Derek Wheals, CEO of Tri-Star Construction, reveals how the Company is making strides across South Africa
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
A wave of economic prosperity is expected to hit South Africa in 2018.
The country’s newly appointed President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has targeted economic growth of three percent for 2018 and five percent for 2023, a policy that the construction industry is expected to be a lynchpin within.
Whilst the sector has struggled across South Africa since 2009, as has been outlined in PwC’s SA Construction Fourth Edition report and further demonstrated where industry confidence plummeted to a 17-year low last year, a new sense of confidence is now sweeping across the country.
A multi-disciplined approach
Poised to benefit from this projected upturn is Tri-Star Construction, a highly successful, multi-disciplinary construction firm situated at the heart of the country in Centurion.
Operating largely in Gauteng that subsumes both Johannesburg and Pretoria, Tri-Star has evolved over the past 39 years to become an industry specialist operating across the commercial, industrial, retail and residential sectors, building anything from data centres, to hospitals, to churches.
“We have a very hands-on management philosophy and a mindset of problem solving,” explains Tri-Star Construction CEO Derek Wheals. “This ethos, reflected in our multi-disciplined approach, allows us to adjust to changes in the economy to take advantage of new opportunities.”
Tri-Star originated as a painting and renovations business, broadening its horizons in 1993 where it began undertaking larger scale construction projects.
In the 25 years since, the Company has built more than 25,000 homes, poured more than 1.6 million square metres of concrete and laid over 250 million bricks, propelling infrastructure developments across South Africa.
“What differentiates Tri-Star is not only its experience, but its unrivalled ability to adapt to new market requirements,” Wheals adds.
Of the total 367 projects that Tri-Star Construction has completed, one of its most notable achievements is the completion of the Wits Junction student village.
Completed in 2012 and featuring state-of-the-art facilities and modern amenities, Wits Junction stands as a luxury accommodation block for students of Wits University in Parktown, Johannesburg, offering a range of housing options from studio apartments to four-bedroom communal flats.
“Wits Junction was the biggest single capital project ever undertaken by Wits University,” Wheals reveals.
“We were proud to have been the contractors to successfully deliver 1,200 student beds along with shared spaces, parking garages and other on-site facilities.
“At any one time we had workforce of approximately 1,000 people alongside two tower cranes that had been deployed,” he adds. “In total, over four million bricks were laid.”
Additionally, the Company has a number of projects in the pipeline for the year ahead and beyond.
These include a six-storey 1,000 bed student accommodation project in Hatfield, a 12-storey block of flats in Bedfordview, and the construction of 1,080 affordable housing units in Johannesburg, amongst others.
In order to maintain the highest self-imposed standards across such a vast and diverse range of projects, Tri-Star ensures that it continually reinvests its profits, enabling the Company to leverage the latest technologies, equipment and procedures for its customers.
“We subscribe to sophisticated software systems including Construction Computer Software (CCS) and Buildsmart’s accounts package, providing us with the ability to offer leading services throughout the South African construction industry,” said Wheals.
By using the latest advanced services which have been built specifically for the industry, Tri-Star Construction is able to boost both its productivity and growth, whilst simultaneously providing a better service for its customers.
Further, having pursued a policy of expansion over the years, the Company is now able to call upon its substantial in-house resource base, improving supply chain transparency and quality control.
“We have our own Plant and Equipment division that assists us extensively across all of our projects,” Wheals continues. “Formed in 2018, the unit looks after a range of the latest equipment that we have brought in-house including cranes, trucks, telehandlers, scaffolding and formwork.
“We are constantly investing in the latest plant and equipment to stay ahead of our competitors.”
This emphasis on persistent improvement can be found throughout Tri-Star’s operations, as is again seen in the way that it values its staff.
“We pride ourselves on our talent retention methods, underpinned by offering growth and career advancement, inclusive management styles and extensive in-house training that give all our employees a sense of contribution and participation across the Company,” Wheals states.
Similarly, Tri-Star works with local suppliers that have obtained a minimum level three Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) status to ensure quality is maintained throughout its supply chain.
Started by the government as a socioeconomic initiative, the long-term goal of the programme is to distribute wealth more widely across a broad spectrum, mainly for more disadvantaged individuals.
With such fundamental but key and ethical policies having been implemented throughout the Company’s structure, Wheals remains positive about the prospects for both Tri-Star’s internal growth and the current optimism surrounding the wider economy:
“My aims in three to five years would be very similar to those right now – to maintain quality services for our customers and pursue our strategy of consistent and reliable growth. Moving forward, hopefully the South African economy will provide an enhanced platform within which we can work and enable us to improve value for all our stakeholders.”