Paul Mead, Kernel Property, on what floats his boat

Quick chat

Paul Mead, Kernel Property

The trend for sustainable refits is on the up, says Paul Mead from Kernel Property. “In the past six months, clients have been calling me rather than the other way around.”

Elevator pitch – what does Kernel Property do?

Kernel is one of the largest independent commercial contract advisers in Australia. We provide creative solutions to new premises briefs and workplace solutions while helping clients achieve the most sustainable outcome possible. 

How long has the business been running and how’s it doing?

It’s been four and a half years.  I’m one of the founders, along with Steve Urwin, and we’ve grown from two to 15 over that time.

How did you end up in this industry/role?

I started as a chartered building surveyor in the UK, then went on to become a project manager. I ended up joining Steve’s previous firm – which has since been bought by JLL – and there we decided to leave and start our own small business. We’ve been working together ever since.

What’s the most interesting thing about your job?

The thing that really floats my boat is helping clients save as much money as they can before they end a lease.

So often they get into a pickle when it comes to resolving the make good obligation before they leave because the landlord is completely taking the mickey and tries to extract as much money as they can. It also tends to be a very wasteful process in terms of materials.

Another thing that floats my boat is convincing the landlord to not put down new products in the churn lest they just be thrown away again.

What are the coolest projects you’ve done?

The team was working with a client called SLR Consulting recently, and when they saw our office – which is made entirely from reusable products – their brief to us was simply “we’d love something as creative as this”. Because of the range of services we provide, we were able to use interesting furniture from a previous make-good project to fit out this new space with designers Woods Bagot. Basically, the existing client got some money for what would otherwise end up in the bin, and SLR got a fantastic deal on a quality workstation. Both won.

Is anyone else offering this service in your space?

No, not really – not so it’s able to have incidental benefits like these for customers. Some of the bigger companies may offer a handful of our services, but they don’t give a hoot about being more sustainable.

How would you describe the market in your patch? Any trends?

More and more of our clients are easily encouraged to re-use. That trend of saving – money and resources – is certainly on the up. In the last six months people have been calling me, rather than the other way around.

Why do you think that is?

Well, we for one make a point of bringing potential customers into our offices as soon as possible. So they’ve met us wearing suits in a normal office, they then come and meet us in our office, which is a departure from anything typical, and without fail they are able to point to at least some element that they appreciate. Its doesn’t have to be just a plain white box.

So they’re open to reuse once they see the possibilities?


A prime example is when we were working as project managers for Clayton Utz’s refit back in 2011. The first cut of the budget allocated a lot of money to brand new furniture.

When we walked through the existing space, however, we casually suggested to the designer – in front of the client, mind you – “why don’t we look at reuse?”. The designer sort of shrugged, but the client said “wait, what do you mean?”. They had 20 year old Charles Eames leather chairs worth $4000 and more, so we said “you’ve paid to keep it in such great condition, it’s part of the office’s history”. They thought it was a great idea, and ultimately that attitude saved Clayton Utz over millions of dollars.

What advice would you give to property owners?

I think if landlords could be more reasonable with the timing around defits this whole process would be far less wasteful. Say if they started dealing with the situation at least six months in advance, there would be far less material destined for landfill.

For example, potential tenants could walk through the offices and point out anything they would like to keep. Often you find tenants don’t want others walking through their space because they’re in the middle of just dealing with their business and moving, and landlords are always [unhelpful] wanting to get the most money in the pocket, so they leave the information about the make good to the last minute.

So if a year before, everyone started talking about the process, that would be the healthiest thing to do. More fit outs left in place, less waste, happier outcomes for both parties.

Where are your sights set for the future?

I’ve been spending more and more time in Canberra recently. It’s really who you know down there, and there are a lot of purse strings held in that area, and when it comes to make good I don’t know why our tax payers money should be wasted, so I would like to build some more significant connections down there. We’ve also spent some time in New Zealand.

Things are building up, then?

In general we’re seeing consistent growth, but we’ll never exceed 25 employees. As many people as can fit around a very large dinner table sounds like a good place to stop.

And what are you doing after this interview?

I’ll be going for a walk around the block and then I’m off to look at another lease.