Architect-turned-developer Mark Randall of Q Developments on contemporary versus traditional design, choosing architects and whether the industry is capable of delivering zero-carbon homes
Where have you come from?
I started my architectural career in the late 1990s at Ian Ritchie’s practice as a Part I student working on some very exciting, well-known schemes. Phil Coffey was working alongside me at the time.
I then returned to Leicester School of Architecture for Part 2, before coming back to London and joining Squire & Partners. Post-Part 3, I joined Mark Fairhurst who was setting up his own practice (Mark Fairhurst Architects, established 2002). Q Developments was a client of Mark’s and we worked on a number of projects before I left and ran my own small practice for a couple of years.
Sean Quinn, Q Development’s managing director called me in 2006 and enquired whether I’d be interested in a full-time role with the company, and I’ve been working for Q since.
We’re exploring a new mass housing typology with John Pardey, which challenges the traditional housebuilder types
When did Q Developments start?
Sean started the company in the mid-1990s after a number of years working in law, successfully converting a number of residential properties in south-west London, which grew to larger schemes.
What are your ambitions as a company and what schemes do you have in the pipeline?
We’ve always been a residential, design-led company. We’re exploring a new mass housing typology with John Pardey at the moment, which challenges the traditional mass housebuilder types. We are also appraising sites across London for new housing, typically on difficult sites and sites without a current residential land use.
John Pardey Architects plans for Q Development to build 56 homes on a former garden centre site in the village of Alfold, Surrey
What are you offering or hoping to deliver that others aren’t?
Light, spacious homes which make innovative use of space and which are simple to build using well-tested materials and building techniques. Our contemporary homes have pound for pound outsold the more traditionally designed equivalent.
Are you currently looking for architects and how do you go about finding them?
We always like to explore new relationships. We recently engaged Peter Barber’s practice to have a look at a site for us, which we are hoping to develop, having been wanting to talk to Peter for some time.
We take a keen interest in projects that are delivered which meet the criteria above and we will often make an approach to a practice that has demonstrated a contemporary or innovative approach to a particular site. In the case of Peter, we felt that the site we took him to suited his practice perfectly, based on his previous work. We were delighted when he felt we’d brought him something exciting and with which he could demonstrate the practice’s skill in residential design.
As a qualified architect yourself, what do you want from architects who you work with?
As well as the ability to demonstrate innovative solutions to sites through good design, we expect professionalism, which on the whole we do find. The best practices work with us to build long-standing relationships.
What don’t you want?
Inflexibility and a lack of understanding of the commercial reality of delivering speculative housing, unwillingness to compromise or to learn from our experience.
What are you doing to try and make your homes more environmentally sustainable?
We like to push an envelope-first approach to reducing energy use in the everyday use of buildings, but also favour the use of materials that are traditional, locally sourced and have low embodied energy. We certainly would welcome net zero carbon, but can our construction industry deliver the materials, labour and technology at a cost which takes account of all other financial pressures in the development cycle?
Which scheme by another developer inspires you?
Urban Splash’s Chips building in Manchester by Will Alsop.
Do you have a motto – if so what is it and why?
My personal motto is ‘expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed’. I’m usually pleasantly surprised.
Urban Splash’s Chips building in Manchester by Will Alsop