VALLEY WORKSHOP - A Master Builder in every sense

Established in 2013 and owned by Penelope Haley, the company is growing, delivering Architect designed, bespoke, hyper-insulated, flat-packed buildings statewide in Tasmania. Penny is a proud woman in the Construction Industry which she believes makes her a little different and she holds her hammer in her left hand which she believes makes her more different. Penny has worked hard and holds a Diploma of Building, Certificate IV Building & Construction and a Bachelor of Education majoring in Physical education and Mathematics.

On commencing the business there were many ideas based on an overseas study trip to Europe for which her father won an Innovation Award. From here extensive engineering was completed on the new ideas. The ideas were good, really good, and were modelled on European Building Systems, far more advanced than in Australia. The company's vision was one of Sustainability and Environmental Efficiency, a panelised hyper-insulated building system built for condensation control all of which was inspiring in terms of architecture and mathematics on paper, but nothing transferred from paper from 2008-2014.

In 2013, Penny and the team were working with structural insulated panels with a rigid core of Polystyrene insulation. Whilst the polystyrene SIPS were structurally and thermally superior to conventional system, they had personal reservations because they were building with a product that wasn’t good for the environment.

In 2015, after 7 years of refining the architecture and the engineering, Penny and the team bit the bullet and delivered their first fully panelised building system free of polystyrene. The outer skin was structural ply and the inner was cellutose Insulation filled in between a matric timber grillage that interlocked. Through Valley Workshop they are directly supporting Australian forestry practices in Tasmania. The new wall module system that is being built for condensation control is averaging approximately 600 sheets per build.

Innovation is not always as easy as in the early days, it is not efficient nor is it cost effective and it takes a lot to market. Innovative companies revenue can look a bit like an upside-down bell curve and if you make it through the first 3 years then things start to change, and you head up the other side of the upside-down curve.

Well the innovation and all the hard work paid off in 2016 as a project came their way that required all that Valley Workshop stood for. Penny tendered and won the contract for the new hut in a remote area of Lake Tahune, underneath Frenchmans Cap in the Franklin Wild Rivers National Park. The client being the State Liberal Government and Dick Smith, and the jury being the general public. Valley Workshop had a lot to deliver and big expectations to meet. Valley Workshop immediately employed more people and they all flew onto site like “rockstars” and were all left to work like convicts.

How did Valley Workshop do it?

Well they backed themselves. For those who read Country Style and I’m sure quite a few of you do, Rob Ingram sums it up perfectly - ‘The Aussie bush logic, lateral thinking, ingenuity, resilience, perseverance and sheer bloody minded satisfaction of doing it differently.’

Valley Workshop had practiced elsewhere on other jobs throughout the state. The team worked closely with Architects Green Design, Building Surveyors Pitt & Sherry - as it was a good strong team of professionals and everybody was striving for success.

In practical terms, the crane truck was different to previous jobs. This time it was a helicopter and the pilot had to place panels from 20m above from a long line 100mm of each other.

The team members had to adapt to a dramatic climate change, working above the snow level at 42 degrees south and it was tough going.

The project was an outstanding success delivered on time and on budget. Valley Workshop was congratulated by the Premier Will Hodgman at the Official Opening of the hut in November.

The project took out the National Award for MBA Environmental and Energy Efficiency in Adelaide. Speaking to Penny - ‘It was brilliant! What really tickled my feathers was how the mainlanders reached to our wholly Tasmanian Innovation using Tasmanian timbers in one of the most remote and harshest environments in Australia. We put Tassie on the map!’

Penny also supports and encourages more women to enter the Construction Industry and Give it a Go! and would fully support my daughters and my son should any of them wish to enter the Construction Industry to ensure they all have equal expectation and that means equal opportunity!’

Valley workshop is still a normal Building Business despite the Innovation and the National Award. The National Award for Environmental and Energy Efficiency needn’t sit on a dusty shelf in their workshop at Westbury - let’s all go to Frenchman’s Cap and see for ourselves the quality of our Master Builder - Congratulations to Penny and the team.

This article appeared on page 19 in the April 2019 issue of the Master Builder Magazine Tasmania.

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