Professor Peter Davis is a recognised authority on the role of relationship development and maintenance in procurement for construction and engineering projects. He is UON’s Chair of Construction Management, a newly created position jointly funded by two of Australia’s leading construction companies Lend Lease and John Holland.
Peter presented the New Professor’s Talk on 24 September 2014, titled De-Construction Management: How relationships can make the difference in the building game.
Peter tells us about how he became involved in construction, and his passion for lifting the profile of this vibrant industry that engages people from different walks of life.
Tell us about your background, including what drew you into construction?
I was born in a small village in the south of England, called the Beacon Hill. I lived there for 20 years and then I moved to one of the Channel Islands, Jersey. I remained there for ten years until my wife and I decided to come to Australia with our daughter. I lived in Perth for 26 years and moved here to Newcastle this year in January. When I left school I wanted to be a car designer, but I was convinced to go to college and become a quantity surveyor, as “cars would be a thing of the past very soon!” I remained working for construction companies until the mid-90s when I became a lecturer in Construction Management.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
I worked on a project in Alderney (Channel Islands) – it was a Napoleonic fortress and our work included building a draw bridge, a barrel vaulted roof and pointing stonework that due to tidal movement was under water twice a day. It was a great summer and I enjoyed the site visits immensely.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
My wife, Lin, gives me inspiration and helps me immensely , she has the ability to see through problems and identify the crux of the issue. I read a lot of papers and reports most of the time and I source a great deal of them from the web. Presently I read most of the papers that come from the Grattan Institute in Melbourne but I also subscribe to web media from other sources.
What are you passionate about? Can others in the community get involved?
I guess my consuming passion revolves around construction, I’m passionate about lifting its profile and professional perspective. I’m conscious that it often takes second place in many people‘s minds in comparison with, say, architecture – and even engineering. It’s a vibrant industry providing the opportunity for engagement with many people from different walks of life and I suspect this is why I feel so strongly about it.
In a previous role I had the honour of announcing all the graduands at the annual graduation ceremony – this was a significant highlight of my year and frames my other passion, concerning learning and teaching in my discipline.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
From a work perspective this would be my PhD, but from a personal perspective it would be becoming a grandad. With the former I was first in family to graduate from a university and I think this represents a significant milestone for my family. In terms of the personal achievement, becoming a grandad, not just once but twice, is a stand out for me.
What would be your dream project?
I think like many people I have several dream projects, but most of them are held over until the day I retire. These days I seem to be embroiled in work that consumes far too much of my time – perhaps a dream project would be to get a life balance that really does work. Having said this, given time I would like to restore a car of some sort.
What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood and why?
I am fairly new to Newcastle, but I do like Adamstown and that’s where I live. When I arrived in Newcastle I rented a house in Adamstown more by luck than judgement and I’ve come to like the area due to its close proximity to the beaches and the town. I also enjoy cycling so the Fernleigh Track is a bonus.
Can you name a local hero?
I really haven’t been here long enough to name a local hero, however there must be several in the wings working hard to maintain the character of the city in times of significant change.
What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?
I’ve never been a really good swimmer, so the ocean baths will be a great spot for me to spend summer evenings learning a better freestyle technique. I found the ocean baths to be a great social venue, never too busy but always vibrant.
As mentioned before I like cycling and it would be great to reinvigorate a past interest of mine in mountain biking – I think I need to build the fitness first though!
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?
Not sure if I can answer this question, however I have noticed one omission in Newcastle and I hope I don’t upset anyone by this comment, but I notice a lack of Indian restaurants, as I do like a good curry. Having said this I may have driven past some of the better places without noticing them.
Best place to getaway to?
I’m just looking forward to getting in the car on a weekend and driving off to a country town for a sleepover. I think the centrality of Newcastle lends itself to this type of relaxation and is one of the several reasons why I chose to come and live here. Having been there only once so far I doubt you could pass by the Hunter Valley and its wineries.
Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?
Easy travel to Melbourne and Brisbane by air. Fantastic, relaxing and picturesque train trip to and from Sydney.