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Team effort

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Collaboration is key when running a construction business, so here’s how to work seamlessly withbuilders, tradespeople and suppliers.

A successful build is dependent on many factors, and often there are multiple stakeholders involved in bringing a project to fruition. The bigger and more complex the build, the more professionals will be brought on board – each with a specialised task to execute within a specific timeframe. The only instance in which this becomes a case of ‘too many chefs’ is when lines of communication falter. One delayed task or misinterpreted request can result in a domino effect, impacting the timing of the entire project.

For a build to be completed on schedule, on budget and of high quality, a collaborative approach must be adopted by each party – and must remain consistent at every step of the process. This applies from the very conception. An incredible property can be created on paper by an architect alone. But collaboration with a builder is vital to identify potential roadblocks and limitations during the construction process and ultimately achieve the best possible result for the client.

Key objectives

Andrew Payton, director of Sydney-based AJP Constructions – a boutique builder specialising in high-end, architecturally designed homes – believes collaboration is crucial to ensure all stakeholders work towards the same goal.

‘The project’s key objectives must be outlined from the start, so all relevant parties know their role throughout the process – from architects to clients, consultants and sub-contractors,’ he explains. ‘Clear, updated communication with all stakeholders is fundamental.’

Fortem Projects, a Melbourne builder specialising in premium contemporary homes and period restorations, also believes that a united approach across the board achieves the best results.

‘With so many different parties that get involved throughout a single project, it’s vital for the builder to be a team player,’ says Chris Curtain, who founded the business together with partner Stuart McFarland. ‘Collaboration helps build trust with all the different stakeholders. It increases efficiency, saves money and keeps chaos at bay.’

Chris Curtain, founder of Fortem Projects (left), with Tadhg Devane
Chris Curtain with Fortem Projects’ Will Crowe

System solutions

So how is such positive collaboration achieved? This can be as simple as weekly internal meetings to identify challenges or use an online project management system to bring all internal and external stakeholders together.

Both AJP Constructions and Fortem Projects utilise project management software to streamline communications. The cloud-based software is home to all documents, questions, comments, and updates for everyone involved in a project to view anytime, anywhere.

This accessibility allows all parties to work in real-time – as soon as a task is completed or the architect makes an adjustment to the plans, all subcontractors are instantly notified of the change.

Payton and his team also use building information modelling, a 3D computer modelling system that provides 360-degree insight into every detail of the project.

‘Working in real-time minimises the risk of delays and re-work, and allows key parties to schedule resources efficiently and effectively,’ Curtain says. ‘With all the challenges we are experiencing with supply chains in the industry due to the pandemic, planning for the project has never been more critical.’

Problems solved

Over time, some builders may develop a network of preferred suppliers, from architects to engineers and interior designers. This creates a team environment where working symbiotically, they can resolve unforeseen issues more efficiently and enjoy the working process.

Bringing stakeholders’ collective expertise together proved invaluable in a recent build for Fortem Projects. ‘The new section of the house had a clash with the existing roof pitch,’ says Curtain. ‘Together with the designer, we were able to flag this before the work started, and the designer was able to flip the stairs around, creating a huge storage space beneath that wasn’t otherwise there.’

The result? A potential problem was solved and surprised and delighted the client, who was thrilled with the bonus addition to their property. A united front and high levels of professionalism at all times provide clients with a sense of confidence that is invaluable during the stressful process of building a home. Collaboration between experienced parties creates opportunities for easier troubleshooting when issues arise and project optimisation. These benefits often result in reduced costs and a vastly improved outcome – as AJP Constructions have also experienced.

‘On a recent project, we sat down with the structural engineer to review a complicated roof structure and redesigned the roof, reducing the amount of structural steel involved and replacing it with curved engineered timber,’ says Payton. ‘This means we were able to keep the architect’s design, simplify the building process onsite, and make the build more sustainable – not to mention, save the client tens of thousands of dollars.’

Fortem Projects members on the job
Andrew Payton, director of AJP Constructions

Crucial traits

If a builder opts to work in a silo and resists alliance with other stakeholders, it can not only cause tension with the client but also result in a budget blowout, scheduling issues or even a complete stall on completion of the project. 

This isn’t uncommon in commercial construction and projects where margins are prioritised over collaboration. When the parties are more focused on protecting slim margins than working together to achieve the best possible result, the work environment becomes a lot less enjoyable – something both builders are committed to avoiding today.

A fantastic end product and a satisfied client should be the goal that unites the entire team. Flexibility and a willingness to adapt are crucial to making collaboration a success. Professional approaches may be different. But both builders have found that working cooperatively to find a compromise and align your efforts will make for a more cohesive experience and exceptional result. 

‘Over the past ten years, we have worked alongside many different individuals and companies that bring different approaches to the process,’ says Payton. ‘Therefore, we have had to adapt to accommodate different working methods to ensure the process is smooth and the desired result is achieved.’

‘Most important is trust and respect,’ adds Curtain. ‘There are so many people involved in a single project and while being well organised and open-minded to ideas from each professional is essential, trust and respect in each other is the glue that brings it all together.’ 

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