The building industry in New Zealand is booming – there is no shortage of demand for the construction of both residential and commercial properties. The country’s housing stock needs expansion to accommodate for population growth, immigration and a host of other factors – and this has provided for a significant chasm between sky-high demand and an often dire shortage of supply in the industry.

This dearth of supply doesn’t just manifest in the form of the well-documented shortage of building materials – in many cases, there aren’t enough tradespeople to keep up with the sheer demand. Good, qualified builders are a hot commodity, and the industry is crying out for more of them.

Increasing the pool of potential talent would improve this situation, and one way of doing this is by turning to a cohort of people who make up 50% of the population: women. Despite this figure, only 13% of construction workers are women, according to Statistics New Zealand – and this shrinks to about 3% when considering those who are actually on the tools.

To get a better understanding of these statistics, the barriers to entry in the industry for women, and the best advice for young women aspiring to become builders, ArchiPro sat down with Rebecca ‘Bex’ Smith, a builder at QBS about her experiences on the tools.

ArchiPro: What initially drew you to the construction industry, and what were the first steps you took after you decided to become a builder?

Bex Smith: Four years ago they were screaming out for tradies, and they still are. So I saw it as a good opportunity – it’s an industry with a huge amount of potential growth, and there’s serious money to be made too.

I wanted to get into project management initially, and I thought that my best path forward to achieve that is to get on the tools and work my way up to it. I thought ‘people aren’t going to take me seriously as it is, so I need to get some proper experience and show them that I can do it’.

So once I made the decision, I just started telling everyone that I was considering it – just dropping it casually into every conversation I had. And New Zealand is so small, word of mouth travels fast. One day I was talking to a builder friend of mine, and I asked him ‘what do you think? Is it silly to try and be on the tools?’ He said no, and told me to do what I want to do.

It just so happened that my friend’s boss was looking for a woman to join his team, so the opportunity really just fell into my lap.


Bex on the tools on a building site.

AP: Your scenario was quite lucky then – what do you recommend to women who may not know other builders?

BS: If you don’t already know a builder, I guarantee you you’ll know someone who does. But it doesn’t even need to be in the trade you’re looking for – if you know a sparky, or a plumber, talk to them and they will probably know someone.

But if that doesn’t work out, my next step would be to go to social media. Instagram is huge at the moment for trades – the job is so visual, people love seeing progress photos and before and after’s – you’d be crazy not to have a social media presence as a building company in my opinion.

So I would recommend going to Instagram and searching a hashtag, or the region you’re in, with keywords like ‘building’ or ‘construction’ and see what’s out there. Take notice of what they write in the caption, whether they post photos of their team – these things indicate what the company culture is. And if they have a particularly impressive Instagram presence, that generally means they’re investing in marketing and that they’re keen on investing in their future.

Find a company you like in this way, and message them directly on Instagram. Often, it’s the boss that runs these accounts, so you can potentially go straight to the top dog and make your case.

And if sliding into the DMs doesn’t work, my next plan was to get some experience by doing a pre-trades course. There are a couple of options – you can do a broad course where you try different trades to see which one you like, or there are targeted ones if you know which trade you want to get into.

AP: What other advice would you give women who are interested in entering the construction industry but are hesitant because of the perceived barriers to entry?

BS: I’m not going to sugarcoat it – it is a very labour-intensive job, and you do need to be OK with breaking a sweat for most of the day. You do need strength, but a lot of it isn’t just about that – it’s about knowing the right way to carry a piece of Gib, for example. There isn’t much in the job that requires brute strength, it’s more about endurance because you’ll be doing physical labour for hours on end, often in the hot sun. You need to come to terms with that, and that comes with time.

So my advice would be to go down to Bunnings and lift a bag of concrete, lift a piece of ply, or Gib – all of the things you’ll be working with constantly, every day – and the minute you can walk 100 metres with those, you’re ready to go.

A lot of people are intimidated about being surrounded by men all the time – and I think it really depends on the men. People have assumptions that sites are nasty, people swear like sailors, they wolf whistle at you. Fortunately for me I haven’t experienced that at all within our team, they’re all so respectful. But I think that just comes down to finding the right company that’s the right fit.

If you have a good company culture with a mature team, you shouldn’t be dealing with any of that stuff. I think that’s why I’m lucky working at QBS, because the boss Troy looks for good people, not just good builders.

Learn more about QBS and its services and recent projects.

As a preservation of its past together with a proposal that activates its present, Pompallier Residence balances old and new with a shared charm and character. Matter Architects infuses a light-inspired approach that draws a more meaningful connection between the built and the natural.

Nestled into the tightly woven community of Ponsonby, in the North Island of New Zealand, Pompallier Residence sees a series of interventions open an existing villa-style home to create a more contemporary occupation and prepare for the future chapters to unfurl. By stripping back the overall confused form to its original base, removing ill-fitting additions accrued over multiple years without any connection beyond the built walls, the new home and its expanded footprint can be seen with more clarity. While the original villa is representative of its origins and characteristic of the area, retaining this as part of the new works was key to continuing and strengthening the story of the home. Matter Architects used these initial formal cues to expand an approach of openness resulting in a revised home that represents the present.

A prime example of densification done well, this new home built on a rare subdivided section in Auckland’s Mt Albert provides separate yet connected dwellings for two generations.

Designed by Milieu Architecture, the house encompasses a home for a couple and their dog, as well as a separate dwelling for one set of parents. The couple’s home features living spaces below, with bedrooms perched above the garage, while the parents’ home is encased in a brick single-storey form that protrudes outwards, with slot windows adjacent to the driveway to allow for privacy while letting in light.

“The building is designed with overlapping volumes that provide separate yet connected spaces both within the homes and between them,” says architect Kate Beilby. “The two homes have separate entries – and the dog has free run between both properties!”

Mt Albert’s heritage zoning rules informed the cladding choices for the home. White shiplap weatherboards on the upper floor are juxtaposed against a rich, textured brick, chosen to tie in with the materiality of surrounding homes.

“The brick is Aged Red from The Brickery,” says Beilby. “It’s a premium brick made in the traditional method, with a soft, rustic aesthetic that contrasts nicely with the crisp white timber. We then have the brick wall running right through and meeting the kitchen, creating a connection between inside and out.”

Opposite this wall, Shinnoki oak veneer linings further the warmth and natural colour palette of the interior. This material is used for the staircase, and creates concealed doors that access the garage and storage spaces. Inset shelves in the hallway display the couple’s Lego builds and a 3D-printed model of the house, which takes pride of place on the upper shelf.

Concrete floors and an Airy Concrete Caesarstone benchtop in the kitchen further the soft, natural tones in this space, as does the pistachio green cabinetry. A curved upper cabinet echoes the curves seen in the brick garden borders outside.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a lush haven of deep blues, featuring a Designers Guild chinon textured wallpaper. The bedroom opens onto a cleverly designed sunroom with views over the Waitakeres, explains Beilby.

“The clients had talked of putting a balcony up there but, as it was over a living space, there would have been some extra expense and complications with waterproofing. With the potential for views of the sun setting over the distant hills, we envisioned the space being used more in the evening, when it is cooler. So we landed on creating a sunroom that has the essence of a balcony, using timber flooring and carrying the shiplap lining from outside.”

Much of the interior design was completed by Mary Ellen Hinton of Hello Saturday, who aimed to create personality and warmth in the home through the use of bold patterned wallpaper in the powder rooms and bedrooms, and decadent fabrics throughout.

“My clients wanted soft, comfortable, relaxed spaces. Soft carpet underfoot, soft velvet chairs and cushions, soft velvet beds and bedlinen. We chose wool beanbags and comfortable couches, especially the Axel with the slouchy arms,” she says, adding that the wallpapers especially added depth and an element of reflectiveness to the rooms.

Although a little more low-key in terms of colour choices, the parents’ home is also beautifully designed, with plenty of natural light and a chic combination of materials.

With its crisp, modern palette of colours, cohesive exterior, and a well considered floorplan lending privacy and space for both couples, this Mt Albert house is a key example of how density can be achieved while still maintaining the essence of an established streetscape.

Last year was a big year for ArchiPro’s community, with engagement reaching new heights and views going through the roof. To bring in the new year, we’re celebrating our top professionals, projects, product suppliers and articles. So who was the most viewed in 2021?

Find out more here

We ask QBS’ director Troy Jury about how to make the most out of your builder, what design mistakes he sees homeowners make, as well as a few personal questions!

How does someone find a builder for their project?

Recommendations are always a great option but sometimes that doesn’t work out. Drive around your area and have a look at sites, see if they look clean, safe and well-managed, then look the builders up. There are a range of online spaces where you can find potential builders to vet. Archipro, Instagram and Facebook are a great place to start to just get a feel for what sort of work the builder does and to what scale. Google search will always bring up a lot of options and sometimes can be hard to dial in. We recommend using the platforms that are out there that allow the builder to showcase their work to help you make a decision. Choose two or three and then jump into websites and intro emails from there!

How do you know a builder is right for you and your project?

You need to select a builder who does the type of work you are after; it’s no good choosing a spec home builder to do high-end. Their company’s structures, rates and margins just won’t match up and comparing pricing will be a nightmare. Again, use apps like Instagram to get a feel for what that builders market is!

QBS director Troy Jury is a licensed building practitioner and has run QBS residential building firm for over 11 years.

As a residential builder, what’s the scope of what you take care of?

At QBS we service all areas of building from reclading to developments, renovations to new homes. But our focus market is bespoke, high-end residential construction. We have spent over a decade fine-tuning our teams and office to cater to this line of work.

What’s the payment structure for a new build?

There are many options around how you structure payments for a new build, it starts with whether the price is fixed or not. If the job is fixed and you don’t intend on making changes, it is easier to set up staged claims; if you want more flexibility then charge-up progress claims is best.

Is it any different for renos?

Yes, renovations are very different because of the variables. Each renovation will also have its own challenges and this will change house to house. Some may be very well-built and others not! In our experience working on cost-plus agreed margin is best for all renovations as long as the builder is good with the admin side. Timesheeting, invoicing and admin needs to be very good if a builder wants to work on cost-plus.

QBS were engaged to build this modern take on the classic Auckland villa in Ponsonby. The new-build has the character features of a century-old home, with a grand foyer, high ceilings, and a large designer staircase.

What services do you offer?

We offer design and build, build only, budget creating and quantity surveying for all areas of residential building and light commercial.

What’s your top tip for a homeowner who has not worked with a builder before?

The best advice we can give a client who is building for the first time is to do your research online, meet with two or three builders and really understand what they offer both on and off-site, pre and post-build. Then select your favourite one to go through the process with. Bringing a builder in early on is critical to the process to avoid budget blowouts during the design phase! This will set you up for a great start to the project and ensure the home’s buildability matches the budget.

Where do you reckon clients spend too much money in their design?

In our experience over the years, clients tend not to spend enough on the details of the job early on. If you want a builder to be able to create a realistic budget and for it to be accurate he/she needs as much info as possible… Exact finishes and products are often left out and then, come the end of the job, the one the client wants is not within the budget. Time and money should be spent on these details at the design stage.

For homeowners, what’s the top tip you can give them to get the most out of their builder?

Trust your builder. What’s the point of selecting one if you are going to doubt their expertise? There are some really good builders in Auckland and there are some really bad ones. Do your homework, keep the contract simple but ensure you have any specific expectations listed and then trust in your decision and the builder to deliver on that. Oh, and some cold beers and pizza always goes a long way with tradies!

This designer home by QBS was a 90% re-build and extend from a 300m2 cottage to a 780m2 architectural retreat with views back across Auckland.

We get to know Troy by asking him some quick personal questions…

What you do for work described in one sentence: Oversee the craftsmanship required to bring quality, architectural design to life!

My favourite coffee house/restaurant is: Honey Bones, Richmond Road in the am! Azabu, Mission Bay for lunch… mmmmmmm.

My morning routine is: I’m at the Parnell office 4am daily with a long black and music on! 7.30am run/gym, 9am onwards it’s site visits/meetings.

On my wish list is: I’ve always wanted to be able to escape to a classic Kiwi bach on the weekend. Personally I would like something that is simple and minimal but has a high-end finish. Somewhere I can really just switch off from the day-to-day grind and dig the feet into the sand with a cold beer—and build a sandcastle!

What inspires me is: Competing with fellow builders, any complex and difficult designed home. I find a lot of inspiration from browsing home design magazines and books that display people’s hard work and dedication. There’s nothing better than seeing your work displayed and that is great inspo! When I come across a design that I wish we could have been a part of, it adds that little bit of extra drive to keep pushing!

My secret talent is: Golf.

My favourite room at home is: Master bathroom

I recently discovered: How much I missed chucking the tool belt on and getting back to my roots as I’ve been renovating my home over the last six months!

Written by Director of QBS Troy Jury

I completed my apprenticeship in 2006. At this point in my life, it was my greatest achievement. Having made the decision to drop out of school at just 15, I was naive about what full-time work would be like. However, I was confident and committed to becoming a builder.

I had represented Auckland in both Rugby and cricket and spent over 20 years as part of both Teachers Eastern Rugby Club & University Cricket Club. So teamwork was nothing new. However, I had no idea that the many years as part of these sports teams would help me adjust and adapt to the teamwork & physical commitment required to make it on a building site.

I started my journey well and truely at the bottom of the food chain, cleaning sites, digging holes, doing lunch runs, and moving materials. Once I had survived and endured months of heckling, demanding physical tasks, and showed I could turn up to worksites on time and be reliable, the senior builders agreed I was worth giving an apprenticeship to. To this day, I still put my own apprentices through the same tests before awarding them with the opportunity to become qualified carpenters.

Within weeks of starting my apprenticeship, I was beginning to be shown the basics of the trade. I knew I had found my career and never looked back. I was privileged to work alongside skilful carpenters and tradesmen, true master craftsmen, many of whom had more than 45 years on-site, on the tools running jobs. The projects we worked on were all of a very large scale and always high-end. I was lucky enough that our company N.cole also did Joinery & Heavy construction so the variety of tasks and jobs was great, along with getting to use different tools and machines.

I was 18, almost 19 when I became a qualified carpenter. Towards the end of my apprenticeship, despite my age, I was regularly given the responsibility of starting jobs for the Senior foreman or taking over jobs that were near completion.

While at times I was absolutely out of my depth experience-wise, and I had to wing a few situations, I found that if I put my mind to a task and focus, I could get the job done, and this has become one of my strengths today as a leader, business owner and father.

Post apprenticeship, my confidence grew due to the projects I was given. Eventually, I found myself in charge of some of the same tradesmen who had trained me. I must admit that this was not easy at first. However, over time, my belief in myself and my commitment to my craft allowed me to take charge of situations. I soon realised there was a difference between great carpenters and those capable of much more, like leadership and management.

After a few years of working as a foreman and site managing high-end projects on some of Auckland’s most high profile homes, I had reached a senior role within the company and was beginning to think about what’s next? It was a huge decision to leave a senior position with a stable income and risk it all. But the itch and the what-if had finally become too much. I had been working with a safety net long enough and needed a new challenge, so I decided the time was now.

I started trading as Qualified Solutions in 2008. I never had to produce an invoice, track my time, or provide a quote as part of my old job, and very, very quickly, I got a massive reality check.

Things changed drastically for me financially. On the building front, I went from running large and complex projects, without having to worry about the budget, to fixing small fences, rebuilding retaining walls, installing letterboxes and doing what I considered was handyman maintenance work. Pay wise I was earning less than I was as a carpenter with no responsibility.

I had come full circle and found myself needing to earn respect from clients the same way I did as an apprentice. So, how do I build a rep on these tedious small jobs? Building a name for myself was not easy, and I would be lying if I said I never thought about quitting.

I had a small stint at contracting to another building company. This didn’t last long as they went under midway through my first job for them, and it was then I experienced my first loss as they went under, owing me a month’s wages which really hurt.

I decided against contracting and went back to looking for my own projects. After 2.5 months, I managed to lock in a 4-month renovation of a property in Hillsborough. During that time, I did a lot of flyer drops and managed to line up a renovation of a bungalow in Onehunga. This was my chance to get rolling, and I wasn’t going to let it slip.

This was my turning point, and it couldn’t have come any sooner. My partner and I were barely living week to week, and financially I could not sustain much more. Suddenly things just took off.

The jobs went very well, not without pains, but I finished them, got paid, and got my first review! Which, to me, was a success. Another small renovation followed, and suddenly, clients’ friends were calling and asking if I had time to come and look at a job! It was a great feeling, and for over two years, Qualified Solutions completed half a dozen small-medium renovations and obtained some great testimonials.

In 2011, Qualified Solutions became a limited company, and I made a slight change to Qualified Building Solutions Limited. After two and half years, I realised the need for systems, software and scheduling.

The leads were there but managing them wasn’t smooth. Works were lined up and flowing, but things were being missed, lost or mixed up. Until today, I am still looking for the next system or programme that might help my day to day business run and improve productivity.

In late 2011, QBS was contracted to build a brand-new house in Grey Lynn (33 Dryden Street). This was the first high-end job I won and the first time I had a chance to put everything I learnt to date to the test.

It was a complex architectural build that had many architectural bespoke details. The house consisted of 6 architectural precast panels, 132 pieces of steel, a glass roof, an interior bridge spanning 10m above the living area, lots of glass joinery and ceilings that were 6m high. Add a couple of cantilevered decks, and you start to get a feel for the complexity of this house (which was designed by a great architect Tom Rowe (RBstudio).
The house was a great success. Today, photos of it are displayed at our office entrance as a reminder of our first real opportunity to produce quality carpentry by QBS.

While this project was underway, QBS made a second impressive build. It involved building a brand-new contemporary villa at 9 Parawai Street, Grey Lynn. Again, the new build was a great success and a QBS-built home that we all are very proud of.

Over the next three years, QBS completed multiple re-clads, renovations, and new builds across Auckland, adding to a growing portfolio of projects.
In 2014, I had the pipeline and resources to expand my business and take on more work. We went from running two sites at a time to four, at times five.

We began to hire more builders, and I recruited two reliable, skilled foremen whom I knew outside of work. Naturally, apprentices followed this. By late 2014 we had grown from a team of 6 to 20 builders, and I had moved off the tools into full-time project management, overseeing sites, communicating with my clients and generally running the company.

There were new things to be learned, and one of the hardest lessons was knowing our limits. I thought I could be everywhere and do everything, and it wouldn’t affect me. It became apparent quickly that this was not the case. It was a bad business decision and burned me out.

There were always going to be some growing pains. With some minor tweaks here and there and a realistic workload, I managed to find a happy medium which we have kept until today. I have figured out what works best for me and what doesn’t. During this learning period, I also married Millie, who now runs our day-to-day accounts, and I became a father to three beautiful little girls Indi, Madison & Savannah.

In 2014-2015 we were engaged with The Block NZ. Initially, this made me very nervous as any mistake would be broadcast to audiences NZ wide. If it goes wrong, it not only will be disastrous for the contestant, it could negatively impact our brand and our business’s future. Despite this risk, we went for it. I got the guys looking sharp with new uniforms, and we went to work.

QBS built for James & Maree, who would take second place in the Pt Chevalier series. Martin, my builder on the show, turned into a celebrity builder overnight due to his quality of work, and NZ couldn’t get enough! This result was great for our brand reputation and marketing. Over the next 12 months, QBS featured in a range of popular home magazines, which we now proudly display at our office in Parnell.

In 2015, QBS returned to help Hayden and Jamie on The Block NZ Villa Wars edition. Again, the team smashed it. We accomplished ridiculous amounts of work to the highest standard. This all took place while cameras stood watching, hoping for any slip-up.

Since the show, we have completed another renovation show in 2018 doing “The Ultimate reno”, where we spent 7 months renovating a home in Glendowie, Auckland for Caleb & Alice, the 2013 BlockNZ winners.
This show was broadcast on TV3 at 7.30 pm each night for 2months.

Fast forward to 2021 – we have a couple of staff in our Parnell office helping with admin and accounts. We also have two team members studying quantity surveyors and regularly have a couple of students studying QS’s gaining their work experience with us.

On-site, we have a strong team culture with a focus on quality. We have clients coming to us because of our reputation for quality building work. We have a saying here at QBS, “Kill Em with Quality,” and that’s our mindset. We believe that price is no longer the key deciding factor when we can guarantee quality building work and our client trusts our workmanship.

We are constantly blooding new carpenters and have put 12 apprentices through their trade. We have also started taking on tradeswomen as part of our team, and this is also something I’m very proud of as it breaks the mould.

We continue to run between 5 and 8 sites at a time across Auckland. In more recent years, we have been working on some amazing projects with architectural firms like Matter, Milieu, RB studio, RTA Studio, S2a, Pattersons, Young+Richards and many other talented designers in Auckland.

We have over 200 reliable and skilled sub-contractors with whom we align and share our vision. We can rely on them to provide excellent service to our clients with their exceptional plumbing, electrical, and painting skills.

We are officially 13 years old as a limited company in a few months 14! Many lessons have been learnt – some good, some not so good, though all were necessary.

I look forward to adding more to our company history in the future.

“We are not judged by our wins, we are judged by our ability to overcome losses”

We spoke to Rebecca Smith—aka Bex the builder—and found out what it’s like being the only female on a building site, the physical challenges of building, and whether the industry is ready for pregnant builders.

Words by Jo Seton

It was a chance offer that led Rebecca “Bex” Smith into a building apprenticeship. Three years ago she was immersed in a desk job promoting the Australian Football League (AFL) and co-ordinating New Zealand teams, but the industry wasn’t booming and she felt like she needed to activate a plan B.

“I wanted to get into project management—I like working with people, managing, timeline planning and organising. I thought I should probably get a fundamental understanding of how things work, how structures are built.”

It just so happened that her friend Troy Jury from QBS Construction was looking for a female apprentice to diversify his work force. But Bex wanted to know what he thought about females in the industry before committing to an apprenticeship.

“He said, ‘I don’t know if it’s ready for it, but totally go for it—it’s a great industry to be in and you’ve got thick skin, so you should be able to handle the worst that it could throw at you.’”

Bex didn’t have a family background in building, although she remembers helping her dad build their family home (“In the 1990s when you could do whatever you wanted!”), but her biggest concern was whether she was physically capable of performing the job.

“Troy said to me in my first interview, ‘If you can carry a sheet of Gib and a sheet of ply I’m happy. That’s the baseline standard. As for a massive shunt on something, or lifting something really heavy, you’re not really supposed to be doing that anyway… No-one should be maxing out and putting their back out to try and move something.’”

Comfortable that she had the strength needed to perform the role, Bex started her apprenticeship with the team at QBS Construction, working on new builds, renovations and small-scale commercial projects.

The male-dominated environment was nothing new to her, as she’d grown up with dad and two brothers, however, she says being the only female on site means she does stick out like a sore thumb.

“I always describe it as if you saw an elephant walk on site, you’d look at it, because elephants never come on site. It’s the same as having a female on site. It’s not very common, so people will look twice and I don’t take offence to it. Some people look very confused or a little bit like ‘Can I help you?’ I don’t hold it against them!”

The team of carpenters and builders she works with has been extremely supportive, but she says there was one encounter on site with a plumber subcontractor that wasn’t as positive.

“I was doing all the heavy lifting and the other guy who is a lot stronger, a lot bigger than me was doing the easy job. The plumber was like ‘What kind of show is this? What’s she doing that job for when you’re over here?’ In a way I think he was trying to stick up for me, or trying to say [my workmate was] more capable so [he] should be doing that job. But my workmate was like, ‘No, she can do it. She’s the apprentice. That’s the rule here, I do the thinking, she does the labour.’”

While Bex says the plumber’s reaction is the exception rather than the rule, it did make her feel he thought she wasn’t as capable as her colleague.

But Bex doesn’t think it’s necessarily her gender that prompted the reaction; her stature and strength are a constant challenge.

“It’s not necessarily a female thing, it’s just that I’m small! There’s girls out there that can lift double what some of the dudes at work can.

“I’m working at 110% a lot of the time. So on average, when we’re unloading the truck, you probably need to take two sticks of 4×2. Three sticks if you’re trying to be tough. I can take three sticks—that’s me at about 80%, but for the guys that’s them at 40%.”

Bex has noticed there are disadvantages to being a male on a building site too, and it comes down to the same stereotyping that can be as toxic for males as it is for females.

“I don’t need to prove my manhood, I don’t have to prove my strength, because everyone knows I’m Bex and I’m small. I can see some of the younger guys feel like they need to keep up with the experienced, massive guys—it’s that toxic masculinity of having to show how big and strong and tough they are.”

Now in the third year of her apprenticeship, Bex is seeing more female faces pop up around the place. She says women have an unspoken bond on site and often acknowledge each other with a knowing smile and an eyebrow raise.

She believes the industry is receptive to more female tradies and it’s just a matter of time before it’s normalised.

However, not all trades are equal in terms of physicality, so for anyone entering the trades, she says it pays to understand what you’re getting into.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. That’s nothing to do with being a woman— just the job, being a builder…Most trades are physical, so if you don’t enjoy breaking a sweat…”

“She can do it, she’s the apprentice—that’s the rule here, I do the thinking, she does the labour”

Bex predicts that by early next year she’ll have completed her apprenticeship, and she has goals she wants to achieve. These include building her own home and hopefully starting a family in the next couple of years. It will be unknown territory for both her and her employer.

“I don’t know what building will look like pregnant. That’s a conversation for me and my boss to have because there’s no blueprint for it. The women I know who have been pregnant on the tools, they’ve worked until 36 weeks…

“[Then] there’s health and safety for the baby; you could wear all of the PPE in the world, but I still probably wouldn’t feel comfortable around asbestos, silica dust, all of those things, even if I was all covered up. That’s a personal choice.”

But planning for all eventualities is Bex’ strong suit and the diploma she has started in construction management will mean that she can take some time off the tools and go back to her love of timelines and organising projects.

That feeds into another goal she has planned for the next five to 10 years, which is to start a building company with her partner, bringing his civil project management knowledge together with her building experience.

This move will bring her full circle, as she plans to hire her own female apprentice, offering another aspiring female builder the same opportunity that once landed in her lap.

“I really like to push girls getting into the trades because I know how unsure I was. Any career change is scary, but it was nowhere near as daunting as I thought it was going to be!”

With more than 17,000 licensed building practitioners in New Zealand it can seem like a daunting task to choose the right one for your project. There are a number of common sense actions you can take to narrow down your search—ask friends for a referral, check online for reviews, comb your local area for projects already underway and ask potential contractors for the addresses of projects they have completed.

While this won’t guarantee you a hassle-free building experience, it will go a long way to making the whole process as smooth as possible, says Troy Jury, Director of QBS Construction.

“Not all builders are the same so it’s important to know what sort of builder will fit with your project vision the best. We believe the following four attributes are required to make any project a success: communication, trust, dedication and quality.

“Each project is different and each comes with its own foibles. At its heart, a project is a relationship between both parties and can be a significant undertaking for both. Therefore, having full confidence in your build partner starts with having each of the four attributes in place.”

QBS recently completed work on this Mt Albert new build. Architect: Milieu Architecture.

QBS Construction: qualified building solutions

Founded in 2011 and based in Parnell, QBS has a focus on high-end renovation, heritage and new-build projects in the central Auckland area.

“We have a team of 28 builders & 3 project managers,” says Troy.  “I generally run three to four guys per site team, although that is dependent on the size of the project—have had up to 12 guys working on one project in the past. I’ve found that the right fit for us is having 2–4 projects on the go at any one time.

“QBS Construction’s strength lies in our site leadership and the way we structure our site teams with a good mix of experienced guys and apprentices. We also are continually training our apprentices, we want to retain that knowledge and experience within the company.

“We’re adaptable and capable of undertaking any building project. I’m able to back myself thanks to my knowledge and experience—gained over the past two decades. For clients looking for a company that can offer a really strong end-to-end process—we’re a really good choice. We’re a young company with drive and determination to succeed.”

Troy has been in the business for decades, and says his passion hasn’t dimmed.

QBS Construction: a passion for the business

Troy has been in the industry for 19 years and says his passion for building hasn’t grown any less in that time.

“As a kid, I wanted to be an All Black; had the heart but not the stature to be a fullback. I was always more practical than academic, so once I realised I wasn’t going to be an All Black, I left school and got on the tools, qualifying at 19.

“I spent 8 years working for a renovation/new build company, where I was lucky enough to learn the trade and to work on some really high-profile projects, working my way up through the ranks. I went out on my own at 24.”

Not so much on the tools anymore, Troy says his role at QBS is to project manage the jobs—carrying out quality checks and dealing with the schedule as well as checking in with the clients.

“I’m really passionate about the industry and about ensuring the longevity of the business. Futurewise, we’re really focused on working with architects, an area of the business that we’ve been developing over the last 18 months to two years and which is turning into a growing component of what we do.”

QBS Construction isn’t just renovating a two-storeyed 1920s bungalow in Parnell, it has adopted a new method of moving the house on site to save time and money and reduce risk of injury.

Currently, under construction in Parnell, a simple 1920s two-storeyed timber bungalow is undergoing a transformation. As one of the earlier homes in the surrounding area, QBS Construction director and project manager Troy Jury believes the house was once the home of the reverend of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell and, potentially, could have been on same plot of land as the cathedral. It includes a number of crafted features, including original mouldings and ceilings, rimu timber floors, and a stunning stained-glass window scene of Rangitoto Island.

For the past ten years, the house has been owned and lived in by a professional couple, who both work nearby, love the home and want to stay in the area for the long-term. They decided to modernise the home to make it a more practical family home for the future, with parking onsite as there was previously none, as well as more room for their growing family. The most sensible solution was to raise the house and build a 220m m2 basement underneath to include a three-car garage, a new media room, and a lift shaft to make it easy to transfer groceries up into the kitchen.

“Traditionally, when building a basement under an existing home, people have propped the house up and dug underneath. But, this can be a really dangerous and it’s an extremely slow process that has an effect on the labour force; people have actually been killed in New Zealand using this method,” explains Troy.

In recent years, QBS has adopted a process that comes from Sweden and uses a hydraulic lifting system. It was first used in New Zealand after the Canterbury earthquakes, when a company called House Lifters NZ started working with the system to move quake-damaged houses out of the way while the foundations were being rebuilt.

“Most people think it’s too expensive to move an existing home but, actually, it’s far safer to move the house out of the way of the building works, and it also means that we’ve been able to work through the winter – even, in the mud and rain. However, a propped-up house risks sinking or collapsing in adverse weather. We were able to do it in half the time by moving the house away,” he says. The house was slid off its foundations and moved 28 metres to the back of the section onto temporary foundations. It is a steep section on a 30-degree rake and, at the highest point, the house is suspended 12 metres up in the air. “To slide the house, it was set up on two large steel beams with about 30 rolls on them – each about the size of shoe box and weighing 8kg,” says Troy. “The steel goes in under the existing house and out onto the temporary foundation; then, we used a standard manual winch and two guys slowly moved the house at a rate of 100mm per minute, which is actually pretty quick, and it took about 4­–1/2 hours to move the house 28 metres.”

From start to finish, the entire moving process – from its existing to temporary foundations, building the basement and returning the house back to its permanent location – took about 3–1/2 months.“ By comparison, if we were to prop the house up on acrow props and work underneath, it would have taken 9–12 months to build the basement, and the cost of having guys on site for that long would have been huge.”

To prepare the old house for the move, an engineer was required to work out some of the crucial calculations, such as how deep the temporary foundations needed to be and how many braces were required to support the house. “We removed the exterior foundations and worked with the existing structural loading points on the house to support those areas,” says Troy. “That’s very important because, if the supports were put in the wrong places, then the house could sag.”

To prepare the back yard as a temporary site for the house, geotechnical testing of the soil was performed to ascertain at what depth the poles needed to be installed in order to support 75 tonnes of house. The QBS team then built temporary foundations out of 300mm-wide SED timber piles up to 15m tall, which were sunk 3m into the soil and rising up to 12m out of the ground.

Site plan by Bespoke.

The temporary foundations were designed to hold the house for a best-case scenario of three months to a worst-case scenario of 12 months, rather than the 50-plus years required of permanent foundations. “The worst-case scenario is that the house slips down the hills, so we needed to mitigate against that happening,” says Troy.

It was fortunate that the existing timber subfloor of the house was structurally sound, so all that was required to support the timber structure was temporary bracing on the walls to stop the house from raking, which is when it can twist out of shape. “Of course, as a result of the move, you end up with some surface cracks on the walls and so on, but since the house was being renovated, that wasn’t an issue,” explains Troy.

To move a house in this way, Troy says it doesn’t matter how the land lies, just that there is space on the property to temporarily re-site the house. But, it there isn’t space onsite but the street is wide enough and the access is sufficient, then, depending on the size of the house, it can be moved temporarily to a yard, while the basement is under construction.

The process of moving the house has been successful,” says Troy. “We’re lucky that this site is a perfect situation, with plenty of room to move the house into the back yard – and while it’s not a really easy process to do, it gives people lots of options.” The team is currently into the next stage of renovating and restoring the house, which involves tying it back into the existing foundations, lowering the house onto its new block base, cutting through the floors and adding in the lift shaft, and cladding the block in concrete, timber and weatherboard so it will look like the existing house.

Then, the final stage involves backfilling the section to make it level, landscaping – including outdoor living spaces and covered decks, and new traditional fencing. The completed house will also host four bedrooms and an office, an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area, and is due for completion later in 2020.


Words by Justine Harvey.

Renders by Bespoke.

The house before it was temporarily moved to make way for a new basement.