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AJ100 interview: Gregg Mitchell, Carey Jones

‘I’d be kidding if I said the crunch hasn’t had an impact - some projects have been shelved’

How have the past 12 months been?
On paper we had a very good 2008, but during the last quarter the economic situation took the shine off. This year has not been easy; some commercial and private sector projects have been deferred or completely shelved. I would be kidding if I said the crunch hasn’t had an impact.

Have things changed since you completed this year’s survey?
The stalling of LSC (Learning and Skills Council) projects shocked me – if that is not safe, what is? My vulnerability radar started spinning faster in January and February.

How optimistic are you for 2009?
The credit crunch caught us all napping. Last year, we went from drawing board to planning to site with relative speed and ease. Now we are unable to predict how quickly schemes will go through and, indeed,whether it will get through and then not get funding. There’s a dose of reality dawning on the industry that nothing is safe, even if you’ve started on site. But I think we can weather this.

What sectors are currently the most important for you?
Interiors are an important string to our bow. We are doing an awful lot of re-hacking and refurbishing of existing building stock, rather than new build.

Do you see the company growing over the next year?
No. You have to be careful growing for growth’s sake. The mark of success is looking at the quality of completed projects and those that have achieved planning consent.

Are you still recruiting?
No, but we’ll look at strategic recruitment to drive work in certain sectors that go hand in glove with our business plan.

How important is profitability?
Making a profit is key to making investments in the future of the practice.

Have you retooled your practice to cope with the recession?
We are looking at skills we can readily transfer to less vulnerable markets. For instance, we did a lot of residential schemes and student accommodation and are now looking at social housing and MoD barracks.

Is the future of British architecture an export industry?
Sustainability will play an ever increasing role in building design and British architects have been ahead of the game for some time, placing us in an ideal position to take advantage of foreign markets.

Are there any cities you see beating the credit crunch?
Manchester [where careyjones set up an office last year] has inner confidence and self-belief. I strongly believe we need to be there. People have said we have come to the party late, but I maintain that the party has only just started and the best songs are only just coming on. And there’s no doubt London will see the green shoots quicker than anywhere else. Richard Waite

Carey Jones was number 44 in the 2009 AJ100


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