We sat down for a Q&A session with Paul Brown – who was recently appointed a Technical Director in our Australian Buildings team.
Paul comes to this important role with over 30 years’ experience in delivering highly-complex, multidisciplinary projects both locally and internationally – across a diverse range of sectors, including commercial buildings, health and education, residential and leisure and tall buildings.
From humble beginnings as a graduate engineer in South Africa, Paul made his way to Australia in 1999 and settled here with his family. Some of the significant projects he’s led over his career include 567 Collins Street, Freshwater Place, 357 Collins Street, Melbourne Square and 1,000 Latrobe Street. Overseas, he has also worked in the UAE and Qatar having played a role on the Oasis Hospital in Al Ain and the QNB Tower in Doha.
In your view, what are the biggest challenges for the building/construction sector due to COVID-19 and its wider impact?
As we know, construction activity has continued throughout the lockdown, with construction companies adapting quickly to the challenges of COVID-19 by implementing measures to ensure reasonable productivity, whilst also dealing with the complications of supply chains. Many private sector projects are on pause while revenue streams have slowed, resulting in delays that may be felt in the months or years ahead, given the time required to design and then construct these projects.
Continued and longer-term government stimulus packages combined with fast-tracked approval processes are needed to jumpstart the private sector. It was really pleasing to see the most recent tranche of buildings approvals in Melbourne for what will be some of our city’s most prominent spaces, as well as the $2.7 billion boost for education and infrastructure.
What are biggest opportunities for the sector as we move into a ‘new normal’?
There is perhaps a little uncertainty across the industry as to what the "new normal" is likely to be. Most certainly it will change the way we work moving forward with many new ideas and offerings emerging. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, we often thought about what "disrupters" would be created by new and emerging technologies, competitors and offerings. However, this unfortunate global event has challenged us to develop new ways of working together, sharpening our focus on the needs of our people with respect to their professional development and wellbeing, not to mention finding innovative ways to engage with our clients.
If you could give building owners one piece of advice right now, what would that be?
Engage Beca on your next project for a great customer experience!
What do you view as the most important technological development in the Buildings sector in recent years?
Perhaps this question is best answered by thinking about the way we think about buildings and how we occupy and use them. The way we interact with our environment and how intuitive it is to our needs is becoming a key focus for our buildings of the future. Buildings need to predict our requirements, respond seamlessly – like a smart device that just works. This is now perhaps more important than ever before. Building owners will need to ensure their buildings operate in the most efficient way possible as tenants begin to reassess their requirements for floor space, with flexible work arrangements now perhaps more widely tested.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience of joining and leading a new team, in a new business, in the middle of a global pandemic?
What a whirlwind seven weeks it’s been! The nature of the business we are in is really about people, relationships and collaboration. Our team already has this DNA well developed, we’re highly adaptable to change and familiar with working across boundaries and sectors. This all made the transition into this role really easy. Naturally there are challenges for us as a group, as there are for many during this pandemic, but this period has also given us the opportunity to pause slightly, think about what we want to be as a group, where we want to focus and earning the right to that growth.
What are you most looking forward to when we return to a ‘new normal’?
What I am looking forward to the most is that we will not be returning back to "normal". This period has given us time to reflect and focus on our personal wellbeing and those around us, by being agile, working remotely and learning how to collaborate better. Undoubtably, the balance between working from home and physically being in the office will challenge many, but I feel that we have all learnt a great deal in a very short period of time. Moving forward, the focus will be on how we work collaboratively, rather than where.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had many!! A lot of the typical ones of course; pilot, diver, builder, etc. I was constantly tinkering with everything so it’s no surprise I ended up in engineering. My all-time favourite answer to this question is "happy". It's what we need to tell our children when they ask us!