I have worked with large and small property developer companies since my times a trainee architect. I have had mixed experiences, and these have been tainted by the rhetoric I heard in the practices where I worked at the time. There was a general perception that property developers lack transparency, provide inadequate quality housing stock, and are in the industry only to benefit themselves financially.
In the past few years, since becoming an architecture practice owner, I decided to re-evaluate this. I have stepped into a position of being a better listener and open-minded professional in the hope of understanding my developer clients. I have attended many property developer meetups. The result has been undoubtedly a better understanding of their take on the built environment. I have also discovered a new breed of SME property development companies set up with a clear vision. To my surprise, some of these entrepreneurs have a picture of a legacy which resonates with my passion for design and improvement to the built environment. I have been able to find common ground not only in the way we communicate when providing a service to these ‘progressive’ property developers, but also found shared aspirations.
Inhabitat Architects has recently joined TrustedLand. I have been following Alex Harrington-Griffin on social media and attended some of the TrustedLand and Developers Boardroom’s events. They are not only attracting this new breed of developers, but they are also offering support and a common platform to share their experiences. TrustedLand together with LandTech has recently released their 2020 edition of the Real Developer SME Index. This provides a comprehensive database of developers that have been praised for their trajectory, quality of work and trustworthiness.
As an architecture practice, Inhabitat Architects was required to go through thorough scrutiny to become a TrustedLand accredited professional. This is reassuring when engaging with any of the Real Developer SME Index company as they are very likely to have gone through a similar selection process. However, the single most important benefit I receive from being a Member is the community aspect. There is a palpable sense of genuine friendship and openness in the way Alex Harrington-Griffin set out to bring the TrustedLand project together. This has attracted like-minded individuals. I have not only met a supportive group of multidisciplinary professionals in the building industry but also made real friendships. This was as unexpected as to be discussing aspects such as the benefits of prefabrication, buildability and sustainability, quality of materials, use of the best designs to apply quality materials and build densely but well.
I also believe we can educate the people in our planning departments about what constitutes excellent, sustainable housing at the same time of commercial viability. We can use incentives to reward the bold and imaginative and highlight what we consider poor quality if organisations like TrustedLand continue to ‘champion the good ones’.
Solving the problems of the 21st-century housing deficit will take communities such as TrustedLand and the Developers Boardroom to become the future industry thinktanks. I am convinced that being part of this is fundamental to make a more significant impact as an architecture practice for Inhabitat. Gone are the days when I felt the challenge of designing schemes amidst problems in communication and project outcome aspirations with property developer clients. I also feel we can cater our services to our developer clients more effectively. It makes my job a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling, both the process and the result. The bigger picture here is the potential for creating a legacy in UK housing. Watch this space!