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Monday, January 14, 2008

Building on a strong foundation

What goes on behind the scenes of award-winning projects? We quiz the brains behind a construction company with the Midas touch

Aseasoned hand well versed with the ins and outs of the construction of a diverse range of projects. That would best describe Wong Kok Meng, director of construction firm Preserver Bina Sdn Bhd, say his friends and associates.

Wong himself can relate tales of meeting tight deadlines and how the firm managed to overcome difficulties ranging from demanding project requirements to ever-changing requests from clients.

"We are at the bottom of the food chain and we have to make sure the end-result functions," he said, tonguein- cheek, as he highlighted the different needs of various jobs ranging from show units and residential bungalows to commercial and retail buildings, factories, industrial buildings and warehouses.

"The challenge of building show units means delivering quality work on time," he explained, adding that the turnaround time for such a task is between four and six months.

"Purchasers look at quality of finishes and workmanship when they view a show unit, as it represents the benchmark of the actual units that will be built," he pointed out.

"This becomes all the more demanding in the context of a show unit as it also has to be built speedily."

Among the projects he has handled are Bandar Raya Development Bhd's high-end Troika and One Menerung condos, and Selangor Dredging Bhd's Ameera Residences.

Having worked with a number of award-winning architectural firms, including GDP Architects, Fosters and Partners and BEP Architects, Wong said most of his clients today are "regulars".

"When working with international architects who require detailing, precision and coordination are of utmost importance.

"The work is exacting as research and prototypes are usually required before construction of a show unit can begin."

The fundamental ingredients to succeed are flexibility, commitment and the ability to be creative, Wong said.

"We also have to be very positive and open to ideas." Building bungalows, on the other hand, requires a different set of skills as very often, variations and changes to original plans are made, which can stretch a project's handover time.

"As for conventional industrial buildings, speed is of essence because again, we're talking about commitment to finish on time," said Wong.

"Working with structural steel for chemical and power plants is relatively straightforward for us, and we are now working with international clients, including Italians, Koreans and Japanese in this area."

The secret of Preserver Bina's success, he disclosed, stems from the fact that though the company has been in the business for close to five years, all its partners come from engineering backgrounds and have a wealth of experience.

"We all enjoy doing challenging jobs," he said, adding in the same breath that the "forever learning process" from working with "reputable, established firms and architects" has enabled Preserver Bina to improve and offer that "extra edge over others".

Likening his job to a hobby that makes him look forward to coming to work every day, Wong's greatest satisfaction comes when the clients show appreciation for his firm's work and commitment.

Passion, he said, goes a long way and he believes it is this ingredient that sets the company apart in terms of being in the upper echelon of the construction industry.

Wong can't help but laugh when recollecting some of his past projects, such as installing a 20ft sliding door the weight of a Perodua Kancil for a bungalow to fitting a RM40,000 door brought all the way from China.

In one bungalow project in the upmarket suburb of Damansara Heights in Kuala Lumpur, he recounted that the owner wanted an unusual staircase structure that had never been built before.

The architect insisted it could not be built - until it was brought to Wong's attention. The successful result was subsequently featured in an Italian architectural publication.

"We don't like to undertake conventional jobs - instead, we prefer to tackle unusual projects as we are inspired by the challenge and the creativity.

"Currently, we are constructing two power plants with Japanese contractors in Port Dickson, using steel.

"We are also doing jobs overseas, from as near as Singapore to as far away as the Caribbean," he said.

By New Straits Times (by Yvonne Yoong)

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