Lahey Constructions (Green Square Creative Centre)

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The jewel in the crown of Green Square

Lahey Constructions is one of Australia’s most successful, long-standing construction firms. They formed in rural-NSW back in 1950 and in the years since, they have steadily grown, always keeping ahead of the standards and demands of an ever-evolving industry. They have never stopped honing the skills of their people; they have continuously utilised the most innovative construction methods and processes, and they have always strived to be at the forefront of employee safety and environmental responsibility.

At the same time, over the company’s long history, some things have stayed the same. Today, they still build the kind of close and personal client relationships their founders did. And the company’s commitment to hard work, transparency, and personal service has not wavered.

As a result of that sustained commitment, Lahey has successfully delivered a wide range of projects over their 70 year history, particularly in the public sector. Their portfolio now includes hospitals, aged care facilities, retirement living, educational facilities, heritage and adaptive reuse, correctional facilities, community infrastructure, luxury apartments, resort complexes, and more.

Among their more recent projects, a flagship would be the Green Square Creative Centre – a multi-award winning project in Sydney’s inner eastern suburbs.

The Green Square Creative Centre project involved the refurbishment and adaptive re-use of the old South Sydney hospital site – now called the ‘Joynton Avenue Creative Centre,’ JACC for short – as well as a new public park named after Matron Ruby Grant. The build cost was over $25 million.

Lahey’s vast scope included: additions and renovations to three heritage-listed buildings, including a total roof replacement for one building; the construction of a new amenities building; the development of a new playground and several community zones; various improvements to the building curtilages and entries; more improvements along street frontages and areas within the site; extensive services reticulation installation; new public artwork, trees, and plantings; and more.

For their hard work, Lahey was heavily rewarded – as were their project partners, including their clients at the City of Sydney Council, and their architects at Peter Stutchbury Architecture. Since completing the project, the whole team has been consistently recognised with industry accolades. In 2018, the project won four Australian Institute of Architecture (AIA) Awards, one Australian Institute of Builders (AIB) Award, and two Master Builders Association (MBA) Excellence in Construction Awards.

At the AIA Awards, the Green Square Creative Centre was recognised for ‘Public Architecture,’ ‘Sustainable Architecture,’ the ‘Greenway Award for Heritage,’ and the ‘NSW Architecture Medallion’ – the latter of which is awarded for ‘best in show’ and selected from recipients of the named awards in each category.

At the prestigious Australian Institute of Building 2019 Professional Excellence in Building Awards (NSW), the Green Square Creative Centre was recognised in the Commercial Construction category for projects of value between $25,000,000 and $50,000,000.

Lastly, at the MBA Awards, the project won the categories for ‘Restoration/Adaptive Re-use of an Historic Building $5,000,001 to $30,000,000’ and ‘Best Use of Timber.’ The latter award is in recognition of the distinctive timber-lined feature archways, which act as an extension of the original building’s internal arches while also creating a new sheltered outdoor space.

 “That job was a particularly tough job,” says Guy Tristram, Bid Director. “It was a detailed, intricate project and it took combined company-wide knowledge to deliver using our own in-house joinery team. The end product really resembles the concept the architect had from the beginning, surpassing expectations to the point where it’s not only won one award, but seven industry awards – the team are very proud of what they accomplished.”

Guy credits the project’s awards success to every single member of that team, both internally and externally. That includes their Construction Manager, Matt Fearnley, their in-house skilled carpentry and joinery team, their client the City of Sydney, Peter Stuchbury Architecture, and all suppliers, subcontractors and consultants involved. Guy says they all worked “hand in glove” to deliver this award winning project.

“The relationships throughout the project were absolutely critical,” he says. “It was so intricate. Our team had to work closely with the client, the architect, the structural engineer – pretty much everyone involved with the design – to deliver it successfully.”

“Together, they exceeded all expectations,” he adds. “The seven awards are the proof of that.”

As an example of a particularly challenging element, Guy cites the acclaimed feature arches. They each comprised a curved cooper roof, curved glass gutters, a galvanised steel subframe, and then internally-clad Blackbutt timber battens, which had to be aligned with a gap no more than five millimetres apart running the length of the arches (approx. 20m). This presented many challenges:

“You’re dealing with many different materials there,” Guy explains. “The subframe galvanised cages expanded and contracted with the heat, so they had to be held in place with clamps, the glass gutters situated in between each arch had zero tolerance then each arch was clad with curved copper roofing.”

The biggest challenge, however, was the internal timber cladding. To achieve the tolerance, Lahey had to turn to their in-house joinery team, led by veteran carpenter Colin (Col) Howe.

“There’s no one that had the expertise outside of Lahey that could have managed the team and delivered that level of quality,” Guy says.

Col has been with Lahey Constructions for over 50 years, which is an extraordinary milestone in this day and age. He started as an apprentice working under former owner Eric Lahey, and has continued on working with current directors Philip and Andrew Lahey. Over the course of his career, he’s worked in almost every region of NSW and has been a major factor in the successful delivery of many Lahey projects.

On the Green Square Creative Centre, Col drew on his unrivalled joinery expertise to lead a team of in-house and subcontract carpenters throughout both the coordination and installation stages of the feature arches. He successfully installed all components and materials within the extremely tight tolerances required. Guy says his contribution was essential.

“He was able to deliver on all of the clients’ and the architects’ aspirations,” he says.

“It’s an amazing building,” he adds. “The revitalised site is the jewel in the crown of Green Square. It may not have been the biggest project that has been delivered there, but it’s the central node, it’s the hub of the development. It was critical to get it right, and that’s what we did.”

Recognised and revered

According to Guy, Lahey Constructions was ideally suited to deliver the Green Square Creative Centre due to their extensive history in the public works space. Over the company’s 70 years in business, they have made that sector their niche, building an unrivalled reputation for quality and reliability among clients like the City of Sydney.

“We are recognised and revered in that space,” he says. “We are known for the quality that we deliver.”

The company is also known for the accessibility of their leadership – and that starts right at the top, with third-generation Directors Philip and Andrew Lahey. Guy says they provide face-to-face contact, open and transparent collaboration, and regular interaction with clients.

“We’re not so corporate that our Directors and senior management are unreachable,” Guy explains. “I think that’s what clients like about us. They like to see the faces of the people in charge. They like to know they can pick up their phone and talk to them if there’s an issue, or even if they just have a question.”

“Starting from the tender and bidding stage, we have an amazing team that allows us to punch above our weight. We know how to collate a quality submission, we know how to get the right price, and we know how to deliver it, and our entire team takes pride in getting it right.”

“And that flows through to delivery,” Guy adds. “I think our clients see that. They see a well-run business with highly professional staff. They see a company they can count on to deliver quality outcomes at every stage of a project, from pre-construction through to construction.”

“It’s important to note that we would not have achieved and delivered numerous quality projects without our trusted supply chain of subcontractors, consultants and suppliers,” Guy says. He explains that they have developed a proven supply chain they can rely on, and he says that “without them, we would be nowhere.”

“Our relationships with our key suppliers and subcontractors are so important,” he says. “They are an extension of us. For us to be successful, we have to know and trust them.”

In the future, Lahey Constructions wants to continue to foster that intimacy and trust – not just with subcontractors and suppliers, but with every project stakeholder. He sees the Green Square Creative Centre as a strong example of how the process should work.

“Moving forward, we want to continue to work on projects holistically as one team,” Guy says. “’Us and them’ is outdated. It used to be that there was the builder, the client, and the design team, and they were all very separate.  The industry’s moving past that. We are all seeing the value of having muchmore collaborative working relationships.”

“We’re all working on the same project, we’re all trying to achieve the same goal,” he adds. “It’s important to recognise that and work together.”

Lahey want to continue working with local councils on challenging and iconic projects like the Green Square Creative Centre. They want to continue making an impact in the public sphere.

“That’s what we’ve been doing for 70 years,” Guy concludes. “The reason for that longevity is we stick to what we know, and we do it well.”For more on Lahey Constructions, the Green Square Creative Centre, and their many other award-winning projects, visit