24/03/2011 - 00:00

TCH building business on fraternal bond

24/03/2011 - 00:00


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MADDINGTON-BASED Thermal Comfort Homes is hoping to take advantage of the accommodation shortage in the state’s north-west to build on its business and expand its customer base.

MADDINGTON-BASED Thermal Comfort Homes is hoping to take advantage of the accommodation shortage in the state’s north-west to build on its business and expand its customer base.

Brothers Earle and Brett Lawrence and structural engineer and VDM Group co-founder Andrew van der Meer formed TCH in 2008.

The company specialises in the construction of thermally efficient and cyclone-proof transportable homes and motels for the Pilbara region.

Earle Lawrence has been an architectural draftsman for more than 30 years.

Also in the building industry, his brother Brett worked for many years as a carpenter building transportable homes.

“Brett and I had always been relatively close. With both of us being in the industry it just seemed reasonable to start a business together,” Earle said.

The pair had known Mr van der Meer for more than a decade and said his expertise was a valuable addition to the business.

“Andrew is very entrepreneurial. He is a very clever engineer and has a real knack for designing thermally efficient, lightweight structures for cyclonic regions,” Earle said.

Brett said the company provided a luxury accommodation alternative for workers and their families based up north.

“These workers don’t have to live in a work camp and the families of these workers can stay up there with them,” Brett said.

Despite being a small player in the transportable home market, the company has developed two technologies Brett said set them apart from their competitors.

“The ‘Thermastruct’ building system is unique to us. It is a thermally efficient panel that can be used for the walls, the ceiling, and even the floor,” he said.

TCH has also developed a lightweight concrete floor, which Brett said provided better strength and acoustic benefits than timber- or steel-framed floors.

“I would say we are the frontrunners in double story transportable homes. We are one of the first companies to come up with a double story concept with a concrete floor,” Brett told WA Business News.

Earle said the lack of accommodation in the north-west had prompted customers to enquire about putting a TCH home into their backyard.

“The floor only weighs five tonnes instead of 17, so we can use a much lighter crane which is much more cost effective. We can even lift these floors over houses and into the backyard of existing homes,” he said.

All homes are built in TCH’s construction yard and are ready to deliver in 12 to 16 weeks.

Brett said that the shorter construction time made for a more cost effective alternative to a brick home.

“It’s the quickness of the construction that is the key. Our homes are as good as a brick home and they only take 12 to 16 weeks to build as opposed to 12 to 16 months. It saves people a lot of money in rent while they’re waiting for that house to be built,” he said.

TCH is currently working on two large projects, including a motel with 28 double-storey units in Onslow and a $17 million contract to build more than 100 houses at an LJ Hooker subdivision in South Healand over five years.

With a forecast turnover of between $8 million and $10 million for the 2011-2012 financial year, the growth in work for the company raises the question of expansion.

“We will produce around 28 units and 20 houses this year. That is a reasonable increase since 2008 where we produced about three houses. It’s just a matter of time before we expand, but we believe slow and steady wins the race,” Brett said.

Earle remains confident the small team at TCH can handle the current workload and that the decision to expand must be taken carefully.

“We’ve always been very cautious in what we think we can and can’t cope with and we make sure the company is always afloat. We have no debt and the company runs on our ability to fund it ourselves,” Earle said.

Brett’s advice for maintaining a successful business was simple.

“You have to work within your means; that is most important.”



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