Sydney’s Opal Tower is a timely reminder

Opal Tower Sydney
Opal Tower Sydney
Opal Tower in Sydney fiasco comes as a timely reminder. Image credit ColourByDesign.




Scaffold, Formwork, construction in SydneyIn the wake of Sydney’s Opal Tower fiasco, the New South Wales state government’s approach is geared toward improving the construction industry and alleviating public concerns by cracking down on private building certifiers. For all in the industry, this can be likened to taking the paintbrush off a child and leaving them with the open paint tin.

Let’s be honest: What is the purpose of building certifiers? They check that the proposed building design meets all the regulations, standards, and building codes for the proposed “classification” of the building. Once the building is complete, all they are checking to ensure the building, in its “finished” form, meets the classification requirements. The certifier will also compile every consultant, subcontractor, and builder alike, that all the appropriate evidence (aka paperwork) stating they have completed their job correctly.

At what point has the private building certifier walked onsite? Unless you are doing a partial handover, they will only come to the site at the end. How is this relevant to the Opal tower in Sydney?

Building certifiers and Opal tower

Reo in suspend concrete slabFirst, we need to ask: was the building certifier there when the concrete was being poured? Was the certifier there when the precast panels were being installed? It is highly, highly unlikely.

How is this the certifiers problem? Frankly, its not. Who’s responsibility is it? It’s ours; we have all done it: didn’t blow/clean the formwork deck off properly, didn’t remove the over-spilled concrete from the top of that column. And before everyone jumps up and down, I am not saying we are doing a bad job. The Opal Tower is one major incident that has emerged after the handover in how many buildings that we all have collectively built? More than anything, this is a timely reminder.

We all have tight timelines, and hundreds of meters of concrete booked weeks in advance, all while managing teams of contractors to meet these fictitious dates. We have become masters of balancing risk, timing, and ever-pressing constraints of construction. Of course, we let things slide; how else do you build a tower in under 12 months?

Opal tower’s timely reminder

It’s easy for us to get complacent when making decisions of what we will let slide and what we won’t. Just like the guys on the ground at Opal tower would be feeling the weight of their decisions made throughout the project, we, too, have to live with our decisions.

Construction site in Sydney

Maybe we have been lucky, maybe not. And with all the quality and consultant inspections that we have to complete on a daily basis, not to mention the continual re-checking (I know we all love re-checking everyone’s work), it’s the detail that will always cause sleepless nights.

As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” By having the person (private building certifier) that has a broad brush stroke being responsible for painting between the lines will only cause a mess. After all this has blown over, as we are the people responsible for building our buildings, we will have missed the direct government scrutiny, but we will feel the added pressure with our ever-shrinking project constraints.

Related article: Don’t stand on the outside of construction

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Carillion collapse, a timely reminder about your tools

Carillion collapse, looking up a commercial building facade

Carillion collapse, looking up a commercial building facade




In the wake of the Carillion collapse, one of UK’s largest construction companies, there has been a lot of finger pointing to the company’s failure. And like everything in this industry, nothing is like it seems and we will never learn the full story. With Carillion’s collapse comes a timely reminder, and one I am sure we have all heard from time to time.

At the end of the day, we all love to get off-site as soon as we can, we lock up our tools and head off home. We are quite willing to take the chance that our tools and gear will still be on site in the morning. And for the most part, we get away with it. Yet, we always watch the old guys pack up all their tools and lug them off home each day.

Their experience over the years has taught them a thing or two, and one that is likely to be a surprise to many. And this is where Carillion comes in, where a principal contractor has collapsed.

Carillion’s due process

Carillion and construction sites aerial photo
Image by Chuttersnap

When a principal contractor (builder) goes into liquidation, administration, or receivership, whichever the case may be, the administrators come in and lock up the principal contractor’s assets. The administrators and receiver’s jobs are to evaluate and sell off the collapsed company’s assets to recover as much money as possible for the creditors.

Construction sites are deemed to be assets of the principal contractor. In most cases, the administrators will bring in security guards and change the site locks to keep the sites safe and secure. The security isn’t there to keep the public out; they are there to keep you out. The biggest risk to an administrator completing their job is the burnt subcontractors and workers.

Here is why:

When the receivers are on site they are completing a stock take and assessing items of value. Your tools and any gear left on site are likely to be included in the builder’s assets. Your tools and your bosses gear are now caught up in the financial and legal tangle of the failed principle contractor.

As the legal mess unfolds subcontractors and their employees are very likely to be the ones to break into the site and try to retrieve their tools and equipment. It’s not that you won’t get your tools back, you simply have to prove what is yours.

Lesson to from Carillion

Carillion and photo of new rail way tunnel
Image by Ricardo Gomex Angel

Let’s be honest, just like everyone else on site, most of our tools are only marked with coloured paint. Getting your tools back could be likened to going to the police and identifying your stolen tools. You will information like serial numbers, engravings, photos, etc. which I highly doubt many of us can provide.

Now spare a thought for your boss, all the material and gear that they have onsite is now lost. Regardless of who paid and owned what items, the receivers now have control of the construction site and everything contained within site.

While everyone waits for the receivers and administrators to do their job, you and your boss are going to be short of everything left on that site. You can’t work without tools and neither can your employer.

Guess the old guys lugging their tools home every day were right when they would say, “take your tools home.”

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Pro Build’s Greenland Centre could be Sydney’s most recognised construction site

Pro Build Greenland Centre building steel structure looking up from the street with two tower cranes




Pro Build's Greenland Centre building steel structure looking from the street up to wards the sky with two tower cranes
Street view of Pro Build’s Greenland Centre building. Image by Chiagramz

Walking through the heart of Sydney city, there are construction sites everywhere. You have what feels like every second city street having the new 12km light rail being built by Acciona. Then there is all the high-rise construction happening throughout the city and surrounding areas. For perspective, the RBL crane index has listed Sydney as having 334 cranes erected in the second quarter of 2017. Sydney currently has over 50% of Australia’s tower crane population.

Pro Build’s Greenland Centre building

Of all the work that is happening, there is one construction site that stands out, one that everyone recognise. That is Pro Build’s Greenland Centre building. At the moment the original 1960’s building steel structure rises high, which will be incorporated into the new building’s structure.

Pro Build Greenland Centre building steel structure zoomed in with two tower cranes visible
The old steel structure makes an interesting subject to photograph. Image by Colourbydesign

Looking from the street, the skeleton, the remaining steel structure of the old building has a presence of its own. So much so, that photos of the structure have been flooding Instagram. This building can almost be used as a point of reference to anyone visiting the city.

The trouble that Sydney photographers are facing is, who has that one image that sets them apart. That photo that puts them ahead of the pack. There is everything from the street view, to window reflections and far away zoom pictures.

Who has the best photo?

Well, I guess, who has the best image is a question more of personal choice. For the time being, we have a short window of opportunity to try and capture that one special photo.

The rumour on the street is Pro Build has the new concrete structure up to ground level. So if you are looking to get a great photo, you may only have a few months before this unique view disappears.

Night time photo of Pro Build's Greenland Centre building with car lights, lit up site hoarding and the steel structure.
By night the steel structure with the access lighting it all interesting. Image by Thetravellingbuilder

Take a search on Instagram using the hashtag #greenlandcentre, #greenlandcentresyd and #greenlandcentresydney to find a few more images. Also, if you search the hashtag #towercranes, you will find a scattering of some of the images that feature this unique view of the Greenland Centre building. I will let you be the judge to which photo is the standout.

Leave a comment below about any interesting photos you find of this soon to be hidden Sydney gem.

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Clem Carpentry unique approach to challenges

Stairs, Clem Carpentry, design




When I spoke with Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry, I figured that I would be writing about one of their projects. However, it was their business and how they have tackled some of the challenges that grabbed my attention.

Clem Carpentry’s niche market

Marc, Holly, Clem Carpentry
Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry

Marc and Holly have found themselves in the niche market of high-end renovations, in their words “elegant restorations and renovations.” A boutique market that in my opinion puts a builders reputation on the line with every project.

I have a special spot in my heart for renovations, particularly with high-end and old buildings. The whole challenge, do you make your work plumb and level? Or do you match the existing building, so it all flows? The kind of work that tests all of us as tradesmen. From what Marc and Holly have shared with me, they are not only up for the challenge; they are excelling.

 

Stairs, Clem Carpentry, design
New stairs designed by Clem Carpentry

They are an impressive team; Marc is the carpenter and builder, and Holly is an interior designer. With their niche, they have the perfect team. They both enjoy working on older homes, which in Queensland Australia we call Queenslander’s.

 

Their well-suited teamwork is evident when a client asked them to replace the front stairs and restore the old homes character. They took what looks like an old 70’s style steel stairs and handrails and have created era perfect timber set.

Their attention to detail is second to none. With Holly providing well-detailed drawings and Marc’s attention to the seemly small details. For example, the priming of the step treads before being installed. And the housing out of the timber stump to allow the stairs to sit hard against the weatherboards at the top of the stairs.

Unique approach to challenges

Clem Carpentry attention to detail
Attention to detail

A challenge that the Clem Carpentry have been confronting is the expectations that reality television shows in Australia have put on the industry. Shows like “The Block” have been making renovating bathrooms, kitchens, etc., look achievable in a single week. And yes, we all know that it can be done, at a high cost and exceptionally long hours. Marc and Holly find that the younger generations have an unrealistic expectation of the cost and the time it takes to renovate.

I find it fascinating that sometimes our biggest hurdles in business are not always our direct competition. And the way in which people and business approach these obstacles is equally fascinating. How Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry have approached the unrealistic expectations that reality tv has created is unique and well thought out.

To help their clients understand the time things take with a sensible budget, they turned to YouTube. Making short videos of the different projects, they have completed, not only demonstrating their work but also a realistic time frame to complete the work. By using time lapses, they have managed to combat the expectations reality tv has directly installed in different people.

Construction is a unique industry, and again I have been surprised how I thought one thing before meeting Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry. My thoughts have been turned in a direction I didn’t expect, and I am so glad for the new direction.

Marc and Holly are easy going people following their passions and in the process making other people’s dreams a reality. I’m stoked that I got the opportunity to meet them.

Website: www.clemcarpentry.com.au

Phone: 1300 400 431