Heath Davies is Managing Director of Jumeirah Luxury Homes.
Can you describe the last project that you worked on with Neil?
We worked together on a century old cottage to bring it back to its former glory. Neil’s design included a large extension to the rear. There was also extensive landscaping, external living areas and a large swimming pool. The project was a great opportunity to showcase our talents beyond building new homes. We loved the opportunity to restore a character home and add value with the new works.
How would you describe what it’s like to work with Neil?
It was easy. I believe an architect should look after their clients’ interests first. It is also important to the success of the project that the architect nominate builders he can trust. He must be able to work with them over the course of a major building project.
Neil understands the challenges builders face. We can come to him with queries of buildability, detail and challenge. Neil is always available to assist with best possible outcome for the project. He has a lot of diverse construction and design experience and a firm knowledge of building. This is so important in architecture. He knows what makes for a smooth build. He is clear about budgets and time restrictions. He is open to hearing what we’re doing on site each week. He visits regularly and always seeks the best for the project and the client.
Can you describe the construction phase of this recent project?
We met with the client as soon as we won the construction package. The client’s main desire was that the builder liaise with the architect for all major and minor items. They wanted someone that kept them in the loop and an open dialogue at all times. That was the client’s number one priority and that’s also how we like to do business.
We started part demolition of the existing home as soon as we received the building licence. The program was governed by how we progressed the new section of home. The site allowed access from both the front and rear. The amalgamated lots provided enough space for the build of new, old and external works. This helped us complete the home well ahead of the already tight programme. This said, early completion was only possible due to the quality of documentation. The client and Neil’s co-operated in specifying detail well ahead of site requirements.
We regularly met on site with Neil to walk through the job. We’d discuss current progress and forecast what information and confirmations we needed. Neil would review our workmanship. He’d raise items that required our attention. He’d be available to assist anytime.
Can you talk a little about his project documentation?
Neil’s documentation is well co-ordinated, detailed and concise. There was enough information to price the job on an apples-for-apples basis. There was no need to allow a contingency due to a lack of detail. It’s important for both the client and builder to have clear and unambiguous information. It results in reduced costs and building times.
That is what makes detailed documentation so important. Neil’s documentation is where it should be, it’s fine for us.
Does the standard of documentation effect the price?
Yes, as mentioned, the better the documentation at the time of tender. The sharper the price will be for the client. Detailed documentation provides the client with an accurate fixed price for the project. It may take a little more time and upfront costs to supply corect detail. I think it’s worth it because the net result is a huge saving on the building contract sum.
Unfortunately, we as consumers only like to look at the upfront costs. We tend to ignore what may become necessary expenditure down the track. I think too often we take a short term view of a situation. We don’t consider the realities of what may and generally does result when we don’t do our homework!
Poor documentation affects the cost of a home and the progress of the build.
Are there any other ways that you feel he’s different to work with?
I think, for an architect, Neil is down to earth. I think that he is unpretentious. He has a good eye for detail. He has the ability to specify good quality materials and produce great design features. He’s confident in his ability and so he should be. Neil has been around long enough. He’s seen so many different sides of the design/construction industry. He knows how to look after clients and he knows how to get a job done. I think Neil also has an exceptional ability to relate. He would come on site and have no hesitation in talking to the men who are working there. Neil can relate with the high end client, he can relate with the tradesmen and he can relate with builders. It’s in his character to be able to work with all the different people involved in building a luxury home.
What did you enjoy most about working on this project?
Restoring the existing home was brilliant. We re-built the existing timber deck. It had new timber posts and frieze work turned and assembled to match the exact original detail. It’s wonderful to see that we can produce the same quality of craftsmanship. This is especially true in an age where many building items have become so generic. We also restored the existing fireplaces and mantle to their former glory. The home just looks sensational.
I think it was great that Neil and our client decided to restore the existing home. Usually people will completely demolish the original house these days.
What was his style with the client?
I believe Neil suggests his vision to his client without enforcing it on them. I believe he wants to have them understand his thoughts. We wants to share his vision and educate them. He’ll explain reasons why he might suggest a particular material or detail etc. Neil is regularly meeting the client on site and reviewing the builders’ progress.
Neil likes to have open communication. He copied the client’s in on important information along the way. He requested information and would keep everyone in the loop about resolutions. There were clear instructions from site meetings with careful and detailed follow up.
When you complete a project with Neil, how do you sum up that experience?
This project was easy, enjoyable and successful for all parties. Neil wants the best for the client and he’s working to keep me, as the builder, accountable.
Neil is available and that is not something I can say for all architects. It is just so essential for both client and builder. It works best when the architect stays with the project. Neil stays from concept all the way through to the client taking possession and enjoying the home. He’ll walk through with the client and make sure they understand how the house is functioning. He’ll meet with contractors so that he can explain how things work. He wants his clients to feel confident using the home. . He knows how to take the big picture. He can deliver on the hundreds of minor items that must come together to form the functioning home.
If you were advising someone who is thinking about working with Neil, what would you say to them?
Neil is an architect who listens to his clients. He wants to give the client what they’re looking for. He’ll give his recommendations or advice on where he thinks they could improve it or add to it. He won’t force his thoughts or desires on the client. He gives them options. I think he educates them. He’s open to dialogue and won’t rush his client to make decisions.
I’ve seen the whole process of design and construction for over 20 years. Ten of those years I’ve been building under the Jumeirah brand. I’ve seen the entire picture of what makes this sector of the building industry work. As far as design goes, Neil’s right up there with what I look for in working for an architect. It’s easy to recommend him.