5 Minutes with Built’s Jono Cottee

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In the lead-up to Urbanity, on August 3-5 at The Star on the Gold Coast, The Urban Developer sat down with Built development director Jono Cottee to discuss industry trends, Built’s business model and its projects as well as the importance of conferences like Urbanity.

Cottee will be delivering an in depth case study on SubStation 164, a recently delivered progressive, culturally vibrant commercial building in Sydney’s CBD, on Thursday August 4

What are the three key trends currently defining the construction sector?

New benchmarks for workplaces. Post-pandemic the need to adapt the workplace to entice workers back to the office is driving demand for high quality commercial office spaces with smaller or more adaptable and flexible floor plates, character and authenticity, access to natural light and air by providing terraces and world class sustainability and smart technology.

Sustainability. It’s not just good enough to have good intentions there is now an imperative from investors and financiers for better performance and transparency from the built environment and reducing carbon emissions as 39 per cent of global carbon emissions comes directly from the construction and operations of buildings. 

Digital Engineering. Digital Engineering and the digital model is a way we’re finding to do more with less, reduce and resolve risk and provide the ability to manage the future operation and development of projects. It’s allowing us to build and develop smarter, faster, better with less waste. 

It affords us the opportunity to design, build and optimise virtually before implementing in real life, and allows us to develop project information, including models, with each future phase in mind.


How has Built established and how does it go about maintaining such a successful business model?

Built is now in its 24th year of operation and has grown from a bespoke fitout company to become one of Australia’s largest privately owned construction and development business, with $2.5 billion in revenue and ranking third in BCI and The Urban Developer’s inaugural construction league.

It can sometimes be seen as a bit of a cliche but our culture and our people are key to our success and that starts from the top and it’s a key factor behind our growth and 82 per cent repeat client rate. 

Also as a private company we have the ability to be nimble enough to create and take opportunities that are presented to us. We like to say that we have the scale and certainty of a tier one company but the culture and agility to stay ahead of change.

What do you, or Built, focus far more time on now, than five years ago?

In short, sustainability and technology. Sustainability has been on the radar over the last 10 years but in the building industry but for a long time builders have taken a back seat. However, at Built we see an opportunity for builders to take a bigger leadership position in shaping how our built environment can be more sustainable.

Over the last decade, we have been responding to the demand for more sustainable buildings and looked for ways to go above and beyond. As a result, we delivered a better sustainability rating outcome than what clients targeted on over 68 per cent of the certifications for buildings they have constructed, refurbished or fitout.

On the technology front, construction has typically been one of the least digitised industries, however we don’t think this recognise there have been some great pockets of innovation happening which we see reflected in our own business particularly around digital engineering and utiling digital models, tools and process to build smarter, faster, safer and to a high quality. 

The focus now has to be scaling this technology to become mainstream and BAU in everything we do.

What existing project best represents Built as a construction company?

Our Sub Station No.164 adaptive reuse development really represents where Built has come from and shows our total solution capability. 

It’s a reason why it’s our head office and that we’ve been able to deliver it, secure a fund through investor and fully lease it, even during the pandemic.

It required all our strengths—a smart, collaborative development approach and innovative design together with complex construction and heritage refurbishment works to fully restore and consolidate two heritage buildings with a structural solution to allow the building to be extended with minimal impact on the heritage fabric and workable floorplates.

We managed the whole project end to end across development, construction, refurbishment and high quality fitouts. It also really showcases our values, problem solving and can do attitude of our people.

Someone on your radar that is delivering exceptional work in the built environment?

Joe Karten, Built’s head of sustainability and social impact, is a real and passionate leader who is driving sustainability in the built environment. 

He has the perfect mix of technical and leadership skills to be an advocate and champion to improve the Australian property industry’s response to the environmental and social challenges we face. I enjoy how he always pushes us to do more and has such a strong solution focus and can do attitude.


An Australian development, currently being constructed, that has impressed you?

Queens Wharf Brisbane. The sheer scale and complexity of the project is impressive including all the interconnectivity across the different towers, infrastructure and location. 

It will also be Australia’s largest open BIM project which will be used for the ongoing maintenance and management of the precinct after construction. 

It’s sure to set many precedents in the use and deliver of digital engineering and digital twins.


An International development, currently being constructed, that has impressed you?

Booking Headquarters in Amsterdam. The project is currently under construction and is part of one of the largest urban projects in Western Europe. The campus is the last sub-plan of Oosterdokseiland and is imagined as a social hub specifically designed to encourage encounters.

Why do you think it is important to have conferences like Urbanity?

“Property, development and construction is a dynamic and fast moving industry and conferences like Urbanity provides a great opportunity to engage in forward thinking to help shape our industry and start or continue great collaborative conversations.”

Of the vast array of speakers presenting at Urbanity who are you most looking forward to hearing from?

Mirvac’s Bob Hamilton. I’m interested to hear about the journey of building one of Australia’s most respected property development businesses.

Join us as Urbanity brings together an unrivalled roster of the industry’s best developers, architects, place-makers, innovators and property professionals.

Urbanity is a must-attend event for anyone that is involved in the development of cities and regions.