AJ100 Top 10 profiles: Stride Treglown remains cautious about the future in a very competitive trading climate, writes Hattie Hartman
Chairman David Hunter describes 2013 as a year of ‘cautious optimism’ for Stride Treglown. Holding onto the number 10 slot for a second consecutive year, the practice managed to grow its turnover, increase its profitability and bag some big contracts.
Education continues to be the firm’s top performer, with schools, further education and universities generating 36 per cent of turnover, followed by residential at 16 per cent and workplace at 12 per cent.
A recent win was a new Faculty of Business and Law at the University of the West of England, and three major education projects were completed last year: a chancellor’s building for Bath University, a University Technical College in Plymouth and a 492-bed student accommodation scheme in Exeter.
The practice expanded its reach in the South of England at the beginning of last year after Hunter identified a gap in coverage from Winchester to Southampton – a swathe where most of the practice’s contractor clients have offices. In September locally based firm TS Design was duly acquired, bringing the practice’s tally of UK offices to eight.
The firm also opened an office in Dubai last year, its second in the UAE. While international work only represents 3 per cent of turnover, the practice is active in the Middle East and recently won an interior design contract for a series of hotels for Dubai Inns in the run-up to Expo 2020.
The practice is also capitalising on its BIM expertise internationally, with a new joint venture in response to the Hong Kong government’s recent requirement to introduce BIM to all projects over a certain size.
This involves providing technical review and information co-ordination services for projects that are being converted from 2D drafted packages into co-ordinated construction information in a single model.
These achievements marry well with the practice’s strategy of diversification, which sees it working in a wide variety of sectors, including health, defence, leisure, culture, research and technology and masterplanning.
Sustainability also continues to be a priority for the practice. The Cardiff office continues to monitor its own BREEAM Outstanding premises, Treglown Court, completed in 2010. The building is carbon neutral and in summer generates more energy than it uses. As a result of early buy-in to the feed-in tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive, the operation of Treglown Court is cost negative. An annual ‘green week’ led by the Bristol office engages staff across the practice.
Currently on site and targeting BREEAM Outstanding is the Energy Safety Research Institute for Swansea University, part of the university’s growing expertise in energy processing. Portishead Marina, a 117-unit mixed-use development, was last year’s standout completion.
We need to see fee levels improve
The practice also has a reputation for looking after its staff – which includes 87 qualified architects and almost 250 employees who get to benefit from flexible working times around the core hours of 10am to 4pm. The partners have also stated their intention to ‘significantly expand’ employee share ownership within the firm.
Nevertheless, despite a strong year Hunter remains cautious about the future in a trading climate that he still views as very competitive. The profession’s biggest challenge, he says, will be managing growth effectively. ‘We have been working in a depressed market for so long that a sudden change in fortunes could be destabilising. We need to see fee levels improve, and there’s little sign of this for us so far, while costs continue to rise. We need to work even smarter.’