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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Ever evolving

Ever evolving

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Described by past clients as ‘artistically gifted’ and ‘a lateral thinker’, home builder and carpenter Kane Harrison treats every project as a labour of love.

Gabrielle Chariton

Content Writer

He’s a successful builder with 25 years of experience and a slew of industry awards to his name, including the 2023 HIA-CSR Hunter Home of the Year. But even at this stage of his career, Kane Harrison, owner of Evolving Construction, says he’s still learning new things – about building houses and running a business. ‘I find that I’m still growing day by day. I’ll get to the end of my career and still be learning lessons.’ 

That’s because, just like the name of his company, housing is constantly evolving. Every project offers a new challenge, and he gains new knowledge in rising to meet that. ‘Everything’s changing year in, year out,’ he says. ‘New materials, new tools, new systems, new ways of approaching difficulties that we had before … we’re always coming up against real challenges.’ 

He thrives in this environment: ‘If I’m not uncomfortable, I’m not moving forward. If I’m relaxed and thinking that everything’s going well, this means I’m idle, and progress is only achieved from moving forward. That’s just the way it is to get results.’ 

Kane Harrison, owner of Evolving Construction.

‘Kane aspired to become a carpenter from a young age, and it’s clear he has a true affinity for his craft. ‘I just love timber. It resonates with me a lot.’ A self-starter even in his teens, he left school at the end of Year 10 and enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship at TAFE. It was the mid-’90s, and work was thin on the ground, so once he completed the pre-apprenticeship, he signed into the HIA Apprenticeship scheme, thinking (correctly) that the program’s simplified payment/admin system would make him more attractive to potential host trainers. ‘That actually got me into work. From that point on, it was full steam ahead,’ he says.

‘I loved my time as an apprentice. I was learning new skills every day. I met new people and forged great friendships.’ But back then, attitudes on site were different, and ‘it was really hard graft. It was hardnosed bosses, straight down the line. But it was a worthwhile lesson in how to just put your head down and do what you’re asked to do without expecting a thank you. You’re there to get the job done, not to be praised about that.’ 

Things have come full circle now, and Kane has trained eight apprentices over the years, with two currently on the books. As a leader and mentor, he focuses on ‘teaching them to have the skills and the confidence to go out on their own’. His approach is gentle, respectful, and inclusive. ‘You have to lead from the front. You need to provide an acceptable outcome for everyone on site.’ 

Kane ‘always wanted to work for myself’, so as soon as he was qualified, he plunged headlong into setting up as a sole trader, focusing on custom builds. He was originally a Sydney boy, who ended up on the NSW Central Coast 10 years ago. Since then, Evolving Construction has evolved into an award-winning boutique high-end residential building company with around 10 employees (including Kane’s wife Lauren, who manages the admin and runs her own skincare company). 

Kane Harrison with his wife, Lauren, at the HIA awards.

Kane’s ever-curious, perfectionist, and dedicated human-focused approach has earned him the respect of his clients, employees, and the industry. He believes that building a home is less about working to the prescribed plans and more about the person who’s going to be living in it. He leverages his technical expertise to strike that elusive balance between budget, quality, and timeframe to eliminate complexities and find cost-effective solutions. He calls his style ‘fluid and conversational’.

‘I’ve always brought care and consideration when working with clients. We can do this, we can do that, I think we could make that better.’ 

He thinks beyond the aesthetic value, addressing big-picture practicalities such as liveability and ongoing maintenance. ‘Function over form is the first principle,’ he says. ‘but why should we not work to achieve both form and function? For example, are timber structures allowed to grey off, or should they be oiled to retain their original characteristics? Decisions, which are critical to the long-term liveability of the home, are just as important as the aesthetic value and detailing.’ 

Kane’s thoughtfulness and creativity are evident in the Palm Beach home that won the 2023 Hunter Home of the Year. The project showcases his talents with timber, and Kane describes it as ‘extremely technical with huge amounts of glazing, nine-metre openings, floor-to-ceiling windows and angle changes within the building. There were present difficulties in bracing and tying down throughout the structure. We also made sure all details were refined and precise.’

Kane’s creativity is evident in all his projects.
Evolving Construction’s Carriageway project.

Adding to the challenge, the house was built during the pandemic, which meant navigating price increases, labour shortages, materials shortages, shutdowns, and an overseas client that was unable to visit the site for over a year.

‘Huge amounts of strategy went into that build, and at the end of the day, to get the award was amazing. I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned through that process and the recognition of the award.’

As a long-term HIA member, Kane loves how the organisation gives members a ‘leg up’ through its awards program. He also values the professional support he receives from HIA – ‘whether it’s legal, insurance, apprenticeships, or buying contracts. With the facilitation of all those elements of a construction industry, it’s imperative we have bodies like HIA.’ 

The future’s looking bright for Evolving Construction, with a couple of years’ worth of solid work already booked ahead. Kane puts it all down to ‘grit and determination’, along with some sage advice he received at the beginning of his career: ‘My grandfather said to me that when you’re entering the construction industry, “it’s an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay”. I think that’s an important analogy to give to young people, to apprentices – whatever you put in is what you’ll get out of it.’

Today, he’s proud of his family, ‘two fantastic kids and a beautiful wife’; his team – ‘a fantastic bunch of guys’ – and the achievements of Evolving Construction. ‘We build some of the most amazing houses in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. What more could you ask for?’

First published on 4 April 2024

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