to be an archive of trusted information that our customers can rely on, year after year. We have customers who have utilised our books since the inaugural edition and for this we are immensely proud. 

With the Rawlinsons Handbook now in its 40th edition, how have you perceived the industry to have changed since the first edition?

The construction industry continues to evolve, particularly since the adoption of computers which has opened new methodologies of construction that were once thought to be impractical due to the additional manual work involved. 

An example is the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) whereby we are seeing many more projects utilising 5D software. Projects designed to LOD 300 provide efficiencies in the Bill of Quantity (BOQ) take off procedure, which is the most time consuming and labour intensive part of cost planning and BOQ production. This dramatically reduces the time required for quantity take off and leaves more time for cost benchmark review, quality control including cross checking of trades and quantities, technical review of descriptions, trade co-ordination meetings and production of query sheets.

Similarly, the Cost Guide is entering its 30th edition. As veteran cost consultants, what kind of information is typically offered in these publications?

The Cost Guide is aimed at projects under a $1.5 million construction cost and includes a broad array of building types including but not limited to; administration blocks, agricultural buildings, educational facilities, community based amenities such as entertainment and recreation, as well as medical centres, residential dwellings and retail premises. 

Our endeavour is to include cost information over the widely used elements within each type of building, so everyone that uses our guides feels confidence in estimating costs.

The intervention of COVID-19 has undeniably affected the costs involved in construction over the past 20 months or so. How has that factored into the costs or estimated costs in this edition of the Cost Guide?

COVID-19 has brought restricted quantity of labour on sites, extra-ordinary OHS protocols and supply change issues especially for internationally sourced materials. 

As many of your members know, these all can dramatically impact the cost of construction and, as such, there are some rates in the 2022 publications that have fluctuated somewhat dramatically. 

What kind of research do you conduct as a company to inform these dynamic publications?

During the cost research process suppliers, principal/head contractors, sub-contractors, construction professionals and the like are questioned about the current and perceived states of their market.

Material and labour supply data, including discounting structures, are sought from a myriad of companies, many of which have been vital to the accuracy of the cost research going back to the first ever edition.

The rates within both Rawlinsons Australian Construction Handbook and Rawlinsons Construction Cost Guide are generally built up from the following elements: 

  • Material cost (contractor discounted price)
  • Labour norms (time taken to undertake work)
  • Labour rate (market driven, not union driven).

Tender Returns are reviewed so that the current construction trends can be ascertained, this can also be deemed to be an indication of current market trends.

The calculated rate is reviewed against the Tender Return trend and the supplier ‘state of the market’ and amended if necessary.

An ongoing checking process is that tenders are priced based on the Detailed Prices, then reviewed after the tenders have been returned.

 

Anniversary art marked with meaning

The stunning art direction is a marked change from past editions. Who created these commissioned works and what inspired you to take on indigenous artistry for your new look?

We wanted to celebrate the 40th and 30th Editions with something special and the idea came about whilst brainstorming ways in which Rawlinsons can participate more in Reconciliation. 

I had been following Renee Clifton, a local Indigenous Artist, for some time and greatly admired her work. I approached her with the idea to commission two pieces of art to be showcased on the nationally circulated publications which would drive more awareness to Aboriginal Art as well as supporting her directly. Renee jumped at the opportunity and somehow managed to convey my brief into two spectacular pieces of art which now hang proudly in our office, as well as on book covers all over the country.  

Original artwork by Renee Clifton

Reconciliation is a key theme in your latest editions. How do you think this ties into your relationship with Australia and its building industry? 

We believe that education is key and we are committed to teaching ourselves about the Aboriginal and Torres Straits culture and traditions and aim to conduct quarterly workshops for our team. 

For example, last quarter we hired Urban Indigenous to conduct a collective canvas workshop where, as a team, we learnt about storytelling and symbols unique to the Noongar People. It was a wonderful experience where we all walked away with a greater understanding of the Noongar People’s customs and beliefs, and a desire to learn more.

Urban Indigenous Collective Canvas workshop

On a commercial basis, in 2017 Rawlinsons (W.A.) joined with the Housing Authority (HA) to set the guidelines for the industry in developing Aboriginal workforce engagement strategies. Together we developed benchmarking targets, in labour components, for Civil and Building Construction and regional indexation. These benchmarks support contractors in their efforts to increase the opportunities for the Aboriginal workforce throughout the State.

The revised Housing Authority guidelines expect contractors to include Aboriginal workforce participation when completing construction and civil works contracts. The Housing Authority Contractors have been successfully meeting Aboriginal worker targets for some years as part of the Kimberley Employment & Enterprise Program (KEEP) and the National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing Agreement requirements. The Housing Authority has now expanded these programs State wide.

As a company we understand that Reconciliation is an ongoing journey and we are wholly committed to educating ourselves and acknowledge that the recognition of past injustices is essential in achieving equality for all Australians in the future.  


Your 2022 guides are available now.

To order, or for more information on how Rawlinsons can help, reach out to the Rawlinsons publications team at www.rawlhouse.com.au


Brand promotion: This article was compiled with contributions from Rawlinsons