6 February 2019

Cracks appearing in the building industry: Here's why

Like the facades of some well-publicised Sydney apartment buildings, public confidence in the construction industry has crumbled.

Quality workmanship has suffered for a number of reasons, but the root cause is that the building profession has not been able to keep up with the explosion of demand for apartments. There simply are too many inexperienced developers and insufficient skilled tradespeople.

Contributing to this problem has been:

  • The downgrading of TAFE colleges and industry apprenticeships, leaving a shortfall in qualified tradespeople
  • Greedy developers putting profit before customer satisfaction
  • Developers contracting out construction work based on price rather than suitability
  • Construction firms putting the financial squeeze on sub-contractors
  • Sub-contractors cutting corners or being unqualified for the task
  • Aggrieved sub-contractors sabotaging work when they are not being paid

Developers that use construction contractors are disadvantaged because they cannot check on workmanship until practical completion. By then it's only superficial problems and defects that are detected; they have to rely on consultants and the word of the contractor that every process in the build has been performed properly.

Like tens of thousands of people who have bought apartments/townhouses/villas off-the-plan, I have been a victim of an incompetent builder and a rookie developer. On paper the development looked ideal: perfect location and an attractive design for a downsizer like me, and it was within my budget.

I should have delved a little deeper, but at the time the Sydney property market was booming and I feared missing out. The development took 12 months longer to build than scheduled, forcing me to pay one year in rent unexpectedly as I had sold my family home based on the original construction timetable. I later learned that the builder had gone into receivership before completion, stalling the project.

Apparently he hadn't been paying his tradespeople, who took out their anger by sabotaging the build. Their misplaced sense of justice really only affected me and my fellow purchasers when our 'beautiful' new abodes revealed more flaws than an Australian batsman.

There are many excellent developers and professional construction companies in Australia. The problem as I see it is that there are far more developers and builders that are not up to the standard that consumers deserve.

I believe that potential off-the-plan purchasers should seek out developers who have their own in-house construction teams so they can monitor and control every stage of the build. Developers who contract out the construction have no direct governance over delivering a quality product. They, like the unsuspecting buyer, can be duped.

*Barry Hyland is a journalist and pubic relations consultant who has worked for developers, builders and architects since 1982. One of those developer-builders is HELM which upholds impeccable corporate governance in meeting - and almost always exceeding - purchaser expectations.

When considering an apartment purchase...

Ever heard of SAS? It's an acronym that stands for Substance Avoids Sufferance, and it's sage advice for those in the market for a new apartment.

Purchasing an apartment off-the-plan is a huge financial commitment that requires a leap of faith that what is promised will be delivered. A developer proud of their work will have no hesitation in providing contacts of previous purchasers to whom you can talk to learn, first hand, of their experiences.

Another way to judge the quality of a project is to examine the sales brochure produced by the developer. Is it informative, with plenty of intricate specifications, commitments, and testimonials from buyers in earlier developments?

Or is it all flash with a lack of real substance?

Is the copy meaningless hyperbole about lifestyle and coffee shops, or facts and figures about exactly what you'll get in your new apartment?

Are the images of wispy models sipping chardonnay or prancing with puppies, or true representations of what you are buying?

Is there a full history of previous projects, and a list of awards from architectural, building and development bodies that validate the workmanship of the developer?

As the acronym SAS warns: researching the credentials of the developer, the builder and the architect is the smartest way to safeguard your investment.

Local apartment development judge states finest

A Ramsgate Beach development has been declared the State's best apartment complex for 2018 by the Housing Industry Association of NSW.

Encore, at 152 Ramsgate Road, also won the award for the best small-scale infill development in 2018 from the Urban Development Industry Association of NSW.

The aptly-name Encore is the work of prestige developer-builder HELM and is just 60 metres to the west of its equally lauded Bayview. Slender elegance and a graceful, upturned roofline are the hallmarks of Encore, which comprises two symmetrical six-level buildings, including ground floor retail facing Ramsgate Road.

The HIA is the peak industry body for the Australian residential building sector, and its NSW judges decreed Encore to have "set the highest standards in apartment design and construction in its class." In all, Encore won three awards from the HIA:

  • Apartment of the year 2018
  • Overall apartment complex 2018, and
  • Apartment complex up to 10 storeys 2018

"Encore has the best detailing and level of finish in every part of the complex, including the car park and the fire stairs," the judges said.

"Great thought has gone into the link between indoor and outdoor areas in the attractive, large sized apartments. Gardens are a feature, which fully complement the apartments and provide great privacy."

The judges praised HELM for "creating a community amongst the residents which has been highly successful. The complex does not impose itself on its surroundings but adds to the amenity and streetscape in its vicinity." In conclusion the HIA described Encore as: "A great place to live!".

Operating on the philosophy of quality over quantity, HELM builds just one development per year on average.

Encore, Ramsgate Beach

Encore, Ramsgate Beach

This latest series of honours brings to 22 the number of awards that HELM projects have won over the past six years. Operating on the philosophy of quality over quantity, HELM builds just one development per year on average.

Last year HELM completed Muse at Neutral Bay and Tresor at Drummoyne, and it has started construction of Ora at Dolls Point, which promises to be the company's most impressive development so far.

HELM is one of those rare developer-builders that shoulders a great responsibility to provide a lasting legacy through architecturally-appropriate buildings designed according to good energy, water and solar management principles. Each of its developments have been carefully planned to ensure that the scale does not overpower the streetscape, and is respectful of the surrounding buildings and the privacy of neighbours.

HELM is the cumulative vision of Bruce Edwards and Malcolm Edwards from the famous Australian building company AW Edwards, and property veteran Mark Monk. 

AW Edwards has operated continuously for almost 100 years, making it one of Australia's oldest construction and fitout companies. 

Bruce, Malcolm and Mark are supported by teams of experienced and dedicated craftsmen and women who take pride in their work and traditional values of customer service.

From inception through to completion HELM are in control of every aspect of its projects, including site acquisition, concept design, design development, authority approvals, construction, marketing and handover.

HELM is not only the Developer, they are also the Builder who, as the 22 Industry Awards they have received attest, has extensive apartment construction experience and employ their own specialist apartment building teams.

HELM's Design and Project Managers are involved in each project from the design development phase. This process allows appropriate and demonstrated materials to be selected, with a focus on recurrent costs; ensuring trusted construction detailing is incorporated; and a meticulous standard of finish and workmanship is achieved. It is these key differences that differentiate HELM from the vast majority of Developers.

"Our philosophy is to create high quality apartment homes of which we can be proud, and to lift design standards with everything we embark upon," said Mr Monk, the CEO of HELM.

"We deliberately don't construct large developments, operating on the dictum that 'less is more'. We concentrate on boutique-size developments where we can control every process, meet our exacting standards and incorporate environmental principles. At the end of the day this approach is not only good for the occupants, it also provides a superior urban outcome which is good for the community."


Ora, Dolls Point. Artist Impression

Ora, Dolls Point. Artist Impression

Work is now in full swing on Ora at 177 Russell Avenue - a site that the experienced team at HELM believes is the finest it has ever secured.

"There is parkland on two sides and proximity to the coastline of the Bay so our task is to create a contemporary building as unique as the location that blends into the landscape," said Mr Monk.

Ora is one of the few near-beachfront developments in Sydney providing such flexible spaces and high levels of quality, style and individuality. Each of the 36 apartments has been specifically designed for people who want spacious house-style living on a single level. 

The rooms are large, the ceilings are high, the entertaining options numerous, the storage space copious, the security is comprehensive and the windows expansive to maximise the views. 

"We design our apartments as an alternative to the family home," said Mr Monk.

"Our buyers are primarily Empty Nesters and Downsizers who have a lot of living to do, so as they move into a new phase of life without kids they are tempted to make every minute of their new-found freedom count. Most are coming from large homes and tell us that they are tired of the maintenance chores and want to 'have fun and stay young'.