On the second episode of the Construction Industry Podcast, I interviewed Greg McTaggart of the Sydney Opera House. We spoke about a variety of topics, including the issues that arose during construction from the revolutionary design of the Opera House, challenges of managing projects at World Heritage Sites, and what it is success in construction projects.
- Episode Transcription
- Interview with Greg McTaggart, Director, Building Development & Maintenance for the Sydney Opera House
- New South Wales procurement website
- Pictures of the Sydney Opera House from the UNESCO website
[slickr-flickr tag=”SOH” items=”20″ type=”slideshow” captions=”on” delay=”5″ size=”medium”]
Ah, construction projects. As far as projects go, Construction projects are substantially different than other kinds. Sure, the world of project management today covers a wide variety of types of projects, from space shuttle launches to event planning. However, there’s just something about construction projects that makes a permanent mark on the world. Construction projects literally change the landscape that defines the background of our lives.
Like mountains, they define the skyline, cast shadows, hide the sun. Like trees, their foundations are roots that support the structures that give us shelter.
Like monuments, they are a constant reminder of the people who designed them, the people who built them, the people who lived and worked in them.
So what is a successful construction project?
I recently posed this question on a number of LinkedIn groups related to the construction industry, and got a variety of answers. I think it’s fascinating. During design and construction, the constraints of time, budget, and scope seem to define what success is. But over the years, it is the history and timelessness of the project that seem to define what success really is.
On LinkedIn, Eric says that “the problem is, s/he usually can’t tell you (or won’t) what his metrics are at the beginning – and s/he usually changes the purpose sometime during the execution (if not a couple of times). Kinda like being married; the interdependencies can be rearranged at any time when one party changes their mind on something fundamental and doesn’t tell you about it – you have to spend inordinate amounts of energy trying to figure it out.”
There is one particular construction project that symbolizes this apparent conflict like no other.
It is the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is at the same time one of the icons of human ingenuity and an example of poor project management. However, while its troublesome past was an issue at the time – and a great example of poor management to be used in modern project management publications today – the Sydney Opera House cannot be described as anything but a tremendous success.
It stands as one of the most recognizable structures in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 8.2 million people visit the site annually and it’s beautiful design is a symbol of Australia – even more so than Mr. Kangaroo himself.
On this episode of the Construction Industry Podcast, I spoke with Mr. Greg McTaggart, director of building development and maintenance for the Sydney Opera House. We covered the history of the construction project, the challenges of conducting projects in a heritage site such as the Sydney Opera House, and their construction project currently underway.
Greg McTaggart was appointed to his position in 2008. He joined Sydney Opera House in 2003 and was previously the Project Director of the Building Development Group. Since 2003 Greg has had responsibility for the planning and delivery of all major building projects at Sydney Opera House, including the Utzon Room, Western Colonnade, Western Foyers, external Lighting and the Opera Theatre Renewal Concept Design Study. In his role as Director of Building Development and Maintenance he has responsibility for environmental sustainability, the maintenance and conservation of the building, as well as continuing to plan and deliver major building projects including the Vehicle Access and Pedestrian Safety project. Greg is a member of the Sydney Opera House Building Committee and the Conservation Council.
Greg has been involved in the delivery of public infrastructure and building projects for over thirty five years. He has worked on a diverse range of projects including schools and hospitals, water supply and sewerage infrastructure, grain handling facilities and major sporting venues including ANZ Stadium (Olympic Stadium), Sydney Athletic & Aquatic Centres and the Regatta Centre at Penrith Lakes. For more than a decade Greg worked on the planning, construction and operational activities associated with the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games and received the “Olympic Golden Rings” award from the International Olympic Committee for his contribution to the Games.
Greg spoke with me from his office in Sydney, Australia.
Enjoy the interview.
Interview with Greg McTaggart, Director, Building Development & Maintenance for the Sydney Opera House
Greg: Oh, hi Cesar.
Cesar: Well, I’m going to ask you a question that you were probably never asked before. Is it really tomorrow there? Are you talking from the future?
Greg: Yes. I’m talking – it’s 10:00 AM on Monday morning in Sydney. A nice, bright, sunny day with a little bit of a breeze blowing.
Cesar: It’s beautiful.
Greg: I see Circular Quay and Harbour Bridge at my window. It’s very nice.
Cesar: Beautiful. Now, are you in the opera house?
Greg: No, we actually recently just moved from within the opera house to an office block, about five minutes walk away.
Greg: With our new project about to start, we need to reconfigure some of the office accommodation in the building and create a bit of space so we’ve leased a commercial office space for our building and maintenance team.
Greg: But it’s still a good spot right on Circular Quay.
Cesar: Beautiful, yes. The Sydney Opera House and its history, to me it’s absolutely fascinating and so when we decided to launch the podcast, this podcast for the construction industry, the Sydney Opera House was something I really wanted to showcase and it’s probably one of the most recognizable buildings in the world; and I’m very excited to be able to ask you some questions about it.
Greg: Yes, a pleasure to be able to talk to you about the opera house and all of the people including my self who work in the building love the place and are very passionate about it; and we like talking about it and then telling people all around the world some of the details and interesting things that happen behind the scenes.
Cesar: Great. Okay. So on one hand, the construction of the Sydney Opera House is used as an example of architecture and innovation triumph. Now on the other hand, project management publications will cite it as like a flop because of the cost of overruns and delays. Now when it comes to construction projects, how much of the perceived success is due to innovation, beauty and timelessness as opposed to simply satisfying the constraints of cost, schedule and scope? In your opinion, what do you think?
Greg: It’s an interesting conundrum because in my opinion, I believe that the success of Sydney Opera House is really down to the vision and passion of those people who were involved in the early days and its conception, its design and its construction. It goes right back to a conductor from Sydney Symphony called Eugene Goossens and the premier at that day, a person called Joe Cahill, to come up with the seeds of the idea and then along came the original architect Jorn Utzon from Denmark. There was a bit of political upheaval in the mid-60s and Utzon left the project and a group of local architects became involved but they have the same passion.
There would have been a multitude of other people involved in the design team and then the construction contractors and the subcontractors. From all of the research and reading that I’ve done on the subject, it’s pretty clear to me that everybody was involved on the project, went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that they have the best possible result for the building.
Everyone was just so proud of the opera house in Sydney. There was nothing like it in Sydney or Australia at the time. So they all worked really hard to come up with a really fantastic outcome within the constraints that existed at the time. Of course the exceptional design concept that Jorn Utzon came up with pushed the boundaries of design and construction technology at the time and there are many innovations evident that had to be developed to make it possible to even design and build the project.
Some of these compromises and shortcomings are evident today and in my job looking at the maintenance and the future development of the building, we find some of those; but looking into it, I think these can be traced back to the original design brief that was given for the use of the building and then some of the changes that happened to the design brief along the way and then of course the fact that the great popularity and success of the building [0:04:07] [Indiscernible] were being used in such a way that the guys back in the 50s and 60s would never even have thought about, you know.
Greg: At the time the building was conceived, we didn’t have a ballet company in Australia. The opera company was in its infancy. The symphony was around but they played out of a town hall. So, with a building such as the opera house now, those three art forms have flourished in Sydney and Australia. We have a lot of contemporary performances plus kid shows and all sorts of things including tours and food and beverage so the building just gets used hard everyday and those things would never have been thought about when the brief was established or the design was being done.
Greg: Getting back to your original question, while it’s hard to predict what might have happened if those people involved in the original work had adopted modern project management and these modern techniques, my personal feeling is [0:05:00] that we wouldn’t have got the building we got today. We wouldn’t have had this beautiful World Heritage-listed global icon. Knowing how things happened on other projects that I’ve been involved in, I think that the pressure is to control the cost, the time and the scope. Would have set [Indiscernible] compromises which would have ended up with a building which was not what we got today and much less successful.
A little anecdote. One of our eminent local architects who had some involvement in the opera house, I’ve heard him say many times in discussions that Sydney was blessed with a great gift when it got the Sydney Opera House and that was due to just circumstances and faith that the politicians and the conductors at the time had the idea and then the international design competition led us to Jorn Utzon in Denmark and his fantastic design.
Cesar: Yes. I think over time, people will forget how much it costs and how long it took to build and I think what you just said about the Sydney Opera House could also be said about the pyramids or the Colosseum. Nobody remembers how long it took and how much it cost and then probably, as you said, if we were using project management methodologies that we have today, we wouldn’t have those landmarks that stood the test of time.
Greg: Yes, and I think if you ask any great city around the world, if they would like an icon like the Sydney Opera House, they would say yes; and I think some of the cities have tried to do it since the opera house was built and some have come close but I don’t think any have been as successful as Sydney Opera House and all that comes down to the design of the building but also its location within the harbour of Sydney.
Greg: Helps make it to the icon that it is.
Cesar: Yes. It’s right there. Every picture you see of Sydney, you see the opera house somewhere.
Cesar: Now, about the design specifically, can you tell us a little bit about how the design came to be and then some of the challenges that were encountered doing construction?
Greg: Yes, certainly and the history of the opera house is almost as complicated and interesting as the building itself. It goes right back to 1947 when the then conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a fellow called Eugene Goossens who was English, suggested that a city such as Sydney should have a fine venue for symphony opera. As I mentioned earlier, the opera company was just a fledgling entity and the Sydney Symphony were playing out of the local town hall at the time.
By around 1954, Goossens had convinced the then premier of New South Wales, a guy called Joe Cahill, that we needed an opera house and Cahill then took that up with passion and it was actually him that decreed that Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour should be their location for Sydney Opera House and that was a very important decision. If it had been buried down in the center of the central business district, we wouldn’t have ended up with the same iconic building that we’ve got now.
In 1955, Joe Cahill established a panel to run a design competition and in 1956, that competition was undertaken. It was interesting. There were very few rules established for that competition and that the government appointed independent jury to adjudicate on the entries received so that there were no government officials on that jury. They comprised architectural professors from our local universities and overseas experts including Saarinen, the finest engineer.
Early in 1957, I think in was in January, they judged a Danish architect Jorn Utzon as the winner of the competition and there were hundreds and hundreds of entries that were submitted. Utzon’s design could be considered to be on a space age at the time compared to most of the other entries and I’ve seen a lot of those designs and most of them consisted of traditional rectangular or box-shaped buildings. Utzon’s was the only entry that I’ve seen that had the sort of the curvatures and the more modern design aspects to it.
The other interesting thing with Utzon’s design was he put the two halls side by side so the opera hall and the symphony hall side by side on the site whereas every single other entry put them in a linear fashion. So you went past one to get to the other on the Bennelong Point.
It was a bit of a squish to get those to your building side by side on the side that ended up with a great design and that really works in particular in getting the connection between the two venues and the harbour setting. So imagine if they were one behind the other. You wouldn’t have that same connection with the harbour. From our northern foyers in both the opera theatre and the concert hall, the patrons can look out on to the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay. That wouldn’t have existed in any of the other competition entries.
At the time, the Utzon design was very controversial and many of the local people were very skeptical whether it could be built but they were also in awe of it and they’ve never seen anything like it in Sydney and Australia.
The challenges on the site were many and then there were obviously too many to cover here in this interview but …
Greg: But the site itself has an interesting history before European settlers came in 1788. The site was occupied by the local indigenous people, the aboriginals. There was a guy called Bennelong who lived on the site. When the settlement started to take place in New South Wales and Sydney, Bennelong Point was developed into a fort so a military fort that stayed there for about a hundred years or so; and then it was demolished and turned into a tram shed for the transportation system that again stayed around for about many decades until the decision was made to build the opera house and then that tram shed was demolished.
When the decision was made to appoint Utzon, the government at the time wanted to move fast. They didn’t want to be caught up in any sort of political upheaval if a different government came in and decided not to proceed with the project. So they made a decision to start building the foundations and what we call the podium or the base of the opera house before the design of the roof shells was completed.
As a consequence of that and as the design for the roof shells developed, the foundations weren’t quite in the right place or the right size and they had a bit of a demolition and rebuilding to suit the roof shells ultimately and put in place; but I think that was probably a wise decision at the time even though I’m sure all the people on the site would have been uncomfortable with that in building the foundations for some roof shells they didn’t even have the design of.
The design of those roof shells themselves also led to many construction challenges and design challenges. Utzon’s original design concept had some fairly flat concrete shells. When the structure engineers started doing the analysis on those, they had a lot of difficulty resolving the stresses and strains, et cetera; and at the time, computers had only just started to become into vogue and being used on engineering and architectural work.
It was also Utzon wasn’t quite happy with the look of the shells. So he came up with a design solution which he called the spherical solution. So every single one of the shells on Sydney Opera House, from the biggest one to the smallest one, have been built on the same radius so it’s as if the shells have been a piece of wedge cut out of a sphere.
What that did was it helped him resolve some of the aesthetic issues but it also helped the engineers because circles are a standard shape and engineers have formulas to resolve stresses and strains in circles.
Greg: So it really got the project up and running when that decision was made. It also helped when it came to the construction of the job because all of the components were made from a sphere of the same radius. There was a lot of commonality in the formwork and false work required to build those shells. So I think that was only somewhat 14 or 15 different pieces that a form had to be used to make different combinations and those could make up any of the ribs required to the different size of shells on the side.
The other interesting thing was then all of those precast concrete rib sections were put on the side and then a lifting position and then rest that against purpose-designed temporary jigsaw false work that have been designed by the construction company Hornibrook. Those jigs then supported the ribs in place post-tension together and then become self-supporting.
That in itself was interesting at the time because post-tension and operating stressing techniques in concrete had only just been started to be used in Australia. The Gladesville Bridge here in Sydney was probably one of the first and then the use of this post-tensioning technique in a building had never been done in Australia before so those techniques were developed and applied to Sydney Opera House.
Also between the precast concrete pieces that make up the shell ribs, they used an epoxy fitting material similar to an Araldite. I’m not sure if you have that overseas but it’s an epoxy cement that was actually developed on the site for use in the opera house. It wasn’t a proprietary product so that stopped the sort of sheer movements between the pieces and so the whole thing could be post-tensioned together.
Another challenge which I find quite interesting and the solution they came up with was the installation of the one million or so roof tiles that give the opera house its fantastic and beautiful looks. Instead of putting those tiles in place and gluing them in place up on the shells at height, they came up with a system of what we call tile lids or tile trace of these chevron-shaped metal trays that were used to create the zigzag chevron shapes on the shells; and they did all of those on the ground so the tiles were laid into those tile lids on the ground and then cast into place down on the ground. Then when they were cured, they were lifted up into place using cranes.
So, the amount of work that had to be done at heights was reduced dramatically and also allowed them to get much bigger quality control by doing the work down on the ground where it’s a much more controlled environment. So I think that just gives you a bit of a cross-section of some of the …
Greg: … innovations and challenges that were evident back in the time.
Cesar: That’s amazing that this was just being pretty much invented as needed and …
Greg: It was, yes.
Cesar: I’ll add some pictures of the roof shells and the tiles on the show notes for people to see what we’re talking about here. So after we talk here, I’m going to add that to the website.
Greg: And I’ll be pleased to help you pick some of those if you want access to them.
Cesar: That will be fantastic, yes. Now, this was a long time ago and things have changed since then. Now, how has the discipline of project management changed since then and what were some of the lessons learned during the construction of the opera house which your team uses today?
Greg: I’ve been involved in engineering since the mid-70s and even since then things have changed in engineering and project manage dramatically off the – a lot of changes in technology but also in the general approach to project management. Back in the 1960s when the opera house had been built, I don’t think the term “project management” was even used.
From the research I’ve done, it seemed that the project was managed by Jorn Utzon the architect and I think other construction individuals, when he became involved, worked in very close collaboration with Utzon and they more or less formed the project management team; and then when the contractors were appointed on the side, I think the key people from those contracting companies worked with the engineer and the architect and they did a lot of the project management.
For example, they’ve done the jig that I’ve talked about or the false work for putting up the ribs on the roof shells. That was developed by an engineer from the contracting company Hornibrook. There was another contracting company called Civil and Civic. They did the podium work, the foundations and the base and then Hornibrook did the next two stages which was really the concrete shells and the tiles and then the internal fit-outs of the building.
The focus to me back in those days seemed to be very much on the resolution of the many complex technical issues that came up for this project and not so much from the control of time and cost.
Greg: In the mid-60s when there was a change of government and there was a new government that came into place, they have a lot of pressure that was brought to bear on to Utzon and it ultimately led to his resignation in about February 1966 because they were questioning the time and the cost overruns and they were trying to bring in more of a project management discipline that led to some friction with the architect and his departure.
Cesar: Right, and try to bring some project management to spoil everything.
Greg: Yes, and he was obviously very passionate and, you know …
Greg: … he had been involved in the project from 1957 when the competition was announced right through until 1966. Almost a decade his heart and soul had gone into this project. I think it was his only project that he’s involved in.
So to have someone new come into the project and start questioning decisions and try to overlay this more formal discipline must have been a shock to him and …
Greg: … something that he found hard to come to grips with.
Greg: So today when you look at the industry, we have companies whose sole business is project management. They specialize in it. They work for clients and project manage their buildings. I don’t think those sort of companies existed back in the 1960s.
Greg: In Australia, we also have now formal university qualifications in project management.
Greg: We could very specialize now and run master’s courses in project management. As I mentioned in the introduction to this question, the technologies which we have now just didn’t exist back then and …
Greg: … with the computing hardware and the software, we have so many tools at our disposal now to monitor and manage cost and time.
Greg: I know just in the opera house the number of different systems that we use for those purposes, it’s staggering.
Cesar: Yes, yes. Now, you have some project currently underway at the grounds there, the opera house. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what’s happening there?
Greg: Yes, I will. Before we get on that, you did ask about what we used in my team today.
Greg: I’m throwing on the lessons learned from back on the original construction.
Greg: The example I thought I would give you is one which we use fairly regularly today. It’s the use of prototyping and getting the trades people or the craftsman involved in developing the solutions to a lot of the problems we have here. We don’t rely totally on design consultants and the jobs are specified in such a way that – for particular elements, ones that require it will specify that prototypes have to be built and then a collaboration between ourselves as the client and the designers and the builders to come up with the right result for the opera house.
Jorn Utzon was a strong believer in this and we have a document called the Utzon Design Principles that we work with closely. It was a document that he wrote when he rejoined working with us in the late 90s so he has laid it out on paper, the design principles that he used in the 1950s and 1960s to design a building and they’re a fantastic tool for us to develop future projects; and it comes out very strongly in those design principles with this philosophy of prototyping and working with the craftsman.
To give you an example, Utzon was very keen on laminated plywood as a solution for interiors and he was also looking at a structural element for the mullions, for the glass facades, big glass facades on either end of the opera house. So he worked very closely with a local Sydney timber company called Ralph Symonds and developed solutions for these laminated plywood sections and interestingly enough, it was one of the things that led to his disagreement with the government and departure from the site was the fact that they wouldn’t advance him the money to do some more prototyping on the laminated plywood mullions for the façade.
Over the last five or six years or so, we’ve built a number of full-sized prototypes of components in our projects and they’ve been very useful for us. It helps with the stakeholder communications that people can actually picture what they’re getting. They don’t have to rely on either 2D or 3D drawings when they can see it in the flesh and we actually have solved some of the issues that we had by building the prototype and by playing around with them and trying different options. That leads me on then to talk about our current project.
Greg: The project we’ve got on or the biggest project we got on now – we got a number of projects on but the biggest one is called the Vehicle Access and Pedestrian Safety Project. We call it VAPS as our local acronym. It’s all about pedestrian safety and segregating the heavy vehicle deliveries and the other deliveries from our pedestrian users, our patrons who visit the site. It’s primarily a large underground loading dock and the scope of the project also includes some work on our entry roadway to fix up some of the trip hazards that exist there.
So the goal, as I mentioned, is to remove the conflict between the heavy vehicles and the 8.2 million or so visitors that come to the site each year and we also have a number of supplementary goals including improving our operational efficiencies particularly in the theater area and the logistics of handling the sets into and out of the building.
The new dock itself is located under the Sydney Opera House and it’s for all levels about 15 meters below the level of Sydney Harbour; and then that 70,000 (errata: 40,000) cubic meters of material to come out, majority of that is a rock called Sydney sandstone. It’s a sedimentary rock.
Cesar: Wow, that’s amazing.
Greg: Yes, so you can imagine the challenges and the logistics of that and …
Greg: … our goal in building this is to keep the Sydney Opera House fully operational while we do this construction work so there’s a lot of logistics and planning work going in at the moment to try and make sure we can achieve that goal. So once we’re building this project, we’ll be running the symphony, the opera, the ballet, all of them on the little theatres; and our tourism and our food and beverage and retail businesses, they will all continue to operate while we do this work.
That project was approved just over a year ago in June 2010 and we’re pretty pleased with the progress of that so far. We’ve got all the necessary planning and Heritage approvals in place. We’ve commenced early works on site to divert a number of services including stormwater, water, high voltage power lines, et cetera and we’ve just about completed the detail design for the underground dock itself and just in the final stages that now that the design development is finalized and the design team is documenting the tender drawings. We have shortlisted a number of construction companies to do the work and we hope to go out to tender in August this year.
Greg: If your listeners are interested in finding out more about the project, they can go to our website which is www.SydneyOperaHouse.com. We do have a section on that website dedicated to this project.
Cesar: Yes, I checked it out. It’s very informative so I recommend everybody to check it out. I imagine there’s going to be a lot of challenges when you work on such a heritage site. Can you talk about a little bit about the challenges of that?
Greg: Yes, it certainly is an issue for us. When the Sydney Opera House was inscribed on the World Heritage List back in 2007, the expert evaluation report, he was recommending it to UNESCO, stated that it stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity not only in the 20th century but on the history of human kind.
Greg: As you can imagine the sort of pressures that it puts on us on a day to day management of the place.
Greg: It is one of the most loved and recognized buildings in Sydney, Australia and we know that it has a very prominent profile around the world. We did an international survey a few years back and just to check out how the opera house was perceived around the world and it came back that the Sydney Opera House was rated higher as a symbol of Australia than the kangaroo was so that was a bit of a surprise to us but obviously we’re pleased with it.
Cesar: That’s amazing. Yes, and even around here, like sometimes, I’ll say Sydney Opera House. They don’t quite know what I’m talking about but when they see the picture, they know. Oh, yes, that’s Australia, you know, immediately.
Greg: Yes. Yes, our tourism bodies use it very heavily in campaigns to promote Australia as a tourist destination and you probably would have heard we had Oprah out here who did some of her shows on our Forecourt late last year. So that again lists their profile around the world with a TV show like that which broadcasts to lots of people.
Greg: So getting back to your question, yes that sort of prominence does bring an extreme level of responsibility and scrutiny and governance of everything we do. Having said all of that, there are probably too many challenges to mention but I’ll just run through some of them …
Greg: … to give a bit of an overview.
Greg: So Sydney Opera House is not only World Heritage List. It’s also on the state in New South Wales and the National Heritage registry for Australia so that brings with it a complex interaction between our state legislation and our commonwealth legislation and anything we do requires very lengthy and detailed consultation with a multitude of stakeholders.
So it’s not only our own internal stakeholders and the users of the opera house. We have to consult with the local city authorities, our neighbors, the botanic gardens, the Heritage bodies, the architectural fraternity. It’s a very extensive list of consultations that we have to do and then whenever we have to put in any formal planning or Heritage approvals, we have to support those with a very extensive range of detail reports. They get down to things like the archaeology for – the history that lies under the surface of the site.
We have the Heritage architect to comment on any impacts on the importance of the building. We do the geotechnical and ground water investigations. So the list goes on and on and on.
So any application that we make for development of the building, it’s mandatory. It must demonstrate the state, the national and the World Heritage values and that impacted diversely by the proposal. Those three things, the state, the national and World Heritage all have different values that we have to address a different range of values and the importance of those values.
Cesar: Wow. And I can imagine there’s probably a challenge even to qualify contractors to the work at the Sydney Opera House. Do you have a procedure in place for qualification of contractors?
Greg: We do. Sydney Opera House is an agency of the New South Wales government so even though we’re a commercial body and we sell tours and we sell food and beverage and we have shops and we put on performances that make money, we still are an agency of the state government.
In New South Wales, the state government has a very well-developed and defined procurement system. As part of that system, they prequalify contractors which they call best practice contractors in different categories. So, one categorization is on the size of the job from a monetary perspective. So one starts at a million dollars and then it will be stopped at $10 million; and then at the other end of the scale, there’s at least $400 million plus and then they do have subdivisions into both building and engineering classifications.
So when we come to do a job such as our underground loading dock or VAPS project that I mentioned earlier, we can tap into those best practice and the contractors list. So for example, we have just been through a shortlisting process for the VAPS project. We went to the best practice contractors list. We had a number of those. Best practice contractors applied and then we shortlisted those through our own predetermined criteria, the things along the lines of their experience on the type of work that we’re doing. So in this particular case, working in Sydney sandstone, working below the sea level, doing heavy engineering projects that sort of thing.
And then getting back to the prequalified list. The state government has its own criteria that they use to determine who gets on the list so there are things like the standards of their safety systems, their environmental systems, their quality systems, their satisfactory performance on other jobs. You know, demonstrated capability to do the work and that sort of price range, to check on their financial credentials to make sure this got adequate financial resources to undertake this sort of projects. If your listeners are interested, there is a lot of information on the government’s website at www.Procurement.NSW.gov.au.
Greg: It’s all laid out there. We sometimes find we need contractors who aren’t in the general building or engineering field. For example, on some of our theatre systems, so we don’t use the best practice system. Then we put an ad on the paper and on their website and go for an open expression of interest then we’ll create our own shortlist of tenders out of that expression of interest; and similar to what we did on the best practice one, we would have a set of predefined criteria, get through the experience of the company and the personnel and their experience, the methodology, how they’re going to work, you know, perhaps in operating building and demonstrate their previous track record on projects for a similar type.
Cesar: So I guess if a contractor is looking to provide construction services to the opera house, the best advice would be to try to get on to the best practices list, I guess, by using that website.
Greg: I think for those general building and engineering contractors who work at a fairly high cost of project level. We have lots of projects in the opera house that are of smaller scales, sort of the $200,000 to $500,000 projects and that’s when we get into the more specialist types of contractors. So, yes, we normally put an ad in the Sydney paper and on our website and on the government’s website when we’re calling for expression of interest for those more especially smaller types of jobs.
Cesar: Okay. Great. Wow. Now, just for the last question, in all the years that you’ve worked at the Sydney Opera House, what was your most memorable moment, something that you talk about at dinner parties and things like that?
Greg: There’s probably too many to list but I think working at the opera house gives you exposure to so many fantastic things, the type of shows that are coming through, the types of people who are interested in the place, that sort of people we work with on our projects. For instance we work very closely with Jan Utzon who is the son of Jorn Utzon. He passed away in 2008 so Jan is out here in Sydney a couple of times a year. We work very closely with him so that’s an honor and a privilege to work with him. I’ve met people like Edward de Bono who have come to the opera house and I would never have the opportunity to meet people like that …
Greg: … if I wasn’t working in this building. On a day to day basis, what I would say to people if I get asked at a dinner party is there’s never a dull moment. I can honestly say that in this job in eight years, I’ve never, never come to work and been bored. There’s always something going on down here and always lots of challenges and great to find solutions to the problems and get on to the next project then once we’re successfully done on what we’re working on at the time.
Cesar: Beautiful. Did your meet Oprah?
Greg: I didn’t meet Oprah personally but some of the other people working, they did; but I did get to see Oprah fairly close which was good and the day that Oprah actually almost bumped into Russell Crowe in the corridors so it’s just with the type of building we are that we do have lots of famous and more recognized people coming and going almost daily.
Cesar: That’s great. Okay, Greg. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and it has really been a pleasure getting to know you and the Sydney Opera House. Thanks again.
Greg: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity.