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Q&A: Rod Fehring -Executive General Manager, Residential Australand

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Rod Fehring joined the executive team of

Australand in March 2010. Prior to joining Australand he spent nearly 9 years with Lend Lease in various roles as CEO of its retirement living/aged care business, its Venture Capital business and 6 years as Chief Executive Officer of

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Delfin Lend Lease. Rod has over 30 years experience in the property industry.


How did you enter the property industry and how has it changed?
I started in planning, that’s what my initial qualification is in as well as project management, that’s where I started in the early 80s. I worked with the state planning agency, not as a planner though. I worked on urban renewal projects as a project manager to take capital investment and turn those into constructing infrastructure that would possible trigger investment in the private sector.



Do you like working in the industry?
It’s tangible, not only in terms of physical outcome but also creates a tangible connection between built form and living space. Everyone knows a great space when they’re in it, theres an emotional connection and an emotional response. That’s the outcome, if you get it right, it enhances value from a property spectrum but also a community perspective.


What advice do you have for other people that are starting out in property development?
Its important that you focus on developing a flexible skill set. I’m a big fan of project management. The flexible skill set to respond to circumstances that the market will present removes fear from the process and replaces it with energy and enthusiasm. You need a good understand of product and design as well as the opportunity that they present to respond to the market.


What is your most successful project so far?
The things I am most proud of is some of the urban renewal projects I’ve worked on with the urban land corporation down in Melbourne. I was proud of the Park Hyatt development, not just the project itself but I think it’s the art of a public atmosphere.


I was proud of the work we did in effectively dismantling and reconstructing the manufacturing spaces in inner-west Melbourne. I’m proud of Caroline Springs which was 8,500 dwellings and it set new development records that have not been equaled in Victoria.


You’re currently working for Australand, how do you approach design, taking sustainability, and environmental impact into consideration?
What we have done is a set a minimum standard to our construction. All of our projects achieve a minimum of 5-star Green Star and now we are rating all of our projects at other communities that we helped create with the Green Building Council and making sure they’re a minimum 4-Star project.


The building materials we use are also conducive to a better energy input. The introduction of better heating and cooling as well as energy saving systems within structures are being integrated into the design process.


In regards to building master planned communities, how important is it for Australand to establish a sense of community and ensure development sites are close to public transport?
It comes down to site selection and there are certain things you can and cannot do. The word community is often used but misunderstood. It determines the quality and core that only is derived by a sense of belonging. The job of developers is to do that construction.


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How do you approach design in regards to demographics?
Firstly we don’t have one type of buy, there is no such thing. If you look at age, its increasing and becoming less of a dictator of what the needs and wants of the buyer are. Generally speaking, Australand buyers are older. We do though design a mix of projects to target all ranges of age. First home buyers will tend to be about 12 per cent of our buyers. Most of our buyers are 55- 75 years of age.


How important is it for you to be involved in the research sector of our industry?
I think research is a body of knowledge in the way our urban environments perform. Its to help make good investment and policy decisions. What we need to create is a long term, consistent stream of quality information that is derived objectively and with logical integrity.


What is your outlook on the Australian residential market over the next ten years?
There is no such thing as an Australian residential market. It is a collection of markets. So to answer the question you need to reference all of those markets which there are too many. There is a clear and noticeable shift that has begun over the last four the right years – this will not change and that is in the form of housing that is being produced. And that is that its getting smaller.


I think affordability is a dimming issue in Australia. Technology is also playing a big part of it, the changes in demand and affordability also come into play. Australia is also going to become a lot more connected and part of Asia. Demand that flows out of Asia and into Australia will be consistent and higher.


We need to rethink Australia’s relationship with Asia because we cannot afford not to be apart of it.


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What key trends do you think will emerge over the next ten years?
Our cities are going to be very different. I think obviously there will be higher density living and the role of retail and mixed use will become a more prominent force moving forward. I think there will be a need for retail to be integrated in different ways moving forward in the urban place.


Public housing will also create another element of the market. That will give rise to new ways to enable the reconstruction process to occur to help those disadvantaged in the community.


How do you approach development for an ageing population?
I think ageing is irrelevant in the housing sector until it becomes a health issue. There is a change in housing demand when health becomes a concern. If you’re a fit 75 year old, your interests, wants and needs in regards to housing are no different to a fit and active 25 year old.


I think there is a real opportunity for companies and people who find ways to keep the housing market capable of serving those health needs in a low cost a responsive manner. The way that health services are provided is fundamental. We are also going to see a significant change in the special distribution where the elderly locate themselves.


What book are you reading at the moment?
 Inequality and Capitalism
What is your favourite restaurant?
 Jules Vern on top of the Eiffel Tower
What’s your favourite travel destination?
Spain, particularly Seville

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Article originally posted at: https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/qa-rod-fehring-executive-general-manager-residential-australand