Family-run residential builder Fasham Pty Ltd has been designing and building in Victoria for almost half a century. At the beginning of 2016, the company is thriving, run by a second generation of family leadership, with sisters Emma and Melanie Fasham at the helm.
Trevor Fasham, Emma and Melanie’s father and the company’s founder, remains actively involved in a business committed to delivering the benefits of contemporary design to new homes and the way of life of its clients.
Founded as a family company in 1972, Fasham’s history of building contemporary homes for Victorians is long and stable. The business started with a range of designs that were modular in nature, allowing certain modules to be added or removed for design purposes.
Early houses were flat-roofed homes, solid brick contemporary construction, with a strong emphasis on orienting the northern aspects of the house to the path of the sun. Since that time, the business model has been adjusted to incorporate completely individual designs.
Rather than offering the clients a solution and manipulating the design to fit, all homes are now designed entirely from scratch to suit both the site and the client’s needs, differentiating the company’s offer significantly from those of its competitors.
What developed from this change was a new model, starting with taking a brief from the client, before going on to complete the design and pricing separately. With this model, the company now sits far closer to an architectural solution than that of volume-builders.
Fasham’s building philosophy was always to correctly orient the building to the specific site, paying close attention to the way a home’s inner spaces sit in the sunshine, the flow from one area to another, the view looking out, and the sense of light and space.
This unique philosophy has remained vital to the business over the years, a fact that becomes abundantly clear on visiting the company’s website, which proclaims that: “The path of the sun across your site is the single most important influence on home design.”
Fasham’s vast experience of building for individual clients, each with different requirements and lifestyles, stands as proof that this natural factor has a greater impact on the lives of those within than any view from the street may offer.
Melanie and Emma have now been joint managing directors at Fasham for just over a decade, having both previously held executive positions with multi-national companies, bringing a wealth of experience across several industries to their roles.
Emma came from a marketing and sales background, having worked in sales in London before stints in both IT and Real Estate. She has since completed an MBA in Business Administration, during which she came to work for Fasham.
Melanie’s background is in chemical engineering, where she worked in heavy industry for nearly ten years, before going on to work in logistics. After the decision had been made to join the family business, she also went back to school to complete a Diploma of Building.
Since joining Fasham, Melanie has gained her Domestic Builder (Unlimited) registration, as required by the Building Practitioners Board in Victoria.
The sisters have clearly demarcated roles within the company, corresponding to their specific skill sets. Emma runs the front end of the business, including clients, contracts, permits and marketing. Melanie is involved with overseeing construction, suppliers and pricing.
Fasham currently completes anywhere between 45 and 55 homes per year, taking full advantage of its individual model to ensure each house is given the design and building attention the client requires.
Due to its commitment to individual design and build, Fasham deals first and foremost with people looking to build a new home on a site they may have recently purchased or owned for many years, builds that often involve working within a council’s town planning guidelines.
Depending on where the land is situated, certain legislative requirements will need to be met, which will determine whether a town planning permit is needed or not. Currently, around 70% of the company’s business is affected by the need to meet town planning regulations.
The changes that have been made and are continuing to be made by local and state governments means this number is increasing, as more and more sites will be subject to town planning legislation.
This legislation can create problems for the company, since it will often mean a longer wait for the client to start construction. Problems such as the surrounding houses, bushfire issues and heritage issues all have an effect on the granting of a town planning permit.
One significant problem is the enormous amount of power that lays in the hands of the neighbourhood and its individual owners to object or comment on a design, even though they may not be directly affected by a build.
Statutory regulations state that the issuing of a town planning permit for one house should take 3 months. Realistically, it can take between 6 and 9 months, having a huge effect on productivity, as well as creating substantial costs for both businesses and landowners.
For companies like Fasham, town planning requirements seem to be always increasing, often requiring independent reports on a variety of topics to be commissioned for land management or existing conditions for the site, which can substantially delay building work.
Fasham has recently had to complete reports considering the amount of wallabies in the area on one site, and one tracking a certain beetle’s migration across another site.
The suffocating nature of the industry’s red tape doesn’t just affect builders, but can prove equally frustrating for clients, who buy land and might be asked to sit on it, unable to commence the build for an unknown period of time due to an often over-regulated process.
Fasham generally offers homes costing between $500k and $1.5m, including both design and construction. The company has a high-service, individual model, which sits somewhere between the architect and the project home builder, giving it a unique position in the market.
Clients come in for colour and detail meetings, where they are provided with plenty of discussion time to find the right fit for them. Standard packages are not on offer from Fasham, as clients are encouraged to bring and discuss their own ideas for the build.
Ideas are often based on what is on show in the display houses, and this flexible approach has resulted in the company gaining enormous appreciation from the market, appreciation reflected in the amount of repeat client business the company receives.
Repeat clients are an important source of both business and pride for the Fasham team. Being asked to build a second home for clients the company may have first worked with 10 or 15 years earlier is a testament to the strength of the company’s philosophy.
On top of this solid client base, Fasham regularly receives clients from referrals, an indication of the level of trust it has built up in its 45 years in the industry. This longevity is proof that high-quality constructions and individual designs are a defining feature of the business.
When researching builders, a client will look at how many disputes a company has been involved in throughout the years, which for Fasham has been in very few, demonstrating that problems are solved quickly and efficiently, before they become a dispute.
The current dispute resolution process in Victoria is very easy for clients to use, meaning it is not at all uncommon for a company to find themselves in a dispute with very little warning. Fasham works hard as a company to make sure its clients never have cause to do so.
Many issues and disputes arise every year for builders across the country, from bankruptcy to quality issues, such as a building not being in accordance with regulations, all the way to clients feeling they have not received what they expected after seeing a display home.
Fasham takes great care to avoid these issues, starting by walking its clients through a display home and explaining very carefully what is included and what isn’t, pointing out both standard features and those available as an upgrade.
In her seat on the board of Master Builders Association of Victoria, Melanie is directly involved with approaching the government about a variety of industry issues, those affecting companies ranging from volume builders through to smaller builders such as Fasham.
One challenge for the industry is surrounding owner-builder activity, which is very high in Victoria, although thanks to a recent legislation change to the Building Act, these problems are now being addressed and are likely to show improvement for the industry going forward.
Another challenge is in harmonising local council rules, with the aim of assisting builders and, as a result, clients, to achieve greater productivity. Even something as simple as how to manage rubbish on site can be very different across councils.
Builders can find it difficult to follow different rules existing across multiple sites, an issue that can seriously complicate building work, affecting both volume builders and individual builders in different ways.
Likewise, compulsory registration of trades in Victoria, as exists in NSW and QLD, if implemented, would benefit all parties. The more trades that are registered and have a tested skill base, the better it will be for clients, as an industry standard of quality will be reached.
Contemporary design is a significant part of Fasham’s business, the utilisation of light and space central to its philosophy. Open rooms and high-ceilings with uplift invite more light into the rooms as well as providing a view of the sky.
Houses built in suburban areas, close to the boundaries of other properties, benefit immensely from a roof elevation, which allows the homeowner to enjoy sky views rather than neighbours’ external walls, providing stunning, spacious living areas for Fasham’s clients.
The consistent build methodology of its individual designs allows the company to cost quickly and accurately from a sketch plan, meaning it can offer a fixed price for the client based on the brief that is taken.
Fasham is able to streamline many of the processes in the construction end of the business, with several consistent aspects to the work. The company values longstanding relationships with trades and suppliers, preferring to work with a limited number with vast experience.
Despite Fasham’s similarity to architectural firms in its approach to a build, there is still a big difference between its model and that of an architect, allowing the company to offer what it considers a superior service.
An architect would work by completing the brief and the design before having the project priced by a builder. At this point a client may have invested between $15k and $40k, which can represent a large chunk of the budget spent before the total project cost is finalised.
In Fasham’s model, the design and pricing are provided within 4 to 6 weeks of a brief, meaning the client can accurately assess their required investment without compromising on quality or efficiency.
Fasham’s recent achievements are best represented by the satisfaction gained by its clients rather than the houses it has built. With each house being individual, the importance of giving the customer exactly what they want is paramount to the company’s success.
A recent country build is a perfect example. Originally comprised of a small house the clients wanted to use for a B&B, they believed they would have to knock the building down, erecting a new house for themselves and another smaller one for the business.
Fasham’s designer suggested to the clients that they keep the existing cottage, a proposal that worked out extremely well for them, as they were able to get their business up and running more quickly, without the extra work of building the smaller house.
The new house is built into the land beautifully, nestled into the surrounding landscape and hidden from the view of the road. This elegant solution meant the clients not only got the property they wanted, but did so expeditiously, saving time and costs.
Another project sees the building of a house for a three-generation family, running from children to grandparents. The design has provided the middle generation with a bedroom upstairs, the younger downstairs and the oldest generation having their own living space.
This build is already a success for the family, who are incredibly happy with the design and layout. It is a design skill Fasham has used before, and this is not the first time the company has built a house to cater for the needs of a multi-generational family.
The individual nature of the design process allows this kind of property to be built, a project that would prove much harder for volume builders. The company is currently talking to another set of clients who are looking for a similar solution.
The secret is to build for the three generations now, but to ensure that when there are two generations left, the excess rooms are still useful and the house still fit for the purpose of comfortably housing the reduced family.
Satisfaction and trust can be seen in the case of clients who live overseas, having just moved into a house Fasham built without holding a face-to-face meeting until just before construction commenced, with design and contract work completed via Skype link ups.
This kind of arrangement demonstrates exactly the amount of trust clients are prepared to put in Fasham to deliver the right build for them. Seeing this type of project through to completion is a significant achievement for the company.
Similarly, another set of clients living in Sydney arranged for work to be done on a block of land in Melbourne purely by viewing the company’s website. Most of the early arrangements were done over the phone, until the clients could come for a meeting to finalise the plans.
These are all examples of Fasham’s success at building from a distance, showing that, even though the company works in Melbourne, there is no reason why people from all over the world cannot benefit from its individual design and build model.
Another project has just been finished down in Portsea, where a family subdivided their block, enabling a new home to be built next to the existing family home, with a contemporary build complementing a property that has been standing for nearly a century.
The existing house is built out of limestone, and the new house in a beautiful timber. It took 12 months to obtain town planning approval, which is not unusual considering the sensitive nature of the site and the surrounding properties. The property itself took another year to build, and has already been lovingly embraced by the clients.
There is no shortage of client satisfaction stories when it comes to Fasham homes. One aspect of the design brief is to tap into the client’s passions, often done to great effect, as in the case of a passionate car owner, whose house was designed and built to overlook the garage.
Another client wanted to begin learning the piano, and so Fasham made sure a sound-insulated room was built in the house, making it easier for the instrument to be learned without disturbing the rest of the family.
Another client, with a passion for breeding and racing birds, had almost a third of his family home given over to a breeding area for his birds, showing the diversity of both Fasham’s clients and the designs the company are asked for.
In addition to these projects for its passionate clients, the company has just recently completed two wonderful new display homes in Alphington, the first time they have built display homes in this area.
This area of Melbourne is going through a period of significant growth, and Fasham has looked to capitalise on this with its display homes. The homes are beautiful, two-storey houses, different but elegant, giving clients several options and ideas when viewing them.
The houses are essentially there to provide ideas for clients, giving the company an invaluable opportunity to show what it is capable of and to get clients thinking about how they might want their own houses to look and feel.
Fasham display houses are often used to host new client meetings and design briefs, giving the company the ability to deliver hands-on pitches to clients and discuss ideas about how best to reproduce certain elements of a build in a new design.
Fasham uses photos taken from previous builds to highlight the array of possibilities for new builds and provide inspiration for its clients. After closing one of its older display houses, the two Alphington display homes will give a new lease of life to the company’s product.
The future is exciting for Fasham, with several recent changes being implemented to move the business forward, including a new website and positive developments to the marketing area, all with the aim of inspiring its clients to imagine new ideas for their dream homes.
Find out more about Fasham Homes by visiting:
This Fasham Homes business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:
Climate-Control Insulation Co.
Horizon Fireplaces – Jetmaster
Scyon Walls-James Hardie Technology
To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.
Editorial by Nicholas Paul Griffin