In MBM’s first instalment of our International Women’s Day Women in Construction series, we sat down with Senior Building Consultant Gabi Davies.


What inspired you to pursue a career in the construction industry?

The inspiration behind my decision to pursue a career in the construction industry stems from a combination of personal interests, a passion for the built environment, and an aim to preserve buildings within the community. My interest with home renovation and restoration programs led me to explore potential career paths in architectural design, engineering, and surveying. At the age of 14, I took the initiative to gain work experience and shadowed a building surveyor that worked for a local company specialising in providing warranties for newly constructed dwellings. The experience provided me with contacts in the industry and a clear pathway to pursue my career in the property industry.


What aspects of your work do you find the most fulfilling?

In my role, I find achieving great outcomes for our clients and my involvement in a variety of projects to be the most fulfilling. I have facilitated a number of high-profile property transactions including the QVB Building, 50 Miller Street housing the US Consulate, and the Travelodge Hotel Portfolio involving collaboration with both vendors and potential purchasers. I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand for a four-week program to work with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). I inspected army training camps, staff accommodation, and centres. The results of our inspections allowed the NZDF make informed decisions and provided a budget strategy to better manage its assets over a 10-year period.


Currently, I manage a local government portfolio. The engagement provides me with a unique challenge to work on a variety of asset classes, including community centres, commercial high rises, childcare facilities, depots, and sport complexes. The services include overseeing remedial works, leading technical due diligence engagements, and preparing condition reports. The diverse work within the portfolio contributes to the overall fulfillment of my role. Given the nature of transactional works, observing the implementation of our reporting recommendations and investigations is often complex. However, collaborating with the local government is highly rewarding as our reports are utilised to ensure the recommended works are undertaken to maintain assets for future use. Additionally, I find undertaking make good reports for landlords and tenants to be fulfilling, and this work has allowed me to travel to different states including Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland.


What construction industry shifts and trends are you excited about?

I am excited about the ongoing sustainability shifts and trends within the construction industry. The increasing awareness of environmental issues has created a demand for sustainable and green building practices in current and proposed developments. There has been a shift towards the utilisation of technologies, such as 3D modeling, to assess existing structures, which offers benefits such as defect diagnosis, enhanced thermal cooling efficiencies, and improved building services tailored to specific needs. Based on the analysis of present trends, I understand there is a need for developing greater expertise. For example, a building may be suited for an upgrade, whereas the same outcome may not be appropriate for another building. Therefore, there should be a greater focus on determining whether proposed works correctly align with the specific characteristics and intended purpose of an asset.


Additionally, I’m excited about the emerging trends regarding modern construction techniques driven by technological advancements, especially in the preservation of historical assets. The innovative use of technology not only assists with construction efficiency but also plays a role in maintaining heritage buildings.


Do you have any mentors and how have they inspired you to overcome adversity?

Yes, I have a number of mentors in the industry including my university tutors, current and previous bosses, and colleagues. They have provided me with the tools and resources to speak up and challenge the norms in the industry. Their personal stories, disadvantaged backgrounds, and experiences with gender stereotypes serve as a source of motivation, highlighting that setbacks can make the greatest comebacks. Through their support and encouragement, I have gained resilience and a more positive mindset, enabling me to confront challenges head-on.


The NSW government have a target to reach 15% women in trade and non-traditional construction roles by 2050. How do you think the industry can encourage more women to join and thrive in construction? 

To encourage more women to pursue careers within the construction industry, I think a greater effort should be made to focus on education programs, mentorship initiatives, and championing positive female role models. In particular, reducing common industry stereotypes and creating an awareness of different career pathways starting at the secondary school level. Supporting young women in their careers at the secondary school level can offer a more defined pathway and positively expose students to the industry, aiding them in making informed decisions regarding the courses and qualifications needed for university, college, or apprenticeship levels.


I believe a shift towards implementing equal opportunity policies, flexible work arrangements, and offering training programs will encourage more women to thrive within the industry and create a more inclusive workplace environment. A number of initiatives can be implemented to encourage more women to join the industry, such as support networks, inclusive workplace cultures, and greater collaboration to increase diversity within the workplace.


What has been the highlight of your professional career?

The standout moments in my professional journey have been both personally and professionally rewarding.


On a personal note, a significant highlight was my involvement in constructing three classrooms for an underprivileged community in Costa Rica as part of a 5-week program. Travelling independently and joining a team at the age of 18 to contribute to such a meaningful project was incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. It allowed me to give back to the community and create a safe space for young children to be educated. During this experience, I gained valuable insights into basic construction techniques which contributed to shaping my career in building surveying.


On a professional level, a significant moment was relocating to Australia from the UK at the age of 22 to kickstart my career independently. During this time, I was responsible for leading multi-million dollar transactions and managing make good assessments for a variety of private sector clients. Currently, I am working towards becoming a chartered building surveyor under the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) with the support of Alan Stewart and MBM Team.


Both experiences have shaped my career providing personal fulfillment and professional growth.


What advice would you offer to someone considering a career in construction?

My main advice is not to be afraid to try something different. It’s an exciting time to be part of the construction industry with a variety of work available and diverse career pathways on offer.


I recommend gaining practical experience through work placements, internships, or entry-level positions. The industry offers a wide range of specialisations, including architectural design, preservation and maintenance, technical due diligence for vendors and purchasers, landlord and tenant representations, lifecycle condition reporting, project management, and engineering. By undertaking work experience or researching your area of interest, you can tailor your skills to align with the specific aspect of the industry you are most interested and passionate about.


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