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Muse's David Wells: ‘I like architects who can draw’

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David Wells, development director at Muse Developments, on choosing architects that can draw and the commercial property shortage

What kind of schemes are you working on?
A wide variety of projects across the spectrum – major office buildings for private and public sector, high-rise and family residential, food stores and industrial/manufacturing units. Some of the more interesting projects have included theatres, libraries and bus stations. We use a variety of architects depending on the nature of the project. We have worked with Duggan Morris Architects, Karakusevic Carson Architects, Riches Hawley Mikhail Architects and FaulknerBrowns.

What is your experience that the regions are slowly starting to move forward?
The investment market is improving, but occupiers still need persuading. A lot of investors have focused on the South-East, but have now realised that there are excellent opportunities in the regions too.

How has the developer landscape changed during the recession?
There are far fewer developers in the market and there is more need for schemes to be thought through properly, rather than relying on capital growth to make a profit.

Has the value of design altered for you?
There is much more understanding now and it features more highly in decision-making for developers, occupiers and investors than it used to. One of the big changes in design has been technology and its ongoing impact on space. Hot-desking, cloud computing and the change in workplace culture driven by the likes of Google will continue to provide challenges to developers and architects.

How do you chose an architect?
Like many developers, we often work with those we have worked with before. But we have also found new architects by word of mouth or by competition. We do not have a panel and we tend to appoint on a job-by-job basis. Generally, we like architects to be innovative and imaginative, but pragmatic. Personally, I like architects who can draw!

What do you think of the government’s attempts to drive development?
They have missed the benefits that a strong commercial property market can bring. A lot of the blame was rightly laid at the door of commercial development during the recession, but the government has focused on the housing market to stimulate growth, rather than the whole market. While this has worked, the shortage of office and industrial space in particular is now causing problems for occupiers wanting to expand.

What one thing could the government do to help you?
Abolish empty rates – this is a real disincentive to speculative development.

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