What’s next for Greenway Barrow Architects?

I’m making a move!

It’s hard to standstill in business, growing is easy once you get some momentum. Supporting that growth is another kettle of fish, and scaling back not so easy as it sounds with the stop start nature of project work. So, it’s crunch time and I’m ready to build the next successful venture, this time not on my own.

I’m joining Michael Aubrey Partnership to continue delivering what I do best, with the support and cross discipline expertise of a team that I know well. Creating family forever homes, together.

Unexpected? Only if you don’t know the back story…

In need of an engineer

I first came across John Staves at Michael Aubrey Partnership (MAPL) six years ago when I contacted several local engineers, I wanted to see who was up for helping me out with my new venture, Greenway Barrow Architects. John was, as he always is, willing to give me his time. Yet we didn’t work together until a year or so later, projects being what they are.

As I completed more and more projects and worked with various local engineers I began to realise that the team MAPL were a good bunch to know, their approach was professional, thorough, proactive. I advocated for them as my go-to engineer.

Trialling a new way of working

After Covid hit we developed a closer collaboration, home owner enquiries rocketed and MAP were happy and able to support with additional services – measured surveys and later technical design.

Always looking to improve client experience and project outcomes with a more integrated approach I finally met with MAPL’s other director, Gail, twelve months ago. We talked around the benefits of what we were offering together. John jokingly suggested I join their team, I jokingly declined… I’d worked bloody hard to build my own thing, I didn’t want to give it up.

Six months on, we continued with our successful collaboration but still with some barriers between us. We were after all separate entities, there’s a balance between sharing openly and doing what’s commercially sensible.

A considered move

Mid December, Gail ventured again if I’d consider coming to join them. This time it wasn’t a no! I couldn’t see that we would stop collaborating so why not make it a permanent thing? We’d already spent several years working together after all!

There are so many positive aspects to our cross-discipline approach. And discussing the opportunity with my clients I was pleased to find them largely in agreement that the pros outweighed the cons.

So, here we are finally having figured out the boring but important stuff! Next month I’ll be joining MAP as Head of Architecture, and together we have plans!

Contact us here to see how we can help you to create your family forever home.


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.