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EC Harris' Richard Taylor: ‘Iconic buildings elicit angst’

Richard Taylor, head of commercial at EC Harris, reveals how architecture affects investment decisions and tips on surviving in a tough climate

How is the UK commercial property sector looking?
We are seeing a lot of money coming from the Far East and Asia and from elements of the European Community. It seems a safe haven and there is still very much a demand. In the City, the insurance market is still very strong.

What role does architecture play in investment decisions?
At the moment decisions are all about long-term value and value creation. Architecture has been fundamental in differentiating quality space while not being seen as going over the top. Buildings are performance-led rather than product-led. It’s about driving efficiency and quality, and finding the right balance between the two.

How important are aesthetics? Do clients want icons?
It’s horses for courses. We are seeing clients prepared to pay the extra money to invest in creating long-term value. We are also seeing a nervousness and reluctance of tenants and end-users to look at iconic buildings. This is because, with the austerity that’s around at the moment, it’s not seen as the right thing to do.

How do you chose which architect to recommend for a project?
We recommend those who are specialists around certain asset classes, types of structures and planning areas. Clients are driving for certainty of planning along with certainty of delivery, cost and leasing. At the same time, those architects who have good local planning knowledge will have a very good understanding of the local market.

How would an architect get your attention?
They need to have an appreciation of the client, what they want to achieve and where the value is created in a project. Clients don’t want to spend fees going through option after option; they need to get that solution quickly and optimise it very quickly.

What clues help you spot this in a practice?

Experience and people. You can have the profile but, at the end of the day, you need to have the people. It’s all about having those specialists who understand the client. 

What advice would you give to architects struggling to get decent fees?

Architects have to spend a lot of money when they bid and they present all their intellectual property in the first 8-10 weeks. You can give yourself an advantage if you try to align yourself with clients with whom you don’t have to bid and whose business you understand well. It’s all about stability, knowledge and certainty. If you can bring that to your client, you are on the right track.

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