How I got started.
Why did you start Bellevarde?
I was a bricklayer who always loved architecture—and I got to see first hand what happened to houses when architects didn’t design them. I decided that I wanted to understand how good houses were designed—and to learn how to build them really well.
So I found an unemployed architect and we went into a design-and-build competition—and we won that.
I started Bellevarde in 1980 to build high quality architect-designed houses as well as they could be built—and that's what we've done ever since.
How big is Bellevarde now?
We employ over 40 people on a permanent basis, from Apprentices to Site Managers and the rest are trusted contractors.
How do you maintain standards?
We have four principles
First Principle: Find the best people
It is about searching until we find the people who share our love for building houses as well as they can be built.
That’s what Bellevarde is—a team of us who just want to build extraordinary houses. It is an attitude that can’t be driven by money, or by me.
Second principle: Keep on learning
Everything we have learned in building some of this country’s most complex and challenging houses is formalised in our 200 page Bellevarde Construction Manual.
It details step-by-step instructions on how best to perform every critical task.
It is on every site and is constantly reviewed and updated as our knowledge grows and as building techniques, materials, equipment, and technologies, evolve.
Third principle: Form a Building Team
It takes three key players to make a great house: Owner, Architect and Builder. That is why on each site we form them into a Building Team headed by our Site Manager.
The trio meets regularly to review, discuss and guide every aspect of the project. This ensures everyone knows just where we are, where we are going next—and ensures that together the Team can make the best decisions.
It is the best way to deliver an extraordinary house, of good value that brings great joy to all of us.
Fourth Principle: Maintain the house
This came from our owners. They asked us to take care of their houses as well as we built them. So we formed our own specialised Bellevarde Maintenance division. It benefits from access to all information on the construction of the house. Plus we can often call on the very tradesmen who built it.
Each new house has its own Maintenance Manager.
According to our owners and architects, we deliver the most efficient and skilled maintenance operation they have ever worked with—indeed several have asked us to take care of other properties we didn’t build.
How is the business going?
It’s just kept steadily growing—mainly because our owners and architects tell their friends that they love their house and greatly enjoyed building it—and they are delighted we will maintain it for them.
The challenges we face are all to do with keeping our focus on building each house as well as it can be built.
That depends on finding and keeping the great and highly-skilled people who are driven by building excellence.
Through the years we have been very lucky in finding them—or them finding us.
We are getting better at growing our own. We now have tradespeople who started as apprentices and have over the years worked their way to become Site Managers. And there are more on the way.
Over three decades of watching this company deliver magnificent houses, I have learnt that our greatest strength is in the quality of our people. That has always been our point of difference.
After more than thirty-five years, what's the best thing about Bellevarde?
I always wanted to build excellent houses just as well as they could be built.
That depended on finding great trades people who shared our love of architecture and our fierce desire to build things as well as they could be done.
So my greatest pleasure these days is turning up for an onsite Building Team Meeting between the Owner, the Architect and our Site Manager—and just standing back and watching the skills and the knowledge and the passion everyone is committing and sharing to make this house as good as it can be. It makes me smile to myself and realise this house is in great hands... and they are getting by just fine without me.
That is a truly great joy—and the very best thing that has happened in my working career.
How many awards have you won?
These days the Awards I love best are won by the Architects of homes we have just built.