What if, what if, what if

What if, what if, what if

By Darren Southgate

Our second year in business could not have been any more challenging than the one that has come to pass. Who would have written into their business plan or disaster recovery plan a global pandemic and a series of national lockdowns killing social contact, the life blood of our industry? We didn’t and if we had, given how recent global viruses have played out, we would have played simple lip service to a low probability of the UK being radically affected given recent outbreaks were contained in regions where the contagion was first detected. It became a hot ‘told you so’ reference point, a world catastrophe related to a virus which Bill Gates talked about in 2015, but we could all say that! What if, what if, what if……. Sadly, we have all been close to friends and family affected by COVID and its impact, we are glad this is almost over, only now facing conspiracy theorist post rationalised narratives and a growing workload.

On the bright side, it helped kick start intense agile working and communication through Zoom and Teams. Oh how it became overused, but how highly effective. I think we all know what I’m referring to but the legacy for us is a heightened level of productivity, sharing and closeness, a true team spirit based on camaraderie and competency, not the often over used version of team which is really a dominance hierarchy.

MIPIM was cancelled ahead of a fantastic line up and series of events with clients and colleagues, with whom we were so looking forward to celebrating our first birthday. I’m delighted to say we found other ways to celebrate and interact with our friends.

Growing our team has been a priority and this year we have already taken on four new hires. Introducing Ryan, Helen, Connor and Connor. Welcome!

Ryan joined us to become Head of BIM, working formerly for Atkins. He has been busy working on heritage and residential conversion projects with challenging planning and building regulatory issues. He is very organised!

Helen became our Head of Technical and accelerated our delivery capability. She also looks after our training and CPD programme, my RIBA points requirement has never been so easily accrued. Helen has significant international experience, from the Middle East and South Africa.

Connor is a talented graduate with modular school experience and is working on large scale industrial and residential schemes. He will be on his travels to study in Germany, very shortly.

We had another Connor join us last month, who is heading up our Design portfolio role as well as leading numerous projects. Connor has an exceptional track record in projects and adds significant experience to our team.

Rebecca joined us as a consultant supporting our heritage outputs and her specialist area of sustainability within this arena.

All very talented individuals; we are a very lucky organisation, to have such a cohesive group of professionals.

Finally, Elliot who has been with us for a year and half is returning to Manchester University in September, to undertake his Postgraduate Degree, his contribution to the business has been significant. Thank you Elliot and wishing you every future success.

Moving onto projects, we have completed Wigan Pier restoration works and modular housing, we have a visitors’ centre and café on site; numerous residential conversion projects within historic buildings and a production facility underway.

Our pipeline is extensive, we feel very excited and have good reason to be optimistic.

Our advanced manufacturing portfolio is growing quickly with large scale master planning of sites, working with some old friends; we have individual buildings up to half million square feet in size and individual clients with upgrades and extension, all equally exciting and important.

Our ‘beds’ portfolio has grown the fastest in all our sectors, with large scale student accommodation schemes, residential BTR, Step-Up and Step-Down accommodation and one-off houses. Some challenging planning permissions have been granted for unique luxury properties. Swimming pools seem to come in pairs!

Blossoming contractor work has yielded opportunities to work on some complex projects in commercial and research projects. Some are both sensitive and complicated but fair to say they have challenged us in very pleasing ways!

Our expertise in Wellbeing as a ‘design influencer’ has won us a new Wellbeing Hub for a hospital site. Our work with leading expert colleagues has led to conference talks in the sector, well done Natalie.

Using government training funds, two of our key staff have embarked on leadership training, both are very energised. Never has access to opportunity been so simple, in my view. The educational programme gives them recognised qualifications, but more importantly time to think about what leadership is and practice it in work time.

Charity and sponsorship have varied from grass root school football to working directly with charities on construction projects. It is very cathartic to be able to give something back in local communities.

Internationally, projects have been a little quieter since travel has been complicated by COVID, however an urban realm project in Iraq has brought much fun for Gamal and his team, a landmark site undergoing a visionary design exercise.

An oddly successful year, full of dualities, full of contradictions but one we have managed our way through professionally.

Thank you to all our clients and supporting friends and family.

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