Shaw Builders keeps on raising the roof

By Graham Skellern - Business Editor


David Shaw has spent all his 51 years at Mount Maunganui, and he's happy to be called a fussy builder. That approach brings in the work, and the awards.

In the past three years when some builders found work hard to come by, Mr Shaw kept nailing the jobs.

"We've been lucky; we haven't had a downturn. Some periods are busier than others, we have been doing more renovations, but we've had enough work to get us through," said Mr Shaw, who has operated Shaw Builders for 14 years with his wife, Carolynne, who runs the office and accounts.

"The way we do it, we work with our clients right through the job; you don't have issues if you work closely together. And I strive for the [detailed] finish," he said.

One recent job was building a million-dollar holiday home in Te Ngaio Rd, at the Mount, for a business couple living in Hong Kong. Mr Shaw maintained regular contact by email.

"They liked the process and we've become really good friends."

Mr Shaw looks after the house while the owners are away.

The modern four-bedroom Te Ngaio Rd home, designed by Brendon Gordon, was one of three winners for Shaw Builders at the Bay of Plenty Registered Master Builders House of the Year Awards.

The 386sq m house, including 90sq m of decking, won gold for New Homes $1 million-$2 million, and another Shaw Builders' entry - the 480sq m Siegel home on the hilltop in Woods Ave, Matua - won that category and the PlaceMakers supreme award.

The third Shaw-built house, 382sq m including 62sq m of decking, in Oceanview Rd at the Mount, won the New Homes $600,000-$1 million category. All three architecturally designed homes now have a chance of making the national final, representing the top 100 houses in the country.

In a big night, Shaw Builders also won the best kitchen and bathroom for the Te Ngaio Rd house and best energy efficiency for the Matua home, designed by Matt Hodson of Insight Architecture. Will Tatton designed the Oceanview Rd house.

Two teams led by Mr Shaw and his foreman, Shane Connolly, spent 10 months building the two-level Matua and Te Ngaio Rd homes, finishing them just before last Christmas, and the Oceanview Rd house was completed last July after a nine-month build.

It was a close call for supreme award between the Siegel home and the Whites' house in Te Ngaio Rd, but the judges described the Matua winner as "a very sharp and modern house with exquisite detailing, finished with real skill on a demanding hill site".

The property was finished off with an infinity swimming pool and thermal spa contained within the 106sq m of decking, and automated lighting, heating and stereo control inside. A large sliding door opens from the living and dining rooms on to the deck to create more entertaining space.

"It took us three days to install the concrete cantilevered stairway. There were 19 steps weighing 115kg each coming out of a concrete block wall," said Mr Shaw.

Another feature of Shaw Builders' new homes is the negative detailing on the gib of interior walls that do away with skirting boards.

"That's our point of difference; the way we finish off houses. Some builders do the negative detailing but it is a tricky job."

Even though Mr Shaw has been a builder for 35 years, he joined Registered Master Builders only in 2007 and has had incredible awards success since. "I was more nervous about entering the awards than competing in running events at school."

In the past five years, Shaw Builders has been a national finalist five times, a regional supreme award winner two times (2007 and 2011), a category winner four times, and has won nine golds, a bronze, and six regional lifestyle awards - three for best kitchen (supplied by Wilkinson Joinery), one bathroom, one living outdoors, and one for energy efficiency.

Born and brought up in Campbell Rd, Mr Shaw is a true blue Mountie, a long-time surfer, and now lives closer to the beach in Gordon Rd. Actually, he built four homes in Gordon Rd.

"My grandmother owned the property on the corner of Banks Ave and May St, and my sister ran horses on Soper's Farm opposite the Mount college," he said.

He attended Mount college but when he was 14 he kept visiting Reg Walton in the downtown Busy Bee Diary every week for a year and pestered him for a job. Finally, Mr Walton relented and invited him to join Reg Walton Blocklayers.

Mr Walton went to Australia and Mr Shaw joined Saxton Builders at the Mount, completing a four-year apprenticeship. That owner also went to Australia and Mr Shaw became foreman for John Price Builders for 18 years before formally establishing his own company in 2002. He did other labour-only jobs out of work hours under Dave Shaw Builders before then.

Mr Shaw became involved with architecturally designed houses 16 years ago when he supervised the construction of a 1200sq m house in Rowe Rd, Ohauiti, owned by a Japanese American resident who would spend up to six months a year here.

"It was one of the first houses in Tauranga with a media room, and it had its own generator and a 30-car parking." The trend has continued.

"The architects may have a minimalistic approach and structurally the houses are easy to build. But inside none of the stuff is ever easy - it's the detailing that makes the difference."

Mr Shaw said homeowners nowadays preferred monopitch roofs [one slope] and water problems were being eradicated. "The building trade, architects and builders, were well aware of the [leaky] problems and they shouldn't occur again. A lot of people are going for the high ceilings and creating extra windows above, so each job is challenging."

Shaw Builders has retained a core, loyal staff of seven - qualified builders. Mr Connolly has spent 18 years, Mike Price 15 years and Lance Russell six years with the firm, and they have been joined by three apprentices. It hasn't been all building - they link up to fish and surf. Mr Shaw has an inflatable boat in his drive, to get him to Matakana Island for a spot of surfing and fishing.

Today, Shaw Builders has reached record employment of 13 as they complete four projects. Mr Shaw has just employed three new staff for renovations jobs.

They have taken an ageing Papamoa house down to its garaging floor and will be completing a $1.3 million alteration while staying within the building envelope.

A Whakamarama bed and breakfast home is being refreshed, and even architectural designer Mr Gordon is having his own house in Beach Rd, Matua, extended.

Shaw Builders is also finishing off another renovation in Oceanview Rd, and it has an order for a near 40-metre long single-level home to be built in the Papamoa Hills, starting in November.

"At the moment there's a bit of work coming up with new homes. That's what I hear from the architects. It's slowly building up," said Mr Shaw.

"I've been surprised that Tauranga has slowed as much as it did with its population growth ... When the builders are busy, the city is thriving.

"I guess a few got burned. We've always had downturns, and it will take another two years to come right," said Mr Shaw.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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