2021 – all the drama, all the ideas, all the connections

If I had a plan for this year it went out the window as soon as BoJo closed the schools in January. So here it is, a disjointed run down of 2021, all the drama, all the ideas, all the connections.

  1. January, February, March – working late nights and weekends amidst home-schooling “fun”, the less said about the first part of the year the better!
  1. Spring and freedom finally came around and with it the opportunity to visit some of those lockdown projects I’d missed out on in 2020: Extending an Edwardian Semi, 1930’s home extension: A Place to Eat, Lessons learned on a lockdown build
  1. I blogged for EntreArchitect, the brainchild of Mark R LePage and now a 7000+ strong community of architects worldwide: How to Scale without Growing
  1. Summer saw me busy with builds, supporting clients with their projects under construction. Site meetings scheduled between camping trips and seeing friends who we’d missed out on the year before. With supply chains as unsettled as the weather patterns, delays were inevitable but we got there in the end!
  1. Always looking for the next challenge I settled on a personal one and decided to train for a half marathon, it gave me a focus away from business….work life balance and all that. I ran a 10 miler a few weeks later, once you know you can, you can!
  1. I set some boundaries around meetings, keeping several days free to actually get work done. You make the rules, you break the rules.
  1. I ventured a new offering, my “Briefing and Beginnings workshop” giving families the chance to explore the opportunities and potential of their home with me for a couple of hours.
  1. I made a guest appearance on EntreArchitect’s Context and Clarity daily discussion with Jeff Echols who has hosted the hourly slot daily since the pandemic began and for which many people are grateful.
  1. The beginning of the school year brought back regular working hours and saw me launch a new toolkit of resources for those embarking on, or even midway through their home extension project.  
  1. I wrote 133 social media posts, 19 emails and 9 blogs about things people ask me all the time including: 5 steps to keeping your home renovation costs under control, Do you need more space or just different space? and 5 top tips for a successful extension project
  1. I got to know some of our local builders better and worked with them to deliver projects, in a relatively orderly fashion.
  1. I reconnected with my US based mastermind group, there are some great people out there doing some super interesting things.
  1. I read 14 books, mostly on audible and I have finally got back to fiction with my book club! Here’s what’s been on my reading list:
  • How to break up with your phone, Catherine Price
  • Hope in Hell, Jonathon Porritt
  • The Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters
  • The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
  • The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks
  • The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, Kate Bradbury
  • Company of One, Paul Jarvis
  • The No Spend Year, Michelle McGagh
  • How to Listen, Katie Columbus
  • Running: Cheaper Than Therapy, Chas Newkey-Burden
  • They Ask You Answer, Marcus Sheridan
  • Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss, Tahl Raz
  • Cumulative Advantage, Mark Schaefer
  • Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker
  • Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
  1. I embraced an integrated approach to projects with Michael Aubrey Partnership. I wrote a blog about that too: You don’t just need an architect, you need a home extension team
  1. I negotiated with planners, coordinated others, obtained consents.
  1. I did some online learning, attended events and continued on my Carbonlite Retrofit course with the AECB  
  1. And among all that I drew some houses…because that’s what architects do, isn’t it?

If you got to the end of my brain spill, thanks for reading.

2022 here we come, it’s got to be more straightforward than that!

You don’t just need an architect, you need a home extension team

Once upon a time I won a £1000 essay prize as part of the JCT Student Essay Competition. I wrote about a topic which, at the time, seemed to me like a game changer: building information modelling (BIM)

For the uninitiated, BIM is much more than a 3d model – it’s a process for creating information, capturing specifications, quantities, and schedules all in one place. 

In 2011, the UK Government decided that by 2016, BIM should be mandatory for public sector projects across the construction industry. My essay explored the challenges this would pose and implications of not jumping on board. And whilst I don’t work on public sector projects right now, I think there are many relevant points to be shared.

It takes a whole team of people to deliver a construction project whether we’re building a library, a skyscraper, or a home extension. And, if we’re going to do a good job for our clients, we’d better start talking to one another a bit more often and a bit more clearly.

What does BIM mean for the construction industry?

In the essay, titled BIM: Double-Edged Sword, I wrote that architects would need to evolve. Whilst it was about embracing new processes and software, it was also about an acceptance of being part of a wider team, with successful projects resulting from good collaborations. 

The adoption of BIM would be a monumental task for the construction industry. Just like the transition from old school drawing boards to drawing digitally with CAD, it was going to hit some businesses harder than others. 

The message I crafted was “adopt or die”, yet adoption was and remains slow. 

The immediate need for collaboration

Whilst the concept of creating a single shared model came with all sorts of issues about liability and ownership, the fact remained that working more closely with each other at an earlier stage of a project could only be a good thing. 

And that is something I’ve been actively working on in my own business for the past 12 – 18 months, much to my clients’ advantage. Fed up of waiting to embrace BIM of my own accord, with no real need or incentive, I chanced upon others who already had.

Joining forces with industry partners

For a number of recent projects, I’ve been working with Michael Aubrey Partnership, who have their fair share of BIM wizards, technologists, and structural engineers. It makes them a pretty good team to know and to work alongside. 

From existing building models, early stage structural input and the technical design skills to deliver the project, we’ve developed a close knit way of working.

There are many benefits to creating the building virtually ahead of constructing it in real life. It helps you understand what it will look like, allows coordination of structure, services and architecture. It helps to spot any problems so that they can be fixed before the building work begins, and this in turn keeps costs down by avoiding the need to resolve these matters during construction when the stakes are much higher.

This team-led approach provides a helpful reality check for my home extension clients at an early stage. Working together, we’re able to identify design tweaks that can keep costs down without compromising on creativity. 

Whilst most things are possible, not everything is practical.

The feedback on this approach has been really positive. It’s good to know that we are bringing value to our clients.

We’re really pleased that you are getting structural engineering feedback at this early stage, because it really helps us with our decision making”

How BIM principles have revolutionised my business

Even though my own BIM journey hasn’t been quite the evolution I’d anticipated, sometimes you have to create opportunities to do things a little bit differently. Now that I see first hand the benefits of BIM, I’m ready to embrace new software and get on board with the BIM revolution.

It turns out that, as is true for a lot of things in life, you don’t have to know it all. You just need to know how to assemble the right team, with the right skills and the right attitude.

So, who’s on your team? Do they work well together?

Read the full essay

Interested in my original essay? It’s a reminder of the days when I wrote with long words like dichotomies, paradigm shifts and interoperability – before the kids muddled my brain!

You can read it here.