It seems all the headlines paint a picture of a construction industry in trouble – but there are major success stories as well, and some are happening right here in Canberra.
One is Moltus Construction which, to the outsider, appears to be a young and eager upstart specialising in shop and office fit-outs. But while the company is only a few years old, its director, Mayukah Senanayake, has worked in the local industry for 16 years.
Starting as a brickie’s labourer at age 17, Mayukah knew from the beginning that he’d stumbled into the right industry, but his ambitions were big.
“I’ve always been interested in building from a young age. Not only are the people salt of the earth, but I love that no two days are the same,” he says.
“The problems we tackle on a daily basis are never the same problem, and there’s so much diversity among the clients as well.
“I wanted to do more of it. I wanted to know more.”
After working for a number of businesses, from mum-and-pop shops to large commercial companies, he earned a civil engineering diploma, a bachelor’s in construction management and an A-class unrestricted ACT builders licence, cracking his skillset wide open.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic when the building industry was booming, it was time for him to strike out on his own. Along with his fiancé Ashley Raab, a former public servant, he opened Moltus Construction.
Aware that Moltus wasn’t the only newbie to seize the opportunity of the construction boom, Mayukah honed in on a specialty that would set the business apart.
“There are not a lot of outfits of our calibre that cater to smaller shop and office fit outs, and which have the capability to deliver jobs larger commercial construction projects $5 to $6 million mark,” he says.
“It’s because our staff are heavily qualified on the project management front. Many of them are university-qualified, and importantly, we have site managers from a trade background.
“Most companies that take on the kinds of projects we take on are sole traders and don’t necessarily cover the project management aspect. All our projects, small or large, are filtered through the same management methodologies and that gives us an edge.”
This approach, coupled with Mayukah’s connections from years in the local industry, seemed to work. Over the years, Moltus has secured a steadily growing number of clients and completed jobs for high-profile clients, including Canberra Airport.
While they used to average 40 to 45 jobs a year, this year, they’re on track to complete closer to 60, with a good supply of larger jobs already in the pipeline.
The types of jobs are changing as well. Moltus just completed its first “bottom-up” commercial construction project – and got a taste for it.
“It was a 500 sqm extension to a school for an integrated science lab. Not only was that a cool project, but the client was so pleased with our work that they’ve awarded us the next stage of the expansion – a 2-storey building,” Mayukah says.
“We took on the design and management of that at a late stage of the project, and there were delays in approvals and so on, but we overcame all that and accelerated things to be completed in time for the next school semester. The client didn’t have any expectations of that.
“I love that part of the job – adapting to meet the challenges of such a build. And it was exciting to see the team pull through to deliver such a high-quality job, which resulted in a return client.”
Next year, Moltus will become accredited to take on government work, with ambitions to eventually become a tier-one building company.
Though this new kid on the block seems to have bucked the trend and grown substantially in troubled waters, there are challenges ahead.
One is to remain competitive as a small business against bigger guys from interstate. But Mayukah is confident the benefits that come with using a local contractor are enough to tip the scales in their favour.
“Clients are sometimes caught off guard when they’re told they need to get certain building approvals – an interstate builder wouldn’t necessarily know that,” he says.
“Knowledge of the local market and government requirements – there’s a lot of value in that.”
For more information, contact Moltus Construction.