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By Willow Aliento
May 21, 2018
Greenfield sites might have an attraction for many builders. However, leading Melbourne commercial builder, Rodine, thrives on challenging live site projects.
Jobsite spoke with Rodine’s CEO Justine Teggelove, Strategic Partnerships Manager Rod Teggelove, and Construction Manager Dean McGoldrick to find out what the secret to successful delivery is when depending on an ever-changing cast of thousands.
According to Dean, the key thing to understand is that there are multiple stakeholders that the project team needs to engage. Those stakeholders include members of the public, such as shoppers, apartment residents, airline passengers or cinema goers, that may be affected by works but are not always well-informed about the implications of it.
Their experience of the site needs to be managed, and that also means keeping them comfortable, whether they are an apartment dweller or a retail tenant.
“You need to understand what every single person who walks through has expectations,” Rod says. In the case of a shopping centre, for example, that means appreciating that this place actually belongs to the staff, tenants, and shoppers. “We take the time to manage expectations.”
The team also takes the time to understand how people were used to navigating the space and getting from A to B.
After all, construction at their local shopping centre can impact on the routines of regulars.
Dean says that at Southlands, where Rodine undertook substantial works for Scentre Group, there was an older customer base. They would often meet early at the centre for coffee.
The build would have a potential impact on them that, as Dean says, couldn’t be ignored.
Developing a way of working around the needs of centre users flows through to OHS matters, for example, can customers safely get to their normal pathways.
There is also a need to anticipate the needs of tenants. In the case of Southlands, it meant planning around events. At one point, the centre was featuring Australian Idol contestants in the central area — Rodine was working above a crowd of 5,000 screaming teenaged fans.
This all flows through to the project methodology, Dean says.
“You can’t just take the space,” he says. “Normally [with a building site], you just put up hoarding.” Therefore, there are things to consider like whether columns will block sight lines for important signage. Staging and scheduling can also be affected.
Justine says that at Southlands, the team would move the doors in the evenings. The equipment could be brought in every night, and then, they would move the doors again in time for morning trading.
“The strength of a live build is you have to think outside the square,” Dean says. “You have to consider all the scenarios and plan. You also need to be flexible. With a greenfields or brownfields site, you have more control.
Live site projects also may have the same timelines as a brownfields or greenfields project, so Rod says your approach needs to be nimble. At Southlands, resolving one major milestone led the team to a solution that had never been tried at an operational retail centre in Melbourne — namely, using a helicopter to install structural steel for rooftop barrel vaults.
Rod says the team had at first considered a crane. However, it would have had a great impact on the operations of the centre. A helicopter lift, on the other hand, could be done out of hours.
The required planning was immense. The team had to pick the date three months in advance and negotiate with stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authority, local council and EPA. An engagement was undertaken with the local community and centre tenants. The lift was scheduled for first light on a Sunday morning. By 6.30 am, locals were gathering to watch. Rodine provided coffee for the occasion.
The toolbox and inductions had covered all the vital information for the rooftop rigging crew, the helicopter refuelling crew on the adjacent carpark rooftop, and other personnel. The structure itself was designed so that it didn’t require welding on-site, and 3D modelling was used to ensure each piece would fit within one-millimetre tolerance.
“On the date, it was quite remarkable how it all fell into place,” Dean says. “The weather was perfect. We had four hours to do it in. If there had been any rain, we would have had to stop.”
Justine admits that the secret behind pulling it off was to “plan, plan, plan” everything beforehand. The project was an amazing success, and according to Rob, anyone involved “still talks about it. It broadened the knowledge base of everyone — we now know it’s a viable option.”
Another challenging live site is Melbourne Airport, where Rodine has been engaged on a series of projects since 2015. Most recently, they have completed being the Marhaba Lounge within the T2 Terminal.
“An airport is a unique place to work; there are both the obvious and not-so-obvious security arrangements,” Dean says. An airport also has more stakeholders than most client projects. The key to success is “very good organisation and people management.”
“The challenge is: How do you be fluid and problem-solve in a more structured environment?” Justine says. As Dean adds, having the right staff is vital. In order to do the job right, you need people who “don’t get flustered by process.”
Logistically, Rod points out that an obvious challenge is the process of getting men and materials airside. There is only one gate. Access to it and the corresponding security process needs to be booked a week in advance.
Having the paperwork right is essential — and there is no such thing as an ad-hoc delivery to an airside site. Planning also needs to take into account the possibility the airport might go into lockdown while staff are airside. This is not something a contractor can control or change.
Rod says there needs to be planning for contingency — that means having Plan A, B, C, and D. “You have to be very nimble in your approach.”
The project teams need to be sure subcontractors are fully cognisant of what will be required before the job starts, Justine says.
It is also very important to have strong relationships with the subcontractors, Dean adds.
“That is a critical part of our success.” Frequency of communications is crucial — and they need to be clear, concise, and ideally, face-to-face to ensure the subcontractors are fully on the journey.
Another live site project that has just been completed was the Classic Cinemas project. It involved building above a fully-functioning cinema on a site, tucked in between apartments and a museum. The site had to be “lean and efficient,” Dean says, as there was no laydown room. All materials had to be delivered just in time for installation, and all waste and other items removed straight away.
The site office and amenities were located on an elevated gantry above the adjacent carpark.
There were also strict limits in terms of noisy works, with only the hours between 7 am and 10 am allowed on most days.
The biggest challenge, however, was ensuring the safety and comfort of cinema patrons, who would be new to the site each day.
“Basically, you’re taking the roof off, and they want to watch a movie,” Dean says. The cinema manager promoted it as an outdoor cinema experience while the roof was off; patrons would be given a cup of cocoa and a blanket to watch movies under the stars.
“It became a marketing element,” Dean says.
The cinema needed to meet their obligations to the film distributors, as it was contracted to screen the various films for a certain number of sessions.
Rod says Rodine learned about how the movie industry works from the project, and how it can potentially impact a building site.
The project team also had to be excellent at dealing with the public. There was no segregation between the public and the workforce on the lower levels of the site.
All of this was covered in the induction and toolbox talks, Rod says.
The works were managed so well that there were no complaints from the nearby apartment residents, he says. “There was a lot of communication with residents beforehand and a lot of sensitivity in the approach.”
Overall, to be successful on live sites, the people working for the company have to be enthusiastic, motivated, adaptable, and love the challenge, Rod says.
“It’s about customer service, and meeting customer needs and multiple stakeholders’ needs,” Justine adds. “We also ensure the contractors we have on-site understand.”
Dean says that contractor selection is critical. They need to be people that want to work with you and are like-minded. Emotional intelligence is also valuable. As Justine says, “Communicate — don’t berate.”
The language used by workers when on site and how they present also matters. Dean wants his employees to “Look like a tidy tradesman.”
There is a level of professionalism that goes with working live sites — and it is something Rodine requires of its people.
“We say, this is how we’re going to conduct ourselves,” Justine says. “It’s not rocket science — be a nice person and be upfront.”
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