Tag Archives: BIM

The UK Construction funnel problem

Earlier this year I attended a conference in London where Mark Farmer of EC Harris articulated some serious concern about the volume of construction activity in the pipeline and the likely ‘blockage’ that would occur with Main Contractors and Sub-Contractors, specifically in relation to their ability to respond to market demands. The issue being a lack of resources – and materials in some cases (brick availability being a big problem).

It seems that investors and developers have funds and are pushing projects forward at pace now – some of which are large, especially in the Residential sector. However the anticipated delivery/ supply chain blockage is now being realised…

UK Construction Funnel

At present we are engaged in the development of circa 3500+ Residential dwellings in London on numerous sites. In addition, following recent instructions, we have a fairly similar figure again in the UK regions – Manchester being a particular hotspot. Our Residential team is continuing to grow with our group team nearing 130 staff in recent weeks.

Our work winning success seems to be as a result of our focused/ efficient operating model, the scale and diversity of our team experience, and our extensive use of BIM. A big strategic focus for the group is on diversification and this is working very well for us. We’ve recently been appointed on Student Living, Education, Industrial and Healthcare related projects, in addition to our existing ever growing port-folio of Residential, Retail and Leisure work.

One thing that’s fueling the surge of major projects in construction is the significant interest and activity in the emerging ‘built to rent’ or ‘private rented sector’ (PRS), to deliver large Residential products, these are funded by institutional and international funds. This is something we’re involved with at present.

Our London projects are perhaps proving the most challenging at present, in terms of Tender dialogue, as Main Contractors are needing to be very selective about what they can physically handle. Furthermore sub-contractors are struggling to respond to pre-construction programme demands in terms of finalising designs and cost plans.

So the wider impact of all this could be significant, with cost plans rising and construction programme’s becoming protracted in some cases. It’s been reported in the press over the last week or so that brick layers are earning £1000 a week now. There’s a sense of the tail waging the dog here!

This issue won’t resolve itself quickly. There is now a clear skills and resources shortage in the Construction industry which simply can’t handle the current demands of the Property and Investment sector.

There’s a real irony here of course; The Construction sector has been the worst affected by the recession, by some margin. Now the recovery has recently occurred so quickly that the sector simply can’t cope with demand. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the 12 months as developers and contractors race to complete projects on site.

So whilst we as architects are incredibly busy bringing new developments to market, the challenge will remain for sometime yet in terms of building these on site effectively.


What makes MIPIM unique?

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed by since I was last in Cannes for MIPIM; The international property conference. It’s a big event attracting around 25,000 delegates from around the world. The theme of course is Property Development and people from every area of the sector come along to network and seek deals and opportunities. High profile attendees this year include; Boris Johnson, The Candy brothers and ex-Manchester United player Gary Neville, who will be talking about his development company.

mipim25Two very common questions I often get asked…

What is so special about MIPIM?
Why go to Cannes to meet people from the UK?

If you’ve not been, it’s perhaps easy to imagine that this is a jolly. It’s certainly set in a stunning location where the sun is shining and there is a lot of money floating around; expensive hotels and restaurants, big boats and fast cars. But, being here in my third year now, I can tell you that it’s hard work. People are here for a good reason; to do business. I have over 30 appointments in my diary over the next 3 days. I will be up and out by around 7am and back again after midnight. It’s a marathon. My intention is simple; to return with as many contacts and leads as possible.

The entire MIPIM event is unique. The environment sets the scene for a very different mindset. People, generally representing the top of their respective organisations, are away from their day-to-day working routines. There are no boardroom formalities and people aren’t thinking about a hundred other things. Generally people are here to focus on the job in hand. Therefore you can connect with people so much more easily – and they are much more receptive to talking. This is what makes MIPIM special.

I’m representing my new company WCEC this year, in only my second week with the company! We have some great experience and current projects to talk about this week. Our company has been built up through our long standing partnerships with Morrisons and Asda. This has enabled us to build a strong port-folio of town centre regeneration, supermarkets, convenience stores, mixed-use regeneration and also logistics/ industrial, to name just a few. Beyond that our recent work has included hotels, leisure and residential.

Residential has been a big growth area for the business in recent years. Our teams are currently working on a number of high-profile urban developments in London and the South East. Our signature project at present is Royal Wharf in the Docklands, the first phase of which is worth £250m. We have also built up a team delivering Permitted Development projects for Office to Residential conversions.

Delivering all of the above, is a focused and diverse team of around 120 staff offering a broad range of group services. A key one at present being BIM (Building Information Modelling). We have been actively involved in BIM for around 8 years now – there’s probably not that many architects who can say that! Until last week my knowledge of BIM was pretty limited. It strikes me that there is a lot of ‘talk’ about BIM, but a lot of people probably don’t understand it and are certainly not well placed to effectively deliver it. I am in no doubt; BIM is the future to delivering buildings and running them for their lifetime. WCEC are delivering projects for all our clients in BIM, using Revit and a number of other programmes. We believe we have developed a real expertise in BIM, so we have a separate consultancy which provides services to the wider construction sector. This is in big demand at present.

Whilst I’m over here, in between my meetings, I’ll be seeking an overview of the property markets. What’s the forecast? Is London really over heating? Are the regions coming back? I’ll be spending time at the London, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds stands. I’ll also be seeing my good friends and acquaintances at “Team Talented Nottingham” to learn more about Nottingham and the East Midlands plans. You can see the brand new Invest in Nottingham website here. They also have a MIPIM specific website here.

Royal WharfI’ll be blogging a bit more through the week, as and when I get a few moments…?


The next chapter. WCEC Architects

If you’ve been following my blog recently you’ll know by now that I’ve now left Lewis and Hickey. The last week has been emotional, but enjoyable, saying thank you and goodbye to lots of friends. I’ve had some really positive feedback from all sorts of people, both within and outside of the business, about my departure from L&H. Thank you sincerely for your kind sentiments and best wishes.

The future looks exciting for me. I’m certainly looking forward to getting started now at WCEC. I’ll be based in the Chesterfield office where around a hundred staff work from. That means they we are one of the largest practices in the East Midlands! Although, being honest, a lot of people don’t know of WCEC. This is something the business is already aware of. Part of my role will be to help develop the profile of the company to a wider audience/ client base. I believe I’ve already done this to some extent at L&H, so hopefully I can add value through my experience. I’ll also be working from the London office which is developing a strong client base and workload in the South East. My time in London has increased over the last couple of years due to clients being based there, so a physical presence there will be good for me and the company.

You can expect to hear lots about my work and the business on this little blog which has created a good following in the last two years.

First of all I will be heading over to MIPIM next week in Cannes! I’ve attended for the previous two years and according to Reed Midem I’m now a “Silver” delegate?! I’ll be flying the flag for WCEC – and no doubt catching up with a few known faces whilst out there too. My diary is already looking rather full, but don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you’re going…

west hamstead square

Image above | West Hamstead Square, London.

Who are WCEC?…

Celebrating over 40 years as Commercial Architects, WCEC has developed a reputation for design and technical excellence which puts us at the forefront of commercial architecture in the UK.

The practice specialises in town centre urban regeneration schemes, and is currently working on multi-million pound schemes with some of the biggest developers in the industry to transform the fortunes of towns up and down the country.

Renowned for many years as the UK’s leading designers of out of town retail developments, we have diversified over the years and now deliver innovative and sustainable town centre schemes which not only encompass retail, but also leisure, residential, hotels, offices and business parks.

We pride ourselves in creating innovative design that meets client aspirations and is delivered both on time and to budget.  Our success is evidenced by our long term relationships with clients such as retail giants ASDA and Morrisons and year on year increases in turnover, profitability and workload.

The business is wholly owned and operated by three partners; Alex Wall, Ashley Turner and James Kemp.

What sectors are we active in?…

Mixed-use | Residential | Retail | Commercial | Leisure

What service offerings do we have?…

WCEC offer a complete range of in-house Architectural services which includes; design, master-planning, interior design, technical production and visualisations/ animations.

The business has already invested heavily in BIM in recent years and is using Revit extensively in a number of work sectors. There is still a lot of debate in the industry about BIM, but it really is moving fast now and a lot of companies are getting on board. We also offer separate BIM consultancy services to the wider construction sector and that is seeing some strong demand at present as other firms get to grips with the new generation.

Our sustainability services include; BREEAM accredited professionals, Code for Sustainable Homes assessors and membership of the Green Register of Construction Professionals. This enables us to combine our commercial background with specialist informed understanding to offer holistically sustainable design.

One development  I’m likely to be have some level of involvement in is Royal Wharf in the Docklands. It’s a project with Ballymore and is described as ‘A new waterside village for London’. This scheme, located adjacent to the Thames Barrier, was in Property Week last Friday.

Royal wharf_LRImage above | Royal Wharf, London.

So that’s a brief introduction to WCEC. As I said; you’ll hear more going forward. But please don’t hesitate to contact us should you wish to know more about our business…