For North, trust is the cornerstone upon which every project is built
North Construction & Building isn’t simply raising buildings, it’s raising expectations in the industry. The largest commercial construction firm on the Central Coast, North is leading the way toward a higher level of accountability amongst players in the space by putting their values front and centre, right along with their demonstrated history of excellence.
Established in 1987, the Tuggerah-based firm has a sterling reputation as a builder of choice for complex projects throughout the Central Coast, Hunter Valley, Newcastle, and Northern Sydney. By leveraging a blend of personalized service and high quality outcomes, this medium sized powerhouse is one of the most trusted commercial construction firms in the region. In fact, according to Managing Director Matthew Cook, “In everything we do, we are looking to build trust in our industry that really doesn’t do trust well.”
That refreshing candour will no doubt sting an industry player or two, but Cook’s ability to address the elephant in the room speaks volumes about the way the company does business. “In my experience, whether it’s procuring a building or development, running a business or working within a business, you hear plenty said around overrunning time or budgets, a lack of professionalism or issues of mistrust,” he clarified, noting that some firms’ risk management strategies include a fair amount of finger-pointing and shifting blame when things don’t go to plan. “There's a bad basis on which to establish trust in the beginning. You've got to talk about stakeholder goals right from the outset and everyone must own their part. This starts with trust.”
As a means of establishing vision to the ideal here, Cook expands, “Imagine a business firstly and a project procurement model secondly operating at every level purely on trust. No contract, no inappropriate ‘risk transfer,’ no fear of being ‘ripped off’... As hypothetical as the ideal is, it is the emphasis this puts on crystal clear and proactive communication, real and caring relationships based on respect, which we are aiming at.”
North takes a different approach. “It sounds cliché, but our focus is on good people and strong relationships, aligned to our values. At North, we’re all about building with trust. That extends to our employees, subcontractors, and clients; to fair treatment, understanding, and paying on time,” he said. Most of North’s suppliers and subcontractors have worked with the firm extensively. The company employs 100 staff members.
“For clients, trust is being transparent, consistent, and particularly proactive in the discussions around owning responsibilities. Beyond that, trust for subcontractors is fairness, respect, and paying what is owed when it is due,” he continued. “For our staff, trust is approachability, openness, support, and great options in the business for your career direction.”
Performing complex work in live environments
As experts in the education, health, and aged care sectors, North’s project portfolio is filled with challenging, complex projects. “Education and aged care projects come with tight budgets and often, even tighter timelines. They also often involve working in live environments where we have to keep the institutions running like ‘business as usual’ with minimal impact. We have a great reputation delivering these complex, time sensitive projects safely and to a high quality level,” Cook noted.
One such institution, San Clemente High School, was renovated during operating hours. A multipurpose hall was part of the $7.5 million project, which features 21-metre-long timber portal frames, some of the largest in the country. In addition to building work, North contributed significant value engineering input to assist with client budget requirements.
Working under Downer EDI, the firm’s work on the iconic Newcastle Light Rail project, Australia’s first wireless light rail system, was completed early 2019. The project links Newcastle to the waterfront, and features an architecturally striking main depot building. In addition to building the depot, which also serves as an office building and control centre for the light rail system, North constructed the various stops along the 2.7km route including the erection of the structural steel canopy and charge bar structure, which enables the system to charge the light rail vehicles at each stop.
“Our approach, and being able to manage that complexity translates into success in any commercial sector,” Cook said. At present, the firm is working on the seven-storey $20 million project for The Mutual headquarters in East Maitland. Designed by dwp, the structure features a large exposed Y-shaped column supporting the top three levels. “The site and unique design pose some building challenges that are well suited to our skills and experience. We’re bringing over 30 years’ local experience to the project, and the team delivering these works will ensure it is done in a timely manner and in a way that imposes the least amount of disruption on the surrounding businesses and community,” Cook said.
“For us, innovation is considered as continual improvement or being expansive in our thinking. We have done a lot of staff training around these two concepts and continue to focus on growing in this way.”
Caring for the community
It’s not enough for North to shape skylines. Through their culture of inclusion, openness, and caring, they shape the wellbeing of their staff. “In two words, we care,” Cook said. “We invest in our staff both personally and professionally. We’re dedicated to providing long-term careers, and we are working hard to create a culture and corporate environment that is not only supportive but also friendly and inclusive.” It’s an approach that works, considering that over half the company’s employees have only ever worked at North.
Supporting communities at home and abroad is an important part of that culture. In addition to lending their support to the charitable endeavours of clients and partners, North lends itself to a range of social services for the area’s most vulnerable citizens, including Coast Shelter. North performed contracting work for the shelter, and after the work ended, many employees stayed involved, and volunteer to this day. In 2012, North staff and subcontractors travelled to Papua New Guinea to build New Hope International’s Yegeli Early Childhood Development Centre.
For Cook and the staff, every effort, whether in business or charitable works, comes down to one word: trust.
“It’s important to understand that while there are many businesses out there to choose from, it’s critical that clients, subcontractors, and employees choose one that they trust. For too long, commitments made around lowest price, inappropriate risk allocation, mistrust or short-term focus sees examples of clients, contractors and staff being misled into thinking they’re making the smartest choice, when more often than not, the reality costs in overruns, surprise and stress.”
“That’s why we focus on integrity and trust in all that we do.”