While more and more businesses in the architecture and design space invest in local production capabilities, only a handful can pride themselves on an Australian manufacturing heritage that stretches over 150 years. GH Commercial is one of these companies.

The company which forms the Oceanic division of the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, Mohawk Industries, was first established in Geelong in 1865. Founded under the name of Godfrey Hirst, the establishment was Victoria’s very first textile mill. With time, the shape of the facility – and the brand itself – has evolved, but this rich local heritage continues to inform the outstanding quality of the GH Commercial products, and the company’s strategic and operational trajectory.

Today, GH Commercial’s large local network spans three manufacturing plants and two distribution centres in Australia, as well as four world-class production facilities in New Zealand. “Having such a robust local manufacturing capability, we are able to have full control over how the products are made,” explains Aaron Dawson, Commercial Carpet Manager at GH Commercial. Not only that – thanks to its strong local presence, the company was able to continue offering its high-quality products to Australian clients throughout the pandemic.

“Generally, a lot of our raw materials are sourced from offshore so we were impacted by the logistical challenges of the pandemic,” Aaron says. “However, in the midst of COVID, we were able to construct a large facility at our North Geelong manufacturing plant which became our raw material warehouse. Having all the material already in the country and on site, our exposure to what happened globally was dramatically reduced. In addition, being a local manufacturer with a bigger local logistical imprint, we were able to get around some of the hurdles that a lot of the importers faced through that time.”

GH Commercial’s local manufacturing facilities play a crucial role in advancing the organisation's sustainability, too. “The company is investing heavily in its sustainability journey with resources, training and knowledge,” Aaron explains. “And with carpet manufacturing relying so heavily on electricity and gas, everything we can do in the renewable energy sector will help us maintain a viable and sustainable product portfolio.”

Reducing the company’s carbon footprint through solar energy plays a pivotal role in pursuing these ambitions. The facilities in Truganina and Laverton, with 220 panels at 100 kw and 216 panels at 99.36 kw respectively, were the first ones to be fitted with solar energy systems. The warehouses’ robust footprints, as well as extensive flat rooftops, created the perfect conditions for panel installation and today, the systems power around a half of the facilities’ energy use.

This year, however, GH Commercial completed the largest solar power project to date in their North Geelong carpet tufting facility. Aaron explains that the plant in Geelong is a heritage building with an original roof, which is why the panels couldn’t get installed any sooner. “In the old mills saw tooth roofs were useful because they let light into the factories,” he adds. “But the shape of the roof makes it difficult to install solar panels, and so we had to prepare the building first”

However, the new system boasting 1088 panels at 460 kw each has most definitely made up for the time it took to get the building ready. “This is the first major generation of clean energy on any of our Godfrey Hirst sites,” Aaron adds. “The system is 500 kW in size, uses five inverters and supplies almost 30% of the site’s electrical energy requirements.”

“From a sustainability point of view, the North Geelong system produces approximately 719 MWh of electrical energy each year, which will save around 12,886 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime,” Aaron explains. “That is the equivalent of planting around 51,000 trees.”

The transformative system which will power the production of over 16,000 lineal metres of carpet each day is yet another milestone on GH Commercial’s sustainability journey. The solar energy investment on a local level is also a testament to their aspirations to continue honouring the Australian heritage well into the future. And that, Aaron says with a smile, is looking bright.