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9 Jan 2008

In its annual industry survey Prospect commissioned MRUK to ask senior architects how they felt about the performance of other design team professionals 

In its annual industry survey Prospect commissioned MRUK to ask senior architects how they felt about the performance of other design team professionals 

It has been another very busy year for the construction industry in Scotland. Despite the new political landscape, the SNP government’s scrutiny of some infrastructure and public projects, the new planning committee in Edinburgh and the general slowdown in the residential markets the pace of development seems to be quickening. Even before Glasgow won the Commonwealth Games bid there were a large number of high quality, high value new developments making their way through the planning system.

More than 100 partners and directors of architectural practices were asked to provide feedback on who were the best design team and construction companies that they worked with. The research was carried out by MRUK and the results are as follows:


Among structural and services engineers the winners of the poll resemble a similar pattern to last year. Arup topped the poll for structural engineers and Buro Happold was the winner in the services engineering category. If there is a rising star in the story it is probably David Narro, the Edinburgh-based practice which is preparing to open a Glasgow office in early 2008. David Narro was runner-up in the structural category.

All engineers report having a consistently large workload, but also admit that they are still chasing work and the high demand for engineers is not necessarily reflected in fee bids.

The main demand on engineers over the past year has been to respond to the growing enthusiasms for sustainable design. “It's fair to say that sustainability is the big issue; it’s a design driver in the UK and is moving to the top of the agenda in other countries,” reports Rod Manson from Buro Happold. There is continuing debate about how to measure a building's sustainable performance and many UK companies are starting to look at the USA’s LEED appraisal systems as well as the BREEAM system. Manson says that most architects and design teams are pursuing in a genuinely passive approach to energy conservation rather than using bolt-on renewable energy sources.

Arup director, Brian Veitch is encouraged by the way in which the Scottish Government is looking into the Greener Scotland agenda and the impact it is likely to have on the built environment. He’s also excited about the government’s plans to speed up housing production and introduce elements of pre-fabrication into the process. The sustainability agenda means that engineering disciplines are increasingly overlapping: “We are starting to think about their work as interdisciplinary rather than multi-disciplinary,” he says.

Veitch believes the main challenge facing engineers at present is to deliver on time and within budget. He’s conscious that there is a large amount of pressure on all sections of the construction industry. Arup has just completed work at Waverley station, a £150m project to reorganise the platforms and improve access, at the same time as keeping the service running as usual. Arup is involved in a very diverse range of projects, from major infrastructure works like Waverley to large mixed-use projects like the Quartermile project in Edinburgh and the Haymarket project for Tiger Developments. Arup is working on a large number of education projects, from PFI schools to Aberdeen Library that has been designed by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. Such Scottish-Scandinavian collaborations are on the increase. Arup’s Scotland office is working on two large shopping centres in Norway. Veitch feels that retail developers are now starting to realise the importance of producing a more engaging retail experience in order to differentiate themselves. Arup is working on the new St James development in Edinburgh and the Almondvale Centre in Livingston.

Veitch clearly relishes the challenge of the Commonwealth Games 2014 in Glasgow; Arup are likely to be working on a number of projects related to the games. The bid content addressing infrastructure issues has been undertaken by the city council, but in the long term they are likely to be looking for engineering consultants to help in the upgrading of the transport system. They are doing the engineering for Foster’s Arena at the SECC and providing mechanical engineering services for the Velodrome and indoor arena at Parkhead. Veitch is not giving anything away, but I suspect he would fulfil a lifetime ambition if he could be involved in the new Forth Road Crossing. We will have to wait until 2008 to find out if Arup are selected to take the project forward.

David Narro will open an office in Glasgow in the new year on the back of winning several new jobs in the West Coast, including some housing work for Andrew Bothwick at Alba Town developments and Maryhill Leisure Centre. The Commonwealth Games may also bring additional commissions. The practice’s turnover has more than doubled in the last three to four years and staff numbers have risen to 23. Narro is working closely with Gareth Hoskins on a number of projects; the Bridge project was completed last year and has picked up a number of awards. The Culloden visitors centre will be completed in Spring 2008 and Narro is working on the redevelopment of the Royal Museum in Edinburgh with Hoskins. The engineers have also been working with Lee Boyd on the Garrison House at Millport, which has just been completed.

Jack Scott, a director at David Narro, says that the practice is also doing a large amount of conservation work, particularly on rural estates. Scott welcomes the growing demand for engineering skills, but is concerned about the failure of the profession to respond appropriately to that pressure. “People are still cutting each other’s throats despite the fact that there is plenty of work and the OJEU system seems to bring a lot of work and frustration. However, if you see an opportunity I suppose you have to take it,” reflects Scott.

Buro Happold is working on a number of high profile Scottish projects, but is also using its office in Glasgow to work on a growing number of international projects. The Dundee City council offices, designed by Reiach and Hall, provide an interesting structural and environmental challenge and the client has recently signed off stage B budgets allowing the design team to move into more detailed design. The engineering practice is also working with HOK’s sport and entertainment division on the new sports complex at Ravenscraig. This will be the first  key development in redevelopment of the former steel works site. Buro Happold is also working with NORD architects on the Wexford Council Offices. The tenders have just been returned on this project and construction is due to start on site early next year.

On the international front, Buro Happold are doing a lot of work in the Middle East. In some cases they are working with Scandinavian architects on Arabic projects and much of the new work involves high-rise structures. BH is working with Snohetta on a large multi-use development in the United Arab Emirates, and with the same practice on a competition for a museum in Saudi Arabia.

Other Consultants
Imagination wins through

This year interviewees had a strong sense of conviction when it came to landscape design. City Design is the rising star of the survey, having moved up the ranks pretty rapidly over past two years. Over the past year the landscape architect has delivered a number of important projects, notably the Dysart Art works project and the Dumbreck school. They are currently working on a large number of education projects and director Richard East believes that initiatives such as Ground for Learning will mean that more local authorities are starting to think about school grounds more imaginatively.

One of City Design’s most high profile projects is the creation of two new parks for Forth Ports at Western Harbour. Lighthouse Park is already under construction, the other occupies the large semi-circular space at the heart of the Robert Adam master plan. Earlier this year Rolf Roscher, one of the key players in City Design, left to set up a new practice called erz suggesting that, after years as the poor cousins of the design team, the sector is finally growing .

Gardiner and Theobald was ranked for the best cost consultants for the second year running. They will be actively involved in the Commonwealth Games as cost consultants for the SECC site and continue to work on the commercial development at Glasgow Harbour. G&T is also involved in the Cunnigar Loop at Dalmarnock in South Lanarkshire, part of the Clyde Gateway where they are advising on the infrastructure and landscaping on the project. Higher and Further education is a very busy sector. G&T is working on colleges in Motherwell, Ravenscraig, Anniesland, Jewell and Esk, University of Paisley and the Edinburgh Vet School. The retail sector continues to be an important source of work and G&T is working on the high profile St James Centre with BDP and Allan Murray. The office's most significant commercial project in the next few months is probably 141 Bothwell Street a large office building in Glasgow designed by SMC Hugh Martin.

As part of the survey we asked all interviewees to identify the person in the industry that had made the most significant impact on them over the past year. In the private sector Andrew Burrell of the Burrell Company, the architect and director of the Edinburgh-based development company that has just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

 The winner of the public sector poll was Alex Salmond followed by Gerry Grams, the city design champion for Glasgow City Council. We also asked them to name the Scottish product supplier that has made the biggest impression on the last 12 months and the winner was Russwood who provide timber for cladding and flooring. Russwood timber was used on the Anderson Bell Christie designed social housing at Silverhills which picked up a Roses Gold medal and a Saltire award this winter.

Back to January 2008

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