This cellar door in Orange New South Wales was built by L-Con Building + Construction and designed by Source Architects. Builder Luke Knight answers questions about the build and shares some of his experiences in the building trade.
By Madeleine Swain
Better Building: How did you become involved in the project?
Luke Knight: It was a tender request from Source Architects. As soon as I saw the schematic design I knew I had to do this build!
Have you worked with [director] Sally Sutherland or Source Architects on any previous projects?
Yes, we have worked with them on many projects since 2015.
How long did the build take?
Were there any other particular specialists that you had to work with on-site?
Yes, our structural steel fabricator ICR engineering was pivotal to the success of the project.
What was the relationship like on the build with the both the architects and the clients?
We have a very good working relationship with Source, our combined experience was used to ensure best practice/value for our clients
Generally, the clients were on-site every day; we maintained a professional and accommodating relationship with them, while keeping one eye on the design brief.
What were the particular challenges on this job and how did you address them?
Time-frame: due to the brief of being ready for October’s ‘wine week’ (Orange Wine Festival, which ran from 13 to 22 October 2017), giving us 12 weeks from start to finish and the fact it was the middle of winter, we fabricated the majority of frame elements off-site in a ‘pod’, then simply craned them into position for an instant frame.
Roof: due to the sheet length and the flexible nature of the roofing material, special transport had to be arranged as well as custom lifting devices for the sheeting install.
Now that it’s finished, what are your favourite elements of the project?
My favourite elements of the building are the relationship of the roof system to the ‘pod’ underneath, creating an expansive feel, especially from the north and west elevation, and I also like the small slab overhang on the elevations.
Conversely, is there anything you’re unhappy with or would like to do more work on?
No, we are very happy with the building.
Photography: TFAD Tom Ferguson (completed project), Source Architects (construction)
Luke Knight on…
Better Building: What was the best advice you received as an apprentice?
Luke Knight: The item you walk past is the item you accept.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on a job?
Missing numbers in a tender.
What are the funniest characters or nicknames you’ve come across with people you’ve worked with on-site?
Tiny, because he’s huge and Blue, because he’s got red hair. Funniest characters, where do I start? Last year we were doing site works for a new build and we needed a tank install done at the rear of the site due to access. When the installers were on-site they needed some roadworks done to allow access for the roof sheets. I went to the site to inspect and found the installer in the tank talking to me from the other side. When questioned about time-frames, his voice bellowed out from the round structure, “Well, you better get it ready soon mate, I’m not here to f#*k spiders you know!” Well, that just summed this bloke up…
Who are the best and worst trades to work with and why?
Best – steel fabricators, because generally their work is precise and you can see instant gains on install.
Worst – bricklayers, as they don’t seem to understand that the job hasn’t been designed around them.
What advice would you give them to make your life easier?
Just do what the plan indicates, and for god’s sake clean up after yourself.
What sort of margin do you put on new builds as opposed to renovations?
It depends on the project’s overall size. Small renovations up to $150,000 will incur an extra five to 10 percent over larger jobs. Large renovations up to $500,000 will be the same as new builds.
What are the biggest disputes/misunderstandings that occur with clients usually about?
What are the secrets of a good working relationship with architects and/or clients? What advice would you give to other builders in this regard?
Communication is key. Don’t assume and keep everyone informed – good, bad or ugly.
If you weren’t a builder, what do you think you would be?
Psychologist – after many years of listening to subcontractors and clients, I’ve got a talent for listening and offering considered advice… I even have a couch in my office!
Would you advise your children (if you have any) to become builders?
I have three sons aged seven, nine and 11. The building trade has been good to me, so I guess I would advise my boys to become involved in the industry. It can be very satisfying.