Christopher Schiavello is director of the Schiavello Group, one of Australia’s largest private construction companies that was started 53 years ago by brothers Tony and Joe Schiavello with the spirit that ‘anything is possible’.

Currently he is helping to shape a group in the industry called InterBuild - an organisation aimed at representing the LGBTQI+ community in the construction industry, providing opportunities for members to network and represent as well as provide resources for employers seeking to be more inclusive.

His advice for people considering entering the workforce? Look to the leaders of the companies you identify as potentially of interest. If they aren’t living the values you identify with, then the business is probably not going to either. 

We speak with Schiavello about the building industry, safety and of course, diversity across the whole sector.

What part of the industry would you say needs the most reform and why?

More financial due diligence on building contractors. There is huge responsibility that a builder carries, and there are too many businesses being engaged without any checks and balances being done.

We have companies being contracted to undertake projects that represent a significant amount of their revenue, and with margins being reduced in the industry, it only takes one bad project to potentially bring down a contractor.

We need to be mindful of this as it impacts the client, the people using the space, buying the asset, the subcontractors working for the builder, consultants. It could have a real impact on the broader community and economy.

There is a general belief that the cheapest price is the way to go, but no one looks at the risk, the quality or general competency any more. Despite the risk that is involved in construction, people can often procure like we are in a market of start-ups.

Is diversity an area in the construction sector that needs looking at and what would a very diverse construction sector look like to you?

Diversity in people is incredibly important and brings a lot to the construction industry. Embracing and fostering this culture has been vital for the leaders and people here at Schiavello. I have been involved in shaping a group called InterBuild, an organisation aimed at representing the LGBTQI+ community in the construction industry and providing opportunities for members to represent and network, as well as providing resources for employers that are seeking to be more inclusive.

I think it’s important for people entering the construction industry and workforce in general to look at the values of the leaders of the companies that are of interest. If they aren’t aligned with your core values, then the business probably is not going to either. 

Over the past few years, do you think the sector has properly grasped the issue of compliant building materials and do you think this issue will come to public attention again?

Clearly not, given the recent cladding issues and Grenfell tower fire. Even the most developed countries with compliance codes and standards are having these issues. I think safety on site and after we leave site will always need to be front of mind, because the moment it isn’t, is the moment an issue could occur. We need to constantly do our due diligence, and I think this relates nicely back to the first question – are people engaging with contractors that are competent in these areas, or just utilising the cheapest?

Australian houses and apartments in some ways are not really designed for our climate. Is this changing from what you can see?

I think that climate change is testing and changing design. Unpredictable weather patterns such as warmer temperature, storms, floods, cyclones means we need to start to consider these when look at design for areas we would not have traditionally considered.

I think architecture over the last 10 years has always tried to be responsible and minimise it’s footprint or utilise the nature as best as possible (timber construction, cross ventilation, recyclable materials).

Will the construction sector adopt more sustainable designs and practices and where do you think it needs to start first?

I think as per the above, we all have a responsibility in this – the developer, the designer, the builder, the council, the end user/buyer.

What is the sector hoping to get from the result of the 2019 Federal Election and do you think it will get it?

Possibly more investment in health, aged care and education, but I think the biggest focus will be on environment management and a sustainable future which is great to see.