Welcome to Building Better with CSR, a new podcast with Australia’s leading building supplier. Every week we’ll be bringing you information about how you can build better through interviews with expert guests.  

This season we’re talking all about Australia’s favourite renovation show The Block 

This week’s guest is Mark Thomason from CSR, who is a major project manager with the company and responsible for the logistics behind the supply of building materials to The Block. He shares what it’s like to work on a major building project amongst mud, strict timelines and lots of cameras. 

New challenges 

This is Mark’s second year working on The Block and he says that no year is the same.  

 “There’s a new challenge every year,” he says. “While there’s a challenge there for contestants, it’s certainly a challenge for any business involved as well. But while it is a bit of a scramble, it is a lot of fun and fantastic for the business.” 

 Mark also debunks the myth that the rooms actually take longer than the week that is shown on television.  

 “It really is a little under a week when you think about it, because a lot of the rooms have a demo element,” he says. “So, if you’ve got an older home that has been brought in, then you’ve got to demolish before you can start the rebuild.” 

 The move to the Macedon Ranges in 2022 brought new challenges to the suppliers including CSR, and not just because it was located in a regional centre. Mark said the fact that the site was so large, onsite logistics were often difficult.  

 “The contestants are hands on, but they might not know that they’ve got 15 sheets of Gyprock coming in and they may accept 17. And all of a sudden someone’s missing two sheets, and they’re running around going, where are my sheets? It’s an interesting and challenging time.” 

Mark Thomason CSR

Mark mentioned that so many of the CSR products were used on all houses, particularly Gyprock and Bradford Insulation, that it was super easy for products to go missing between the six houses (including Scotty Cam’s house), especially when dealing with multiple build teams.  

 The key to CSR’s success was the fantastic logistics team working in the background, says Mark. “I’ve got to take my hat off to the internal teams at CSR because they really helped to drive this.” 

 And, of course, the technical help offered to the contestants and their build teams was vital to smooth running of the project. “We don’t just drop a whole bunch of product off and say, ‘There you go, see you later’.” 

 Mark says that he always refers to ‘buildability’ when he’s talking about design and specification. “Often we can see a design that looks fantastic on paper or on a screen, but how buildable is it? We offer a service that backs our product and assists in the buildability of a project. Part of the reason we spent so much time on site with the contestants and Nine In Six (the lead builders), was to enable them to complete within a certain timeframe.” 

The Block is famous for tight timelines too – as mentioned previously, each room is completed in just one week and, because the teams don’t know which room they will be renovating from one week to the next, it’s impossible to plan ahead. 

 However, Mark says this challenge is not that dissimilar to most building projects, which also face tight timeframes, both commercially and residentially. “We have an ever-changing marketplace at the moment,” he says. “As a business, it is something that we are mindful of.”   

 There were many great examples of CSR products on The Block this year, but Mark says he thought the standout was the use of the Manhattan range from PGH Bricks (yet to be revealed on the show). “Brick is one of those items where it’s got a decorative finish and structural element, but it also has that rustic feel,” he explains. “So there are many applications that it can be used in.” 

 This year, The Block build team also used the AFS Rediwall system to create the foundations of the new modern extensions, which greatly helped to minimise the trades needed onsite. “You don’t need a specialist installer; you can use your own crews,” says Mark. “And again, the support that comes from CSR for that particular product line is phenomenal.”  

“As far as dealing with the ordering process, it was easy,” he says. “We had two CSR locations to pick up from which weren’t that far away. Overall, it was just effortless, really.” – Carl.

Carl says he hears nothing but praise for Gyprock from his installers, and it is used underneath the roof space in plaster and finishes. Its the finish on the base coat and the top coat,” he says,and the way it all works together even from adhesives, corner cements, and whatever else Im not a plasterer, but the feedback that I get is its more than what they need. 

“It’s a big topic in industry at the moment with ratings and thermal energy,” explains Mark. “We used Bradford Insulation and looked at all the different product systems that need to be included to achieve that seven-star rating. It’s not just the case of where you put the insulation in the wall. There are some pretty strong calculations there that we need to work through, including some condensation mitigation that we needed to work on and also looking at the construction style as well.”  

 With production of The Block coinciding with winter and the big rainfalls that most of Australia’s eastern seaboard experienced in 2022, the build site was both freezing and wet. 

 “Not only is it colder when you go further west, it gets wetter,” Mark says. “And with the wet on a construction site comes the mud; ankle-deep mud. When we consider the products that need to go into the build, we have to consider the weather component. Insulation is one of those things that we need to protect – you can’t leave that sitting out in the rain or sitting in the mud too much. Same with the plasterboard. There’s a lot that goes into these into these builds, which made it a challenge this year, because it really was wet and cold.”  

 With years spent working in construction, Mark has plenty of knowledge to share to anyone thinking of building a house.  

I think probably the biggest thing that I say to people in residential and commercial project is to do your research on the background to the products that you intend to use,” he says. “Have a look and see whether they’re Australian made, and where possible, stick with Australian products. It’s going to assist in our own marketplace but also, when you’re looking at supply chain, it can also assist in your own construction timelines. If the product is made and manufactured locally, then the chance of you getting it on site is much better. If it’s coming in from overseas, you’ll find that supply chain can dry up pretty quickly. And there’s long lead times on international product. 

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