Consistent and transparent
McColl Smith Projects (MSP) is an award-winning building and project management company. They take pride in forming strong and lasting relationships with every member of their project team, and working together to deliver results that exceed expectations in terms of both quality and program. Over the past five years, their collaboration, communication, and craftsmanship – combined with their general passion for building – have been consistently rewarded with customer loyalty and industry accolades.
Most recently, MSP’s high standard of excellence was recognised at the 2019 Master Builders Victoria Excellence in Construction Awards. There, the company’s outstanding quality of work on the New Junior Building of the Ivanhoe Primary School won them the category for ‘Excellence in Construction of Commercial Buildings under $3 million.’
“It’s extremely rewarding to be recognised on an industry level like that,” says Dominic McColl, co-founder and director of the company. “A team of experienced judges considered our project to be a cut above the rest. We value that very highly.”
Going into the awards night, Dom admits that he didn’t expect to win – largely because the category was for commercial buildings up to $3 million, and their project cost was “far less.”
“We went along to the awards night as a team,” he says. “We invited the project architect and all of our employees. We treated it as a night out together, more than anything else. We were nominated for an award but we didn’t expect to be successful. There was a raft of great projects in that category from a list of larger scale construction companies. When we heard our name called out, we were very surprised, and very humbled.”
“It just shows the realm of quality that our building was held in,” he adds. “And it wasn’t just the building itself – it was the relationship that we’d developed with the client throughout the build, it was how highly they spoke of us during the judging process, it was the difficulties we overcame as a collective.”
“So to get that recognition is very pleasing,” he says. “But it’s not just recognition for us – it’s for the school, the architectural team, the state government. It’s recognition for everyone that was involved.”
The team on the award-winning project included MSP, Maddison Architects, the Victorian School Building Authority, and Ivanhoe Primary School, among others.
MSP was engaged by the Victorian School Building Authority to construct a new Junior Building for the school – a building also known as ‘the Treehouse.’ The structure of the building consisted of concrete strip footings, steel, and a timber subfloor. The façade was multi-faceted and includes blackbutt timber cladding, aluminium windows, profiled metal sheeting in matte finish, and brickwork. The exterior also includes a striking diagonal steel feature, painted lettuce green.
Internally, the building consisted of two large learning spaces. Those were combined with smaller reading nooks and window seats that protrude from the side of the northern elevation.
In addition, the whole building was wrapped by a large external deck. Due to the severe slope of the site, that deck allowed for a “brilliant overview” of the adjacent sporting oval.
However, delivering such a strong architectural result was not always simple or easy. The project site was based centrally within a live school environment, which presented a host of logistical and safety challenges. Dom is proud of how everyone on their team navigated those hurdles. He credits their success to their “consistent and transparent communication.”
“We spoke openly and often with all the major stakeholders,” he says. “We made sure the process was transparent and positive. I believe that was the key.”
For example, throughout the entire build, the company was in constant contact with the school principal. Whether they had a significant update or not, Dom says their site supervisor spoke with the principal every day, so he was always aware of what was happening and what to expect in the coming days.
“We kept him fully informed,” Dom says. “He always knew what was going on in terms of machinery on site, or in terms of quantity of site staff. I think that was significant. He really appreciated that and was very positively vocal during the judge’s interview.”
Dom adds that they practiced the same openness with the architect and the representative from the Victorian School Building Authority.
“We kept them fully updated as to where we were at,” he says. “Any variation costs that came up were transparently and clearly communicated.”
Dom further credits the overall success to the MSP’s uncompromising commitment to health and safety. He says they recognised that they were operating in and around small children, and they took that responsibility extremely seriously.
“We were coming off a road where the children were being dropped off and picked up each day,” he says, citing an example of their diligence. “So we had a very strict regime around allowable times for machine or material delivery. If someone showed up outside of those times, they were simply turned away. They were told it wasn’t appropriate to do that now, it wasn’t safe.”
“After a week or so, all of our contractors got that message pretty clearly and jumped on board,” he adds. “Everyone was compliant. Everyone took the safety dynamic on site very seriously.”
Working together, MSP and their project team successfully overcame each obstacle, and they delivered the job on program, within budget, and to an evidently award-winning quality standard. Dom was proud of that result, but more than anything else, he’s proud of the relationships they built achieving it.
“We came out of it with relationships that are not just intact, but that are going to be longstanding,” he says. “I still speak to the principal quite often, just to catch up. The architect has provided more work for us, as has the Victorian School Building Authority.”
“Creating something that is high quality, that’s visually impressive and attractive, that’s award-winning – that’s great, and we’re proud of that,” he says. “But we’re even more proud of the relationships we’ve built with all the stakeholders. That’s what’s really important to us.”
Having fun along the way
Prior to forming McColl Smith Projects, Dom had earned more than 15 years’ experience in the commercial, industrial, and residential building sectors. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Property & Construction and a Bachelor of Planning & Design, and then began his career as a site-based project coordinator for Mirvac Constructions. From there, he moved over to Ireland Brown Constructions, where he spent 10 years and worked his way up to Senior Project Manager. By the end of his time with that company, he was managing projects up to $35 million in value.
Jerad Smith is co-director and founder of McColl Smith, and the other half of its namesake. He is similarly experienced in the industry, having worked in numerous roles and locations throughout the world. Over the course of his career, he has worked as a project engineer in Sydney on projects ranging over $30 million in value, as a site manager in London on high profile projects including the British Film Institute and Great Ormond St Hospital for Children, and as a Senior Project Manager for Ireland Brown Constructions back in Australia.
Dom and Jerad met while working together at Ireland Brown. They learned that they shared a lot of values in common, and after 10 years as colleagues, they simultaneously decided it was time to take the next step in their careers.
“We both reached a point where we were ready for a change and a reset,” Dom recalls. “Over a quiet beer, we realized we were on the same page, and we decided to put things in motion to create McColl Smith Projects.”
Initially, Dom and Jerad performed every function of the company themselves – from tendering to business development, site management, system generation, accounting, contract administration, they did it all and everything in between.
“We learned pretty quickly that if we wanted to grow we needed to engage the right people and delegate appropriately,” Dom says. “From that point on we were able to target specific areas of the market, tailor our operations to be competitive, and safely deliver a quality built product.”
Today, MSP predominantly takes on institutional work, largely in the education and health sectors. Their projects can range up to $10 million in value. Both Dom and Jerad have strong backgrounds in that niche, giving them an advantage – first when tendering, and then later when performing the work.
“We know how to price those jobs quite intimately,” Dom says. “We can be competitive, and we believe we can offer a level of service that others can’t.”
Dom’s belief is backed by their recent award recognition. It’s also backed by the recent slate of accreditations to of their quality, environment, and safety systems. The company’s certifications now include: ISO 9001 Quality, ISO 14001 Environment, OHSAS 18001 Safety and AS/NZS 4801 Safety.
Dom credits the company’s strong reputation to the rigors of those management systems. He also credits his and Jerad’s personal dedication – which is equalled by the dedication of the direct staff members, subcontractors, and suppliers that they have cultivated. That includes their concrete subcontractor Concreting Melbourne.
“We have built some extremely positive relationships with subcontractors,” Dom says. “Most of them have been with us for a number of years now. They’re familiar with how we operate and vice versa. They’re part of our team and we all have the same ultimate goal.”
“We’ve found that the best way to build those relationships that is to engage them in the building process,” he adds. “We conduct weekly site meetings at each of our projects to invite input to safety, program and quality, which leads to buy-in and a team approach. It’s not that they’re here to do a job for us and that’s it – it’s more personal than that.”
Moving forward, MSP aims to continue fostering that team approach. They believe it will continue to lead to strong results, like it did at Ivanhoe Primary School. They also believe it will lead to “sustained, controlled growth,” as it has over the past five years.
“Internally, we have company size and financial goals, but ultimately it comes down to surrounding ourselves with positive, like-minded people who want to succeed in their chosen profession,” Dom concludes. “And success is not just financial – success is having fun along the way and developing long-lasting relationships.”For more on McColl Smith Projects and their vision and values – and for more on their past and present projects, including the Ivanhoe Primary School – visit http://mccollsmith.com.au/