Autumn 2022

Engaging interviews, behind-the-scenes insights, news, trends and topical features that celebrate places that evolve our landscape, and the people who bring them to life - welcome to Made by FDC.

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Nestled on the edge of the Nepean River, the Log Cabin was a Penrith local icon. Sadly, after 200 years of history, an electrical fire burnt down the establishment. Aside from the centuries of memories, only a few things could be salvaged.

The community was heartbroken, and the loss of the family pub left a huge hole in the Penrith social scene. FDC’s own Cottle family calls Western Sydney home and they understand the social significance of the hotel first-hand. It was important to them, the Laundy family of Laundy Hotels, and long time Penrith family the Wearn’s, to mend this rift and welcome everyone back home.

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A rich, social history

The original Log Cabin, known as the Emu Ford Hotel, was built in 1826 on the edge of the Nepean River – the halfway point between Sydney and the Blue Mountains. It was a natural point for travellers and traders to take a moment to stop and rest, even attracting Charles Darwin before he left to explore the Blue Mountains.

Over the years it saw thousands of patrons, creating an environment rich in history.

In 1925, the cabin became a hub for rowers – it was even the central point of the 1938 Commonwealth Games rowing competition. In memory of this, Rob Wearn (Director of Mulgoa Quarries) donated a grand octuple scull (8X) that floats from the ceiling as if buoyant and ready to glide down the Nepean.

During World II, Diggers from the local barracks frequented the Log Cabin enough that they were dubbed ‘The Log Cabin Brigade’. When it was time for them to sail to England, they took the Log Cabin flag with them, flying it off the back of the Queen Mary.

Today, the well-travelled flag has returned home, hanging proudly by the main bar.

“We wanted to harness the history of the Log Cabin and make sure it was a part of the hotel’s vision in the long term,” said Laundy Hotel Group’s Director Danielle Richardson. “And whilst we wanted to honour this history, we also wanted to give the community something new and modern.”



A second chance

The Log Cabin was bound to look a little different this time around. It would be built from different materials to meet modern fire safety standards and the original site had been reconfigured with the iconic new Yandhai pedestrian bridge intersecting it. But the goal remained – it had to feel like home.

“The Log Cabin was a second home for a lot of people, and we wanted to pay homage to its history,” explained FDC senior project manager Peter Stait. “It was also an opportunity to build a best-in-class modern hospitality location that celebrates good food, good service, great views and the community.”

From the outside, the cabin’s pitched roof echoes the shape of its predecessor, and its sandstone walls exude warmth. Inside, its huge fireplaces surrounded by plush seating invite you to take a seat and settle in. Each bar and room is named after the cabin’s histories including: Darwin’s Rest, The Jetty, and Emu Ferry.

On the walls, patrons will find artwork by local and regional artists inspired by the area’s natural beauty and rich history. Upstairs is Sinclair’s, the luxurious fine dining restaurant. Here patrons can enjoy a curated menu of incredible produce sourced from local farmers within 40km of the restaurant – a nod to the Nepean-Hawkesbury’s history as the food basket for Sydney since early colonial times.



Energised by the future

Though the pub honours its predecessor, it couldn’t function like it. FDC was committed to designing a best-in-class hospitality facility that operated with efficiency and ease.

“The Log Cabin has been a huge collaboration between the three families and their skillsets,” said Danielle. “And the customer was at the centre of it all – many design hours, face to face meetings and more went into making sure the Log Cabin could offer visitors the best experience possible.”

As a result, the Log Cabin is now a top-of-the-line modern pub. Complete with state-of-the-art kitchens, stunning sunken bars, multiple dining spaces, a beer garden and broad balconies that allow patrons to admire the natural beauty of the Nepean River.



Coming home…

Through ownership and name changes and even a fire, the Log Cabin’s significance never faded. That’s why FDC is incredibly proud of the team’s efforts to bringing this icon back to life and welcome the community home.

“Not many things are more personal than getting to build a community meeting place for people to relax, have fun and celebrate with each other,” said Peter. “It’s more than just a building – it’s a home. I love it, and it’s why the whole team loves it”

Today the Log Cabin is open again for first dates, first beers, family dinners, weddings, and memory-making along the majestic Nepean River.


Photography by Brett Boardman Photography.

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Historical Ipswich is known for its coal mining heritage and bustling railways.

But today, it’s home to a first-class agricultural science facility – the NEOGEN (NATA) Laboratory.

The NEOGEN team was once so small they could hold a company-wide meeting in a mere hallway in Lansing, Michigan. Now they own and run the largest agricultural genotyping operation in the world.

Before agricultural genomics, farmers would have to plan their breeding processes over the traits they could see, and the assumed parentage of an animal.

NEOGEN’s genomic testing services removes the guessing – allowing livestock farmers to test for these traits, parentage and more. This helps farmers make safer and more accurate breeding decisions that will save them time and money.

And to help Australian livestock farmers, they’ve recently set up a new lab in Australia – the largest of its kind in the country.

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The lab is set to serve the Australian agricultural industry’s growth over the next ten years as interest in genomic testing increases. It will supply farmers around the country with food safety products and better access to genomic testing.

Meeting the demand

NEOGEN’s senior regional director Bobby Creasman and his team started their journey towards their Australian operations in 2017 when they acquired the University of Queensland’s Animal Genomics Laboratory. Before they came to Australia, farmers had to send their samples from around the world to the US for genomic testing. NEOGEN brought its services here to give livestock farmers timely test results, easy access to food safety supplies and ultimately better and more reliable farming practices.

But when they officially moved into the facility in 2018, they realised the size of the lab was limiting their resources, their commercial output capabilities and set a hard ceiling on the number of samples they could test. They needed more room to keep up with the demand.

So, they moved to a new site in Ipswich and partnered with Cushman and Wakefield who recommended FDC’s construction and fitout services. Together, they planned to create an efficient facility that could provide NEOGEN with space to grow, and the room to meet rising testing and commercial output demands.

This included three National Association of Testing Authority (NATA) approved DNA labs, a food safety lab, warehouse space, freezers and cool rooms, an extended car park, services upgrades and more.



Foundations for growth

The new facility presented an interesting challenge for FDC – site testing revealed that the top ground layer consisted of clay, followed by layers of pristine beach quality sand. A less than ideal foundation for any construction job.

So FDC, Cushman and Wakefield and the design team put their heads together and came up with a solution.

“Because of the reactive ground conditions, we were required to excavate further to discover stiffer foundations and to build up the subgrade with denser materials,” said FDC Project Manager George Bellas. “We had to remove over 5,000 cubes of existing material before we could build the ground level back up.”

After this, the team approached the next hurdle. The current structure on site had to be retained, so the team designed a building within a building.

We built the inner building’s frame from strong steel upon this was then completed with a multipurpose “sandwich” cladding that brought the building up to current fire safety and Section J standards. It was used for everything from the walls to the ceiling, providing a clean, minimalist look for the facility.

The outer structure blocked all-natural light from entering the building. The team created a clever illusion – they installed skylights that reflected light off white polycarbonate panels mounted on the existing outer structure, casting a natural glow back inside.

With the foundations addressed and the core of the facility built, the team could then begin fitting out the interior. Including the star of the build – the labs.



Efficiency at its finest

With efficiency at the centre of the labs, every step of the sample journey – from when the sample arrives, to its movement through labs – was mapped out by the team in the design phase. Each lab was positioned and fitted out to turn a sample into data as quickly as possible.

The labs have also had extra room to introduce new technology – such as skim sequencing (SkimSeq) machines that will arrive in the next year. SkimSeq is a narrower version of whole genome sequencing. It’s more detailed than current fixed array testing and less time consuming than a full sequence. It will maximise the labs efficiency and allow for more in-depth testing in the food safety lab.

NEOGEN’s original Australian facility was only capable of taking a maximum of 6,000 tests per month. Today, the new lab can process up to 60,000 samples in the same amount of time – and as their capabilities grow, this number will too.

“Over the next five to ten years, we’re going to see further adoption of genomics in agriculture, especially as it reaches the commercial space,” said Bobby. “This facility sets us up for that forecast and will allow us to keep up with the demand on genomics and food safety testing.”



Genomics for the community

NEOGEN is excited about the opportunity that this new lab presents for Australian agriculture and the local Ipswich community. It will provide entry-level to high-end technology and laboratory positions, boosting the local area’s employment opportunities.

“FDC loves to invest in projects of this nature – we’re excited to watch NEOGEN evolve, and thrilled to be part of their journey,” said George.

“NEOGEN’s new lab presents so much promise and opportunity for the future and FDC is proud to have contributed. We’re excited to watch NEOGEN’s growth locally and nationally as they continue to support the local area and Australia’s agriculture industry.”


Photography by Mitch Lowe Photo.

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In 2021 Reeja Nasir was awarded FDC’s inaugural PhD scholarship to research childhood obesity. We caught up with her to see how the project is going.

Reeja Nasir is the bright young mind who was awarded FDC’s postgraduate scholarship at the prestigious Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney last year to research childhood obesity.

Today, childhood obesity affects a quarter of Australian children under the age of two and is the main driver behind disability in our country. It can lead to chronic conditions such as asthma, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, and orthopaedic and gastrointestinal problems. And it’s not just a biological issue – it’s closely tied to how we function as a society.

“It’s really important to investigate the reasons behind obesity,” says Reeja. “And also to address it in a way that isn’t judgmental and doesn’t carry the same stigma that being overweight in our society has had for so long.”

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At FDC we believe in contributing to community impact and that’s why we awarded Reeja the FDC PhD Scholarship. It’s worth $150,000 and aims to uncover the answers behind childhood obesity, as well as support the career of a promising young researcher.

Reeja hopes her research can unlock the knowledge to develop sustainable, cost-effective and wide-reaching prevention measures for all Australian kids.

It’s been eight months since Reeja began her search for answers. We caught up with her recently to chat about the journey so far.


1. What stage is your research project, currently?

Any studies that involve humans must go through two stages of ethical approval, so we currently have that important process underway.

We’ve done the first stage, where a committee ensures the project is ethically sound. We’re up to the second stage, which is what we call site approval. So, the two hospitals we’ll be conducting the study in are being assessed to make sure they have enough resources.


2. How would you describe the journey so far?

There’s been an extensive regulatory process, a lot of signatures to collect and with the added complication of COVID, it means there’s been delays. It’s been a challenge, but we are progressing.

When we can’t do hands-on data collection due to restrictions, we pivot our attention. We can do more background work on why we’re doing this research.

For example, I’m doing a narrative review. I’m researching the current evidence on how childhood obesity can lead to disease later in life and what interventions are present today. Even when we’re not doing hands-on research, there’s always research to do to provide us with the information and knowledge needed for problem solving and making decisions.


3. What other COVID-related challenges have you encountered?

We’re working in a hospital environment and because of that, the participants are a little more hesitant to come in.

Even though communities generally are learning to ‘live’ with COVID, hospital settings, understandably, are very much more cautious and it can make people feel very hesitant. Moving forward I need to be mindful of that.


4. How do you feel about working at the renowned Charles Perkins Centre?

The focus of the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney is to find new, collaborative solutions to chronic disease all of which have a huge human and financial impact on society. It’s incredible to be immersed in this research world, working with all my colleagues who are making big headway into these areas to find solutions. Working with this knowledge and these resources in a purely collaborative way is really supporting my PhD project.


5. What has this project taught you about how you like to work?

I’m usually quite an independent researcher. I like to have my time with something, and then I go see my supervisor and so forth. But this is the first time I’ve worked with another group – genuinely collaborated and I’m leading the project too!

I’ve learnt to get better with my communication – as a student you get used to only working with your immediate team and supervisor. But I’ve had to get much better at touching base with a whole range of people. And it’s taught me to be a little more patient, to let things take their course and not overanalyse.


6. What’s next in the research journey?

After we get our site approval, it’s just going to be about hitting the ground running. We can start contacting participants, and recruit as many as we can.

The project data collection point ends in June 2023, so I’m hoping to do as much as I can between now and then, get results, and then frantic writing will ensue.


Research made personal

For 30 years, FDC has worked hard to not only build amazing spaces but also a better future for our communities and families. Reeja’s research contributes to the health of the wider Australian community, which is why we couldn’t be prouder to be supporting her.

We’re excited to see what her research reveals in the future and to watch Reeja’s career fly higher from here.



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