Kevin Stewart is Director and Founder of Allied Air. He has thirty-five years experience in air conditioning and mechanical services, in both the UK and Australia. Kevin has worked with Neil for over a decade on high end residential and major commercial projects.
Can you describe the work you do?
We’re a mechanical services company who do design and construct. We take a concept idea of work with a particular client. This might be a high end residential home for instance. We work with the architect from day one with their DA drawings and design concepts. We start working with them to allow for all the mechanical services. This covers air conditioning, heating, barbecue ventilation and ventilation for wet areas. It also includes car park exhaust systems if the car park in the house is large. We also deal with pool ventilation, cool rooms, barbecues and alfresco exhaust systems.
We work with an architect from concept to finished product. We get a design and documentation done that meets the expectation of the architect and the client. So it’s our job to make sure it is all designed, delivered and installed to a high standard.
What sort of projects have you worked on with Neil?
I met Neil over ten years ago when he was at Overman and Zuideveld. We did a lot of mixed use developments on the apartment sites. He was the Projects Architect for that company. I got to know Neil and how he worked. We worked closely on several major projects. The same principles applied to that work. We did design concept from DA stage right through to installation.
Since Neil went out on his own we’ve worked together on major residential projects. The Peppermint Grove two house project was a particularly big one. We worked closely over six months of to and fro-ing to come up with an initial design. That changed as the design for the houses evolved.
Can you tell me what it’s like working with Neil?
Neil was a very approachable architect. A lot of architects I work with … you can’t talk to them. You certainly can’t say no to them. Neil accepts the word “no” and understands about our industry, mechanical services. He understands he has to make allowances for our works in his design. It’s easy to go and discuss a problem with a Neil, and we resolve it as a team, rather than me battling the client.
It’s easy; phone call to Neil, go and see him. Coffee, chat over the drawings, sketch drawings, come away with a result. Easy. Not painful.
In what other ways is Neil different from other architects?
The one word that comes to light for me is Neil’s personal. He’s actually involved with the house and listens to what I say. He takes on board what his clients want. He’s got a vision in his own mind what he wants for the house as a design, so we’re already up in the box seat.
We’ve got an architect that knows what he wants. He may not know the ins and outs of the mechanical side but he knows in principle what he wants, which makes my life a little bit easier. I’m not going in there teaching him about air conditioning and what he needs. He’s got a basic understanding and between us we’ll fine tune it to the point where it looks professional, works well, and he’s happy with it.
Neil’s approachable. You’re not dealing with somebody else in the office, you’re dealing with Neil. Neil does the sketches, Neil does the work. Which is probably the best way of getting the benefit of his years of experience.
What’s the quality of documentation like that comes through from Neil?
The documentation’s very good and easy to understand. Neil makes sure that our services gets given to the other trades, hydraulics, electrical. That is important. We all work as a team, and that’s important to Neil. We have to work as a team to make sure we all tick the boxes to make the development work.
Do you have much contact with the client?
With Neil, unlike some of the other architects, I’ve actually meet with his clients. This is unusual. Most architects shield me from the client. It gives me the utmost confidence that what we’re offering to Neil and the client is what they want. I’m explaining it once and once only. I go away confident that whatever we come up with, it is acceptable to all.
Normally, you’d go and see an architect who acts as a superintendent for the client. He’s the go-between man. The problem arises when what I say gets misconstrued. We have had a few issues, where what the client wants is not what he got, because the communication broke down.
In Neil’s case, on the high end projects, I have met the clients. It is quite a privilege. Some of Neil’s clients are very respected people in the Western Australian community. To actually go and see them and meet them gives me a high level of confidence that we are all on the same page.
From working this way with Neil I try and arrange that more and more with my other projects. I ask other architects if it’s possible to meet the client even for only ten minutes. It isn’t an easy thing but there are a lot of benefits that can come form it.
Do you recommend Neil?
I would have no hesitation in recommending Neil, especially on those high end residential projects. If I give someone Neil’s number, I know they would deal with Neil, not a lesser architect in the office. I’m confident you get Neil. You don’t get a college graduate. You get Neil, and that’s what I think this industry warrants. Somebody with years of experience who gives a turnkey complete product at the end of it.
How would you describe Neil’s homes you’ve seen when their completed?
Unbelievable. The Peppermint Grove project blew me away and I’m not really into houses too much. It’s easy on a plan to see designs and documentation happen, but to actually go back and see it first hand as a finished house was great. The owner showed me over his home when it was finished. It was unbelievable. The actual quality, design, the lines, the level of finish, was superb. That was a house that was built by a quality builder. Neil’s documentation and ongoing site visits kept the level of design to where it should be.
A lot of architects do a lot of design and just basically give it to a builder and leave the job alone. They don’t follow it through to help sort out any issues which could happen in design. There’ll always be some.
Neil was always there; we had a few problems with mechanical. Phone call, Neil was onsite with me sorting it out. He wasn’t pointing fingers, or blaming anybody. It was an issue that came up that people forgot. Just an oversight. So myself, Neil, and the owner of the building company, sorted it out no problem. Unsolved problems can become costly. This was fixed, the issue dealt with, and the problem went away.
When you’ve completed a project with Neil, how do you sum up the experience?
When a job’s finished, we do worry about the phone call, the dreaded phone call. Where the client’s not happy, something’s not working, the control doesn’t work, not to their expectations. I’m yet to have one from Neil.
I think it’s the way he handles his projects from day one. He’s involved with the client and I get involved with the client to the level Neil thinks is appropriate. I think that’s probably the biggest key thing that we get, we’re all getting the expectations or the design brief that’s wanted and warranted. That’s probably where I’m confident.
So I get a call from Neil after a project’s finished; it’s normally to say the customer’s very happy. Not, we’ve got a problem. Which is what we want to see. Neil is a good bloke to work with. He’s a genuine person, that’s what I like. He’s approachable from a layman up to his high end clients, and he adapts to suit. That’s what I like.
He will do a million dollar building. He’ll do a twenty five million dollar building with the same vigor, the same process, the same due diligence that’s warranted. You’re getting a quality architect with many, many years experience.