Nick Hamlin - his past, the present and the future of construction
Many of you will know Nick Hamlin – he’s been at Arrow for over 17 years! This year Nick took on the role of General Manager for the Southern region so we thought we’d share a little more about him. Where he’s come from, what makes him tick and what he thinks the construction industry will look like in the future…
Construction has always been in Nick’s blood, he has a photo taken when he was five helping his Dad pour concrete and says “the rest is history”.
Nick started paid work as a building apprentice in 1993. He worked on-site during the day and did night-school to become A-grade certified (the equivalent of a diploma in construction now). He then went on to study Contract Law and Quantity Surveying before becoming a foreman.
“I was lucky enough to work on some huge projects early in my career including some major developments for some Fonterra dairy factories and on the second tale race at the Manapouri Power Station which I was subcontracted to do for Fletchers.”
Nick started working for Arrow in July 2000 as a construction cadet on a large school project in Invercargill. He then became a Project Manager on a range of Aged Care facilities before becoming Southland Director overseeing all the lower south operations. This year his new role ‘General Manager – Southern’ means he is responsible for managing a portfolio of projects well in excess of $100M. They range from luxury hotels and indoor sky diving facilities to large commercial buildings, warehouses and apartments.
“My role has changed dramatically from being very hands on to running a large business unit. The South island has a great range of projects happening all with their own complexities and challenges. It’s each of these projects and each of these teams that gets me out of bed in the morning!”
Nick says that hands down The Remarkables base building project was a highlight of his career and this was recognised by the judges at the Master Builders Commercial Property Awards earlier this year. They described the building as a “project like no other” praising the “total team effort” that meant the $21 million project was delivered one month ahead of an already tight nine-month construction programme, despite facing extreme climactic conditions including up to 150km per hour high winds and snow.
But Nick says it’s not always about size and scale, some of them are just special for different reasons.
“One of my more memorable projects was for Invercargill Brewery. We converted an old industrial warehouse, where they used to make wheel castings for trains, into a brewery and function centre. We reused materials where we could to give the building interest. This included pouring broken glass into the concrete, reusing timber to create features and repurposing a 2500Kg rusty steel door. I really enjoyed thinking outside the square and it was really rewarding helping the owner grow his business. Steve Nally has remained a personal friend ever since and I recently celebrated his 50th birthday with him in the brewery – quite a handy friend to have!”
But when it comes to business-as-usual and current projects, Nick says that everyday rewards are coming from the amount of negotiated work that’s underway and the use of technology being integrated into projects.
“It’s so rewarding to work with clients right from the start – to understand their dreams and aspirations and turn them into reality.”
“I’m also excited about the use of modular in this constrained market – New Zealand labour is tight and the cost of materials is increasing. There is room for modular construction to grow by manufacturing locally, but the design phase needs to be really robust so all the components just fit in.”
Nick is currently working with a client in Christchurch to build an entire structure off site. It will use robotic technology that is programmed to scan timber, work out its’ most efficient use and cut it into various forms. Robots will also be used in the cladding to screw all the sheets to the frames before they are sent to site. Nick says that this modular building will reduce construction waste by around 30%.
“It’s been a really interesting to see the changes in technology and robotics since I have been in the industry. With the constraints on skilled labour the more heavily we will rely on innovation. I believe that more and more jobs in the future will be in developing these technologies.”
“It’s also been interesting to see the materials being developed overseas that are coming this way. We now have ‘plug-in-electrics’ where an entire house can be wired by clipping it all together. And wall panels are being built in New Zealand that allow a house to be kept at 21 degrees year round with no heating – it’s very exciting!”
“Now, more than ever, I think we need to keep ‘an ear to the ground’, keep thinking and keep innovating. I absolutely agree with Team’s NZ’s philosophy – you can sit and watch what everyone else does or do you do your own thing! As New Zealanders I think we need to stay ahead of the pack because we are a small market that relies heavily on innovation.”
In between a busy career that sees Nick’s time split between various locations he manages to find a little time to watch a movie with his wife, but he also pours a lot of energy into endurance racing.
“I love mountain bike races, triathlons and multi-sport events, but this really came about after I gave up football after 35 years.”
In April Nick was instrumental in getting Adventure Racing at Arrow back on track by organising over 100 people to compete in a team multi-sport event in Southland.
“It was designed so that anyone could have a go and when they crossed the line they all got a reward so they all felt like winners! The real beauty of these races is that you have to pull together as a team, working with each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. There were some great stories told around the campsite overnight and I think everyone took something special away from it.”
“Events like this exemplify Arrows hunger for adventure and team work and there is a huge cross over with what happens on a project site.”
Event photos have been posted on Arrow’s Facebook Albums. To participate in next year’s event watch this space! Or to get in touch with Nick please email him