Connect regularly features the profile of a member of the ABCB Board. This issue introduces Kristin Brookfield, a recently appointed Industry Board member and talks about her role on the Board, emerging issues and challenges working within the industry.
Can you tell us about your role on the Board?
As an industry representative I believe my role is to provide ‘on the ground’ feedback from builders and trade contractors, in particular residential builders, along with building product manufacturers, about the implication changes to the building code may have on their businesses and on the homes they build.
My experience in local and state government also helps me to understand how changes to the building code are applied by councils and affect builders.
What do you see as some of the emerging issues for the Board?
The Board has been working on the issues of poor quality building products over the last few years and I have been a strong advocate for better information and education of industry on this topic. I believe over the next 2-3 years this issue will become even more important for builders.
The Building Ministers have also flagged the potential for future changes in energy efficiency and accessibility for new homes which will be a key issue for residential builders.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
I am a qualified Town Planner and worked for a decade in NSW local government dealing with applications for all types of buildings from houses to multi-million dollar industrial factories. I have worked with the NSW Department of Planning and was involved in the legislation to improve private certification of building professional and other reforms for development approvals in the early 2000s.
For the last 14 years I have worked with the Housing Industry Association helping builders understand the rules for designing and building new homes in all shapes and sizes. Part of this role has been to speak on behalf of builders when these processes add to the construction cost of new homes or add delays in the time it takes to get approvals.
Given your experience working in the building and construction industry, what has been the most challenging part?
The most challenging element is representing builders, trade contractors and product manufacturers who are all extremely busy running their own businesses. My role is to pre-empt changes and to assist members to understand the potential implications. Giving them sufficient time to consider new laws is always difficult and unfortunately many members struggle to keep up with the pace of change. With our best endeavours we still have members who discover a change in rules only after it has happened and then have to make decisions in their business about homes and contracts that are many months old. A new home purchase is not a small thing and for young people buying their first home, our members are often faced with the job of explaining to them that the government has changed something which now means their home has to change.
Do you think there is enough diversity within the construction industry workforce? If not, how do you think this can be improved?
Construction is a diverse industry in relation to the vast array of building types and building professionals involved in delivering Australia’s built environment.
As a female in the construction industry, is it true to say that there could be more women involved in building. However within the sphere of industry associations, there are many talented and supportive women involved in leading the debate about good regulation and cost effective construction.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to have a career in this industry?
The construction industry is vast and there are as many roles 'on site', 'on the tools', as there are behind the scenes in the design and coordination of building projects. The building industry offers people a way to be creative and get involved in the design of buildings, or if they are good with numbers to get involved in engineering, quantity surveying, planning, building surveying and many other roles. For people that want to be hands on, getting a trade qualification and working on site can be rewarding and allows someone to stand back at the end of the day and say “I built that”. My advice to anyone thinking about this industry is to try before you buy, and talk to people already involved. The university catalogue won’t explain what you really get to do, and in any job, your success comes down to enjoying what you do and going home at the end of the day with a feeling that you’ve achieved something worthwhile. The building industry can definitely give you that feeling.