NZ Dairy Summer 2021

108 | nzdairy Rural building solution specialists have Dianna Malcolm Dairy builds in a business laden with regulations and unchartered challenges should be handled by specialists, says Nigel Hodges. Nigel and his wife, Ruth, established Rural Building Solutions (RBS) in 2009. The CentralCanterbury dairy shed business has since won two Silver Master Commercial Builder awards (2016 and 2018). The national accolade is acknowledged as the benchmark for commercial construction, innovation and collaboration. Nigel says the awards have been validation for RBS’s dedicated dairy construction skills. This fifth generation builder said he was drawn from commercial construction into the dairy industry by his concern for the lack of service, accountability, and the resulting finish dairy farmers were getting at the time. Since then RBS has built 54 dairies and helped its customers navigate sweeping regulatory changes within the industry. Nigel’s background includes working as a senior foreman at a nationwide commercial construction company for 12 years, before starting his own building company. At the time, Ruth – now a top rural real estate agent – was working at Synlait as its Business Development Manager. That’s when Nigel started to take note of the dairy builds of the time and he saw significant room for improvement. “I saw farmers having had to settle for whoever would travel to rural sites to do a build, regardless of their understanding of dairy sheds,” Nigel said. “At that point it motivated me to offer farmers a commercial and professional service on-farm. “You wouldn’t ask someone who builds motorbikes to build a car. And, the same is true for milking parlours.” Cheap is not always cheerful Nigel said building a new dairy is a colossal decision, and the devil is in the detail. The two most common mistakes he sees are dairy farmers either going with the cheapest price, or failing to plan. “Generally when the quote is cheap the builder is either struggling for work, they are cutting corners, or they don’t know what they are pricing,” he said. “Given our time in the business we have seen it quite often, and the outcome is always the same – a poor quality finish, failure to meet deadlines, unexpected add-ons, or budget blowouts. “We’ve even been called in to re-mediate after this sort of job. Traditionally builders like everything to be level, square and plumb. Dairy sheds have curves, circles and falls. They have everything that most standard builders don’t like.” Planning is critical Nigel says the most important part of a dairy shed is the early planning. “I can’t stress that enough,” he said. “Especially when it comes to building consents. Ten years ago it was three pages, now it’s half a book. That takes time and the ability to drill down into all the details required.” RURAL SERVICES » Rural Building Solutions Fleur and Robert Scurr of Taurima Farms in Otago built a new 54-bail rotary this year. The couple are joined by Rural Building Solutions’ Nigel Hodges and Alan Deane. To that end, RBS offers the complete package. “When someone says, ‘I want a dairy shed’, we start with an initial planning chat about their ideas, because their future plans for the whole farm are relevant. We look at their farm map, give them options on where sheds should go, which way we’d recommend them to be facing, and where the lanes would go. The way a dairy shed faces is quite important throughout Canterbury because it really depends on the farm’s location in relation to the Waimak, the Rangitata, or the Rakaia Gorge as to where the prevailing cold winds would come from. “We then take care of design, the layout, the building consents, and we run the project. “We work closely with our clients to make sure things are done to their specifications with no surprises.” That includes remaining hands on throughout. “I’m old school. I believe the project foreman/ manager should be running the site because they know everything about it, and they’re there every day from start to completion. “Six months after it’s finished, our project foreman/manager will go back, do a maintenance check, have a look at it, and talk to the staff. Because that’s when you get a whole lot of feedback on the dairy and new ideas. It’s the best information you’ll ever get.” The perfect mix Nigel said he and Ruth found a rare mix of project management skills and practical application when they found RBS’ Irish Construction Manager and now shareholder Alan Deane. His desire for a lifestyle change drew him to New Zealand, and the experienced project manager equally enjoys practical building work in the outdoors. “The way to get the best from your staff is always to lead from the front,” Nigel said (who is also no stranger to the early morning concrete pours). “Alan puts a nail belt on, and gets amongst it.” Word of mouth RBS is focussed on the South Island and demand has now spread from Canterbury to Kaikoura, the West Coast, and Otago It also specialises in concrete feed pads, effluent systems and silage bunkers, in addition to dairy sheds for sheep and goats. One of their North Canterbury clients is Peter and Kristy Schouten, of Eyrewell Dairy, in Swannanoa. The couple’s 60-bail rotary dairy won the 2018 Masterbuild Silver Award. “They exceeded our expectations throughout the process – from their professionalism as a Proudly supporting Rural Building Solutions Ltd. Call: 03 313 8606 f: @ReadIndustrial DARFIELD You can now conveniently get your Farm Shed Buildings from the same place you get your building gear for your farm, right here at Darfield ITM. We supply quality building materials for rural, utility or light industrial building at competitive prices. Heartland Sheds only uses the highest quality of materials combined with design principles that make their sheds truly engineered to perform under all conditions. Proud to support Rural Building Solutions Ltd DARFIELD ITM: Ph: 03 318 74 74 | HEARTLAND SHEDS: 85 North Terrace, Darfield | 0800 887 474 | GABLE SHEDS | CLASSIC LEAN-TO SHEDS | AMERICAN BARNS