One home that started it all
When George Kamitsis was approached by his mate to build a home for him, he graciously accepted. Little did he know, this home would lead to their future endeavor of beginning their own construction company. “I asked George to build me a house while I was deployed overseas. When I got back I was so impressed with the house that I proposed to him that we form a construction company. He could take me under his wing and show me the ropes. I would do all the paperwork and he would do the work onsite,” says Paul Winter, one of the directors at Habitat NT. And so George did exactly that. Paul had little to no experience in the construction industry when he started out and is now proud of all he has learned and accomplished under the guidance of his partner George. George has been in the industry for 35 years and is extremely knowledgeable in his field. He is affluent in both residential and commercial construction. This was nearly four years ago, and since 2008 Habitat NT has been building homes, commercial buildings, and completing renovations throughout the Darwin area.
You want it – Habitat NT has got it
Whether you’re looking to build a whole new office block, or simply a new home for your family, Habitat NT can help you out. Habitat NT can also help you in designing and gaining government approval prior to beginning the building process. Between the two founders, Habitat NT has a lot of experience in all types of construction, particularly in the Darwin area. They understand the importance of construction a new building, and strive to provide the support that will make it a pleasant experience. Because they live in Darwin, and understand the way of life in the territory, they are in the perfect position to offer advice to their clients on their housing needs.
Additionally, Habitat NT does several renovations per year. As the economy has taken a downturn, Paul has noticed an increase in home renovations as opposed to new homes. “Banks aren’t loaning as much as they used to.” Luckily, Habitat NT does it all. “A lot more people are doing renovations as opposed to building new houses. We have six or seven renovations going on at one time instead of two new houses going up. It’s a 3 to 1 ratio,” says Paul. In this year, Habitat NT intends on doing approximately 25 to 30 different projects, whether they be design and construct or renovations. “We’ve had an increase turnover of 600 per cent annually,” says Paul. Their projects vary based on time, size, and style but they average between 200,000 and 2.5 million dollars. Unlike nearly all of their competitors, Habitat NT can proudly say they have remained relatively untouched by the current global financial crisis. “We’ve never actually been so busy,” says Paul. Luckily for Habitat NT, they have been busy with different government projects. “We recently completed 18 houses for the government in about 4 or 5 months,” says Paul.
Commitment from start to finish
With the company consisting of only two employees, it could be assumed that balancing the workload is tough. However, this is definitely not the case for Habitat NT. “There are only two of us on the books, myself and George,” says Paul. “We do our own quotes, our own project management, we do everything.” The management team at Habitat NT oversees all the projects they take on personally, though all the work is subcontracted out. Habitat NT utilises the services of a little over 100 different subcontracting companies, including an interior decorator.
Both Paul and George are licensed builders and remain active on their various worksites. They are always within reach of their clients, and this is something they can say with great confidence. “One thing we really pride ourselves on is returning phone calls. The biggest thing with clients is that builders never return their calls,” says Paul. This certainly is not the case for Habitat NT, who work hard to maintain a relationship with their clients, subcontractors, and suppliers that encourages cooperation and support. The Habitat NT promise is to maintain communication with their customers at all times and involve them in all the important decisions that affect their future house or work place. Because they can’t know how clients are feeling without listening, Habitat NT makes themselves reachable day and night. Keeping client satisfaction at the top of their list, Habitat NT aims to please and strive for perfection.
Not only is Habitat NT available by phone, but they always make themselves available to be on site. “George and I both have licenses and we’re both always on site. We’re sweaty, we have work hats on, and we’re there,” says Paul. Both directors stress the importance of monitoring their projects personally, at all stages of the building process.
It has become a custom of Habitat NT’s to go above and beyond expectations, regulations, and standards. They want to be the best in the industry and they are willing to take the necessary measures to ensure this happens. As a construction company, it is crucial that they follow the explicit rules and regulations regarding waste management and green initiatives. “We, personally, don’t need a policy for green initiatives. The government in the Northern Territory has already taken on the 5-star rating requirement,” says Paul. According to the Green Building Council Australia (GBCA), a green building is “a residence or commercial structure built so that it promotes energy conservation, uses environmentally friendly construction products in a sensible way and creates a healthy place to live or work.” The Northern Territory has made green buildings a requirement, not simply an option. Nonetheless, Habitat NT works to surpass such regulations. “We aim for a 6-star rating on nearly all our projects,” says Paul.
Making safety a priority
Habitat NT recognises that safety accreditation is important, not just for protecting their on-site workers, but also for their plans for growth. For this reason, they have been working closely with Health Safety Environment Management (HSE Management), an Australian organisation that assists businesses large and small with all manner of risk management solutions. With HSE’s help, Habitat NT achieved the first step of their Australian Standard 4801 for safety in March. Together, they continue to work daily to achieve federal safety accreditation, with their first audit upcoming. “This means we’re in the big leagues, particularly in the Darwin area,” says Paul.
Federal accreditation is not the pairing’s only aim. Because Habitat NT does not directly employ tradesmen, HSE needed to develop a unique system for them. Training and safety requirements are the sub-contractors responsibility, but HSE designed a system that allows for checking and auditing to determine if the sub-contractor will be employed by Habitat NT or not. If the answer is ‘not’, HSE and Habitat NT will work with the subcontractor to improve their level of safety and develop a new policy. The pairing has already assisted over 100 separate companies in this way, which has proven to be helpful to those companies in obtaining bigger and better projects.
Involvement in the community
The Habitat NT team are locals to Darwin, and thus have a stake in supporting the community. To that end, Habitat NT has sponsored small sporting teams and assisted community events and charities that otherwise would not have gained corporate or government assistance. Throughout the 2010 year alone, Habitat NT considered itself privileged to be able to sponsor the St Vincent De Paul’s CEO sleep out – an annual event to raise awareness and support for homeless Australians –, The FFNT (Football Federation of Northern Territory) as the major sponsor for the A grade soccer league, The National Sailing Regatta, Defence Volleyball, the NT BMX Championships, and more.
Continuing to grow
Relatively new to the industry, Habitat NT is working towards leaving their mark. Their vision is to be the leading residential and commercial developer within the Darwin area. “We have a really strong will to develop the name and ensure quality of the highest standards,” says Paul. Working directly with clients, they have put much of their time into the business. In the short future they intend on expanding Habitat NT with a few more staff members. “We see us increasing our employees. It won’t just be two people anymore,” says Paul. As they build their team, Habitat NT will flourish as a business and become well known within the industry. “As we continue to grow, I see us sitting up with the big boys in the next two to three years,” says Paul. Habitat NT is on the rise and their plans for expansion are right around the corner.