Listen to how the University of Winchester made their mark

A truly exceptional development – a long time in the making that required a determined and courageous team to try something different.

The West Downs Campus for the University of Winchester is truly a product of exceptional engineering at its heart.  Colorminium were privileged to work alongside some very visionary stakeholders who were keen to put the University well and truly on the map and make a clear statement about who they are and what they stand for.

Take a listen to what the team has to share.

Colorminium Interview Alistair Finn – Senior Project Manager

Background – How long have you been at Capco and what was your previous track record?

I qualified (RICS) whilst working for Montagu Evans, prior to spending 12 years at King Sturge, which was a larger multi-disciplinary consultancy, best known for their investment and agency work.  I was with them from 1999 – 2011 prior to the business merging with Jones Lang LaSalle, another big multi-disciplinary consultancy. That wasn’t for me so ended up working for a smaller practice before setting up on my own, offering Development and Project Management services. At the time there was a project I was working on close to my heart down in Woking, which was the new HQ building for WWF. I had helped them find the site and saw it through to completion and handover. In the meantime, one of my other clients was Capco where I was helping out in the early stages of the Lillie Square project. After 12 months I ended up joining full time in 2012, taking on the responsibility for the design and delivery aspects of the project. And I’m still here!


Could you give us a brief overview on Capco and the business they are?

Capital & Counties Properties PLC (Capco) is one of the largest listed property companies in central London. Capco’s key assets are the Covent Garden and Earls Court estates. We create and grow value through a combination of asset management, strategic investment and selective development. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

The business is going through an interesting period, considering plans for a possible demerger of the two main assets at Covent Garden and Earls Court. The two estates have very different profiles, Covent Garden being the established asset with a retail led focus on creative asset management and investment. Earls Court has planning permission for a masterplan of c.70 acres of redevelopment with joint ventures established with London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and Transport for London. As we all know the residential market is really tough currently and all options are being considered, including the opportunities for the introduction of third party capital.

My main focus is on Earls Court and specifically the Lillie Square project , which is a 50/50 JV between Capco and members of the Kwok family in Hong Kong. The first phase of the project is now complete and handed over and the second phase is on site with completion due in the spring of 2020.


A few views on the construction industry currently and some of the key events ahead, Brexit etc?

Obviously Brexit is right on top of us and the impact since the referendum in 2016 is unquestionable. On Phase 2 at Lillie Square, where our cost plan was drawn up in early 2016 the currency change alone led to an increase in our cost base was material. The exposure to this exchange risk from Europe, particularly on a residential job that has a significant amount of bathroom pods (that at the time were being sourced in Italy) there was c.£5m added to our appraisal over this period. For us, we ended up being able to mitigate that through other cost saving measures but not all jobs are able to do that, and other jobs were made unviable as a direct result of that. Irrespective of the finer points of Brexit, the FOREX change was massive alone, let alone all the other issues such as impact on labour, tariffs, compliance etc.

Then in terms of other things, in no particular order;

  1. US foreign policy and the ongoing ‘theatre’ around the US relationship with North Korea and Russia. There is no doubt that dynamic for the UK in terms of what that trade deal looks like with the US is massive, and I think that has probably been missed by some people. There is a lot of focus on Brexit, but that trade with the US is more significant in my opinion.
  2. The US Interest Rates are rising, which usually means the UK will follow suit and I know we are hanging in there but I suspect interest rates will start to creep and it will be interesting to see how that impacts on the market here in the UK, a dynamic going into the next 12 months.
  3. Closer to home, not as a direct result of Brexit but certainly linked to the conversation around Brexit, is the attitude of EU businesses to the UK in terms of rising materials costs. From a supply chain perspective where you at Colorminium operate, you have got to decide how much of that cost you can deal with yourselves and where it can be passed on up the chain. We have certainly been exposed to this.
  4. Migrant workforce is a big one. Use a bricklayer as an example, who is working in the UK to earn money to support his family back in Poland.  That £1 that he is earning is now 13% less than when he decided to make that move pre 2016 so it’s not as attractive, and therefore why wouldn’t I work in Germany and get more bang for my buck and closer to home?  The challenge is how do we retain the skills the industry desperately needs and help raise the skill base.  Push as much as possible to modular offsite, brickwork, precast and remove a huge threat of labour?  But how to do that in a ‘just in time’ world where our manufacturing base is reduced, which it has been significantly over the last 15 years. I saw recently on your LinkedIn the work you are doing on this. I am a massive supporter of pre-fab and offsite modular construction. I think we’ve made the right call going unitised on the next phase at Lillie Square not just for the façade in isolation (and certainly not about whether site build is better than unitising), it’s everything that goes with it (including mindset) and the ability ultimately for the main contractor to manage that well.


What’s the points of stability in the market for a developer with so much uncertainty?

At the moment there isn’t a huge amount of stability.  From Capco’s perspective we are building phase 2 at Lillie Square because we have made historic sales commitments, we have sold 80% so we have to build it. Due to the current uncertainty there are a lot of investors not keen to deploy capital until the current volatility in the finance markets stabilises. In terms of lending there are more and more hurdles being put up on the availability of finance so development will follow that, and if there isn’t any certainty less developers will take a view.


As a developer, how important is it to you to have a relationship with the key subcontract trades on your projects?

One word answer…very! It’s our business, it’s our relationships, it’s our product. If you want to get to the right answer you have got to engage B2B with the key trades and we have made a point of doing that and strongly believe that is key to the overall success of the project, for everyone – an alignment of interests.

It is always a breath of fresh air to see and feel first hand the supply chain responding with ideas and that is often where we see real added value. I think the tier 2’s and 3’s are crying out to have more contact and visibility directly with the client bodies where you do have a clear alignment of business interests and we want to see everyone in the supply chain succeed. What we are also trying to get to is the position of understanding the prime cost for our product. From there you are in the right position to discuss all other aspects including programme and sequencing.

When you talk about the main contractor, yes, I do think the model particularly for residential is under pressure and I think that sometimes it’s hard to align business interests with main contractor’s in such a dynamic and fast moving, fast changing industry.  Our approach is to sit down and making sure that it is clear what we are trying to achieve and make sure that fits the supply chain offer. In order to do this there should be an open conversation on pipeline, availability of teams, risk profile etc.

Quite often the project will only be as successful as its weakest link, so if the main contractor is failing everything else then locks up behind it. And it’s the same for all key trades, some more extreme than others but all key trades have the ability to significantly impact on programme.  In a perfect world we would pre agree the supply chain, we would have an alignment of business interests and we had all looked each other in the eye across the table and signed up.


Is the façade a critical piece of a construction project for a developer?

There are three packages that if we don’t get absolutely right then you are screwed in simple terms!  Façades, bathroom pods, and MEP – there are obviously other critical packages such as dry lining and joinery but, for me, if you have those three right that’s the spine of your job. Whilst at risk of making myself unpopular with the design community, I would add  that facades is an area where our expertise as an industry on the design side is a work-in-progress, particularly in the residential sector, and hence increases the focus on it.


From an external perspective, if you looked at the façade industry, if you looked at Colorminium, what would you say your perception would be of the biggest challenges we face? If you were invited to invest in a façade business, what would make you nervous?

Track record is the first thing that would make me nervous, and I don’t know whether it’s to do with aluminium but it seems that anyone that touches it is at risk! After I give my answer, I will spin it around to you to say ‘why is your market place so volatile’?  Clearly cash flow is a massive issue in terms of outlay on materials, and there are clearly issues that we have touched on around currency fluctuations, differing compliance/design criteria, availability of labour/materials as well as quality management.  One particular point in my mind is the way the far eastern companies have tried to establish themselves both in the US and EU and the issues that has created in relation to quality risk. For me there’s two things there – first is quality management – but there’s also big business driving the façade industry as it is quite a commoditised industry. To me I see that volatility as one of the highest in our supply chain risk. But clearly the façade industry is more volatile than some of the other packages.


Most people, most developers who will be very commercially driven, understand that generally in life you pay for what you get but want to do it openly and they want to make sure the money that they pay that is attributable to performance goes to the right people and the people that are fundamentally putting the skin in the game and taking the risk. That’s what most client teams will want. It’s not they don’t want to pay it, they want to pay it in the right way, to the right people.”   


What are your views on early involvement and single sourcing?

Early involvement is clearly a no brainer, but single sourcing causes an issue for me because we have investors to demonstrate value to. It’s not to say value means lowest cost but it’s naive to think it is not one of the primary considerations.

That said it is ‘horses for courses’ and there will be times when we can satisfy ourselves that there are circumstances to do this, with a market tested commercial position and a solid rationale behind the other key issues such as track record, team, technical approach, programme etc.

Colorminium Interview John Robeson – Group Head of Supply Chain

Tell us about yourself and a headline overview of Osborne?

I’ve been with Osborne for 4 years now, firstly in the role of Supply Chain Director to our construction business before moving to my current, central role as Group Head of Supply Chain. Prior to joining Osborne, I spent a year working on Balfour Beatty CSUK’s supply chain development programme. I have also worked as a consultant with a number of construction businesses, developing their supply chains and also on building business development strategies with a number of sub-contractors. Those relationships were born out of the work I did with them, during my 7 years with Wates from 2004 – 2011.

Osborne as a business is approx. £300m turnover.  The split of this turnover is across three major areas of activity – Construction 41%, Infrastructure, Rail & Highways 37%, 16% in our Communities’ business which is planned and reactive maintenance service for social housing and also new build residential for social landlords. The balance of our turnover is through our developments and offsite SIPs fabrication and erection businesses


What are the current views on the construction industry and some of the key events ahead, Brexit looming etc?

Brexit is an interesting phenomenon!  It is a difficult one to unpick because as a contractor out there bidding for work, we’ve seen a mixture of genuine concern and a little bit of opportunism whereby funders may be thinking, “is it worth hedging our bets and if we threaten to cancel schemes because of Brexit, might we force a downturn in price?”. They are trying to squeeze the market around the Brexit worse case scenarios. We also have got several genuine influencers, the obvious one being around labour movement particularly for skilled trades, although our own research indicates that none of our major subcontractors see it as having a big impact. Equally, while there is concern around the exchange rate or the continuity of goods and services between UK and Europe, I think the reality is that the majority of European suppliers will want to preserve good quality business relationships with UK firms irrespective of the Brussels party line! It seems a bit of a nonsense for the EU to make trading difficult between Europe and the UK, because they will be potentially taking food out of the mouths of those member states, to whom the UK is a significant customer.

From an Osborne perspective, I think that trying to collect intelligence on the potential Brexit Effect on our supply chain, has highlighted our lack of understanding and visibility of the origins of our materials and products, and how they are sourced.


Brexit aside, is there anything else of particular interest in the industry at the moment?

We don’t see any particular movement in the market in terms of a downturn in interest. We are seeing a squeeze on rates by some prospective clients, but we were going to see that anyway. The market waters are muddied because you typically get this cycle. Following the last recession we inevitably moved swiftly from a buyers to a sellers’ market, and that tends to drive more two stage tendering, more negotiation and then as the market flattens out there’s a tipping point whereby it seems to power moves over to the buyer who say “why don’t we do single stage, competitive tendering again”.

I don’t see anything at the moment or any significant feedback from our own supply chain that suggests they are seeing anything other than quite commonly a preference to try and fix prices between now to 2019 when there is a feeling that Brexit might impact on prices.  The challenge is finding a balance that keeps us competitive in today’s market but gives our rates some degree of future proofing for tomorrow’s.


As a main contractor, key supply chain partners must be key? How key are façade specialists for you as a business?

You are absolutely right and there is a recognition throughout the business that supply chain management and supply chain relationship management specifically, is an absolute pre-requisite of success. I think that while we still have people in the business at grass roots level, at site level, that may still see it as a master and slave relationship, the reality is that we recognise the skills and expertise is invested in our supply chain and we have become too dependent at times in terms of that. It is very difficult for our own site managers for example, to have the level of detailed knowledge and technical expertise to fully verify the quality of complex specialist works, and facades is a great example of that. It’s not massively accessible when you are putting the stuff up. Yes, there are certain parts easier than others for us to visually inspect, but it reinforces the fact that we need closer self regulating partner type relationships with key trades such as envelope, which is so critical to the progress and the programme. We need that certainty and assurance that we have got someone that has our interests at heart and see their success inexorably linked to our success, at every stage of the project, from supporting our bid to minimising defects and supporting our aftercare team. I think with the relationships we have developed over the last few years with our preferred supply chain, which represents about 50% of our spend, we are fostering that quality of relationship and are able to offer statistical evidence of this.

Most of our high value/technical trades such as façade contractors like yourselves do recognise that design is a real USP and what you have to offer is rarely tapped into enough by Main Contractor’s. That is a constant source of frustration and it perplexes me quite often – why it is we have employed you as an expert, but we don’t choose to leverage any of the most valuable commodity that you have to offer which is your technical expertise?


What do you see as the main challenges facing façade contractors at the moment?

I think it is often very difficult to make like for like comparisons during the tender process. This is an area we have struggled with in the past, from our perspective I don’t think a lot of Main Contractors see any difference between a Colorminium or competitor who might be a much smaller business that doesn’t have the same capabilities, resources or business strength. We will send the same enquiry to a number of contractors, but if you look at their profiles they can be quite diverse in terms of their size, scope and experience. I don’t think that’s entirely a negative, because I think it comes back to something we spoke about before this interview, which was around the importance and significance of the relationship. There are certain subcontractors that I would say probably don’t have as much of the resourcing as some others, but actually we would say they are still a good and reliable contractor because of the level of commitment they are willing to give us. The biggest challenge for Main Contractors is understanding the difference between a good relationship and just purely having leverage. Historically main contractors have tended to steer away from sub-contractors that they perceive as are too powerful and who are prepared to challenge and robustly fight their corner if needs be. That sort of master and slave mentality is quite a destructive thing, because it creates a mind set of “how can I get the upper hand, or is this guy going to get the upper hand on me?” That’s a real handicap for us in terms of actually having proper discussions, people being honest, people saying this is a problem how are we going to resolve it, rather than who are we going to blame? With our Façade Contractors, it is a bit of a mixed bag, but I do think we see value from using repeat relationships and using them across the business. The challenge for us, is we have 30 project managers across all our businesses, and each one has his own relationships and is reluctant to accept the references from even his peers! So bridging that gap is a challenge, but that is probably one of things we have been successful at doing by creating these formalised relationships under the trading agreement with people like Colorminium.


As a main contractor, what are the top concerns you have when placing a subcontract for the façade? What are your views on early involvement and single sourcing?

I guess one of the biggest challenges is always around understanding the full range of interfaces, because what we have done traditionally is we take packages, and we deal with that package in isolation. Façades is one of those packages, where we actually need to be having a number of conversations with all of the interfacing trades, to understand those relative dynamics and interfaces. And where we are getting better at this, is to look at who has worked with who, and not just look at our relationship with them but also look at their relationships in terms of interacting with their other key trades on projects, and that is something we are very keen to try and develop more of to understand those dynamics on site. Who are the people you like working with? Who are the people that make your life a bit easier? And who are the people that understand how you work? One of the things we do need to do and  it’s certainly high on my agenda at the moment, is to create more workshops for our supply chain to interact with each other and understand exactly why you do the things you do that we as the main contractor perceive as counter productive?


In your opinion, why is it so difficult for façade contractors to survive and what takes them down?

My experience has been two-fold really, one is the amount of power that is often vested in the profile extruders and manufacturers. They seem to be at times a law unto themselves and probably the most recent one we saw go was exactly because of that. That firm had ordered some materials, they came late, his main contractor wasn’t prepared to wait and pushed the button on him and he fell over, he was over exposed. As a main contractor we spend a bit more time looking at finances, and how they are going to finance their supply chain and that’s probably one of the reasons we have less smaller contractors now and more larger ones in tow. Typically, we see that the trades that seem to be most fragile are carpentry and brickwork, because they tend to be high labour, and not used to managing a lot of material costs. M&E firms seem to be the most robust, simply because M&E has a high proportion of value vested in material (often as much as 60% of the subcontract value) and therefore they are used to planning and managing money and managing those materials. The second thing we need to look at is what other commitments our sub-contractors have and look at their programmes. Again, strong relationships build trust and transparency, which is what we want from our key trades.

A subcontractor’s cashflow across other projects for example. If they have multiple large jobs running simultaneously there is a risk that they will be over stretched and that will impact on finances, labour and productivity. The idea that it is the sub-contractor’s problem is an approach that doesn’t work long term, and it doesn’t provide us with assurance or mitigate risk, in fact it increases risk.


Are you saying the ability of a façade contractor that might have grown from something small is at risk in a highly exposed market?

What I’ve seen is façade companies, particularly curtain walling companies, expand very rapidly and not always in a controlled fashion. There are a number of contributory factors. Firstly smaller subcontractors with lower overheads can be price competitive. Smaller subcontractors will often be pricing multiple projects to increase their probability of appointment. On site, smaller subcontractors can be perceived as more agile and flexible and less contractual than their larger competitors. Profile extruders are sales driven and can be keen to extend lines of credit demanded by a growing subcontractor. I have certainly experienced instances where all these elements converge to create a ‘perfect storm’ with a small subcontractor winning multiple projects, on small margins and over extended credit, stretching cash flow paper thin. It’s fine while everything is going to programme, but the frailties of such subcontractors can be quickly exposed if there is a delay to the project or an interruption in payments. Often their Experian report will show a trail of this happening, where there are such marked peaks and troughs in their supplier payment reliability, which indicates cashflow problems. We, as main contractors, need to take more ownership of our supply chain, in terms of them delivering for us and making sure they are fit to do that. It’s a challenge because the smaller firms are the most cost competitive, they are the ones you want to appoint, our QS’s want them to be the ones, but we do need to stand back and be objective, and make that most difficult of reconciliations between lowest price and best value based upon the subcontractors capability to add value at every stage of the project, consistently and sustainably. In this respect Colorminium’s business profile and the relationship we have developed is a valuable bench mark.

Interesting insights from the Commercial Director…

Gareth has worked as Colorminium Commercial Director for 2 years, prior to this he was Deputy Regional Commercial Manager at Sir Robert McAlpine and spent 12 years as a Cost Consultant at AYH/Arcadis.  He brings an enormous wealth of experience in to the leadership team, with his extensive industry knowledge. Holding a Bsc in Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying from Loughborough University, he comes from a background of cost consultancy and Main Contracting. Commencing his career at Arcadis UK and working through to Director level, his notable responsibilities included the delivery of the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal Football Club and the Olympic Stadium for the London 2012 Olympics.

Moving on from Arcadis to Sir Robert McAlpine in 2012, he took the role of Deputy Regional Commercial Director for London where he successfully led the commercial team on a number of high profile schemes and client frameworks.

He now takes responsibility for the Commercial Management of the business here at Colorminium from negotiation and agreement of our Subcontracts through to agreement of the Final Account.   He has also advised our Clients on more specialist basis, in particular in regard to Cost Planning and project specific procurement strategies.


What have you learnt at Colorminium which could have been of value in your previous Employment/roles?

Simply how sophisticated Facades can be. I have learnt that there are many complex variables which can affect the pricing point of the envelope. Every variable is of importance, and to ensure that pricing is accurate, each one of these variables needs to be given sufficient time to do it justice. This is a key area where clients and main contractors could do with some education, that it’s one of those packages that cannot be commoditised – it has to be procured in a collaborative and high trust environment with like minded businesses.


How would a greater understanding of these complexities have helped you in your previous roles?

Having worked as a PQS and a Main Contractor for a number of years, I would strongly believe I would have brought more value to my Client. I would have been better placed to advise on better value solutions whilst maintaining the integrity of the Architects vision, as well as providing a more robust Cost Plan.  I would have also been better placed to advise the Design Team on where the design is underdeveloped or under co-ordinated, which would in turn minimise the potential for risk monies needing to be incorporated within tenders. One thing that’s very clear, is that the longer co-ordination and engagement with the specialists is left for, the higher the price.


Now working as a sub-contractor, what do you feel are the greatest challenges facing the subcontract market?

From a Specialist Façade Contractors viewpoint, post Grenfell is certainly posing problems. Our PI premium has gone up significantly.

Regarding Subcontracting generally; Staying solvent, it’s a high-risk industry. It doesn’t get any easier, the influence of Legal and Finance profession appears to have got much greater especially inside Main Contractors and this has manifested its self in harsher terms/risk transfer and tighter control/governance on cash release.  We have been lucky and have been able to push back on these points, however it always comes with the accusation of “being hard to get into Contract” which is a constant frustration to me/us.


From a commercial perspective, do you feel façade contractors would benefit in terms of business stability by understanding the contract terms they often work under?

That’s a very good point. My experience as a main contractor is that when in the race to secure a project, specialist trades often sign the contract without understanding what’s in it and how it impacts them.  This can’t be a long term business strategy and whilst it’s a handy risk transfer position for the main contractor, it definitely isn’t a long term solution for the industry.  Going back to my point above of “being hard to get into Contract”, that’s because we care about our long term sustainability and want to be around to deliver the next project.


In your opinion, why do so many façade contractors fail financially?

  • Not understanding or being forced to accept unreasonable risk transfer.
  • Tight Main Contractor margins leading to unreasonable behaviours towards Subcontractors to reclaim what they should be taking up the line.
  • Diversification, moving away from what they are good at.
  • Poor financial management, in particular cash management.

What are your views from a client’s perspective of single sourcing?

Although I am not going to say that competitive tendering does not have its place, buildings and facades in particular are becoming more complex, and as such for these projects to be successful, early specialist advice is required and it makes sense that this comes from the company who is going to build the project and take the risk. The most successful projects we have been involved in over the last two years, and to be clear I mean in terms of success for Clients and Colorminium, have been those where we have had some input into the Cost Plan, developed the design under a PCSA and agreed a Contract Sum in an open transparent way.


Colorminium interview Vincent Smith from AGC Interpane Glass Suppliers


We sat down with Vincent Smith of Interpane to understand further as to his view of the direction of the industry.


How long have you been in the industry, what’s the size of the market and where do Interpane see themselves in relation to it?


I’ve been in glass for 28 years now and started my career with Pilkington before moving onto Hansen Glass and now with AGC Interpane where I’ve been for 8.5 years.  I’m the UK & Ireland Sales Manager for AGC Interpane in Lauenförde and Plattling, a global business focussing on worldwide commercial projects. As to the size of the commercial market, I can’t put a finger on it – it’s huge and we have a good portion of it.

I genuinely would see AGC Interpane at the pinnacle of the UK Commercial market when it comes to glass processing. Our capabilities as an IGU manufacturer stand out particularly when looking at unusual glass requirements; big, thick, complex, technical etc, and then we’re renowned also for the consistency of our product quality. Testament to this is some of London’s landmarks that have our glass – The Shard, 20 Fenchurch Street or the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, 1 Bank Street, 240 Blackfriars, 70 St Mary Axe and 22 Bishopsgate as well as many others.

If you asked me what my personal favourite was, I would have to say Greengate, Manchester.  4-5 years ago, AGC took a controlling stake in our business and as a result we have increased our product range. On this project, there was a specific challenge in terms of performance and visual quality (flatness) – 3.7m heat strengthened laminated units we used, for the flat glass elements, our Stopray Vision 50 coating on cut sizes. For the curved elements our Stopray Vision 50T was used. The Project looks fantastic.


What are you seeing as the top challenges for those specifying glass currently?


AGC Interpane have a very large specification team worldwide working everything from interior glass to envelope glass on category A projects.

I’m involved in specifying at architect and façade engineering level, but my main responsibility is to offer solutions for performance specifications with façade builders.

The majority of specifications I’m working with are performance based but in addition we have to liaise with our customers to ensure that all structural and of course acoustic requirements are met.  I find one of the main challenge’s is to make ensure all parties, client, architect, façade consultant/engineer are in line in terms of what is required. Once this is achieved finding workable solutions can be achieved. This is critical when a level of compromise is required to achieve the resolution. If the façade builder is willing to bring us in early, this process of course is easier. AGC Interpane have a 55 strong team assisting developers and architects in specifying glass requirements, but it goes beyond that.  It’s no good simply specifying a coating; a key glass processor needs to be at the table to advice on size limitations, shape complexity, structural build ups etc. This is where AGC Interpane really wins – specification ability, coating knowledge, and practical manufacturing possibilities.

As to façade consultants, I love them in a bizarre way!  The same way I like assisting a customer to build loyalty, if you can offer support technically to the consultants, they can be your biggest ally. I think if they enter into a project with the mindset they want the project to be built successfully rather than pushing the boundaries on spec alone, then great! There is a danger that consultants are trying to make changes to an industry that are not so necessary. Can’t deny we wouldn’t be where we are unless we had consultants and architects who pushed for change, but certain things introduce unnecessary cost and complexity.


In your opinion, what specifying guidelines are the least understood within the industry?


This isn’t answering your question directly, but I discussed with my Director 3 years ago when seeing a trend of reduced quality for reduced cost, ‘should we follow?’  And without pause the answer was, ‘absolutely not, stick by it, we will win through, quality and performance in managing the projects from start to finish is key!’

This forced us into a drive of pushing for earlier involvement in creating specifications to give us more of a chance in bringing some differentiation through. It’s not so easy to say which is the least understood in specifying glass as each project is so varied, but if you enter early enough into the discussion you can view the whole project in a considered and structured way.


How important do you see early involvement in schemes at planning stages for a glass manufacturer?


Very important!  You know how this works in your own business and Colorminium & AGC Interpane have a good example in Market St, Maidenhead. You committed to us early to help build specifications and inform your tender return which maintained through to delivery. This project worked well and looks great.

The benefits of early engagement are obvious to us as a Supply Chain member, and I believe there are a number of benefits for Colorminium you work a successful supply chain, Benefits for all! I believe it’s key.


Any comments on the future of the façade industry within the UK construction market?


Key thing to watch now is whether the market slows down and I think Brexit will get blamed for it. I feel a slowdown is possible and maybe I can feel this slightly now, but it’s key to not talk ourselves further into it – although the media will do that themselves, just whatever suits their situation!  I do find it interesting how everyone takes a view of London as dictating the market trends, but we are hugely active in Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff for example…it’s not all about London.

Colorminium Interview with Lars Anders from Priedemann Facade Experts


We sat down with Lars Anders, Managing Director of Priedemann to understand his approach to the market and his view of the industry.


How long have you been in the industry and what are some of your stand out projects?


To be honest, I´ve been in the facade industry for nearly my whole lifetime. My father had a locksmith’s shop in Berlin, which I took over and grew up to 55 employees. We had a lot of big projects in the newly reunified Berlin, the whole country was in a gold rush mood. But some clients decided for against paying, or paying later and less, that was fatal for many smaller and owner led businesses. So I turned from manufacturing to consulting and engineering.

With my entry to Priedemann and my engagement as one of the managing directors, we extended our services from consultancy for architects and developers to engineering and advice for the executing players in the construction process. So we used my hands-on experience as well as the knowledge of many in our company who came originally also from facade fabricators.

If you ask me about my biggest project challenges, I remember quite well a long-gone time, the early 90ies. At that time we carried out the work for one of Zaha Hadid´s early projects, in Berlin-Kreuzberg, as the fabricator in charge. That had robbed me of my sleep, but finally it was a great honour and promotion for my young enterprise.

Later followed our first Priedemann shop drawing job for a complex facade design. It was a twisted 220 m tower in Kuwait and a local fabricator took us on board to support him entirely in all issues of production and assembling preparation. By learning the lessons we boosted our knowledge and broke a lot of our own records, not at least due to the thousands of drawings and 3D data files which were needed. In the end, together we reached the aim, in time, quality and budget. Thus I´m absolutely thankful until this days for the trust we received from our client Alico and the architects Norr and Al Jazera.

And yes, we are always brave enough to assume new challenges, as we did it with one of our current projects in Russia, previously for Foster + Partners and now for our Russian client Diamond. It´s the new headquarters for the Russian Copper Company in Ekaterinburg – Siberia, the facade elements are two storey high and measures up to 12 x 6 m. We created a hybrid facade solution with steel and aluminium to tackle the enormous loads up to 6 tonnes per element. Furthermore we redeveloped the fabricators production process, among others by placing welding robots, which we fed with the 3D files we prepared. And now the production is running, it all works and in the meanwhile almost all elements are installed.


The key question…in summary, how do you bring value to your clients and best integrate with the consultant design team?


There is no standard recipe. Projects, team members and the setting of tasks are always different. No matter at which stage, or which party takes us on board, we can get involved in a project anytime.  For us it starts with listening and learning to get an understanding of what is the real demand. As soon as we have that understanding of the initial intent, we can create a tailored facade solution and strategy.

It´s also about the experience what mainly drives a client and for sure it is different if we work for architects or main contractors for instance. As our staff come from almost all parts in the construction sector, we have that grasp to absorb what the client is looking for. And in the long run we have the toughness and capacities to bring the project from the first sketch until finalization up to the last nail on site. The experience from doing and the knowledge from research & development as an integrated part of Priedemann allows us to bring early ideas to their final destination. And simply said it´s always about the right balance between quality, timeline and budget. So the value we are able to add to a certain project, is quite simple. It is not only talking about a nice facade solution, but it is about evolving a comprehensive concept we can really bring to life and which works for the expected building life cycle. And finally to bear the liability for our doing.


What are the top 3 lessons you’ve learnt in your career that facade contractors should adopt?


To make it short:

Firstly: Rely on your experience and learn new lessons. Don´t stuck in a >We have always done it that way< mode.

Secondly: Cherish and care for your proven network but at the same time be open minded for new business.

Thirdly: Focus on your key skills, strengthen and widen them out.


In your opinion, why is it so difficult for façade contractors to survive and thrive in today’s market?


Depends on the market. As practitioners with global experience we’ve learnt a lot and sometimes painful lessons too. But there are not always and everywhere only struggling markets. In Germany we can see a quite reliable market these days, investors appreciate the safe political and economic situation. At the same time we had to find different strategies for our Istanbul office. With that example I want to say, you have to be flexible and it´s pretty helpful to have a further leg to stand on.

The competitors don’t sleep and there are many highly motivated and technological  developed fabricators, just even in Eastern Europe, not to mention the well-known big names. The technological progress is faster than ever and sometimes for smaller companies it´s not easy to bear the necessary investment for machines and knowledge or to follow and take on new trends.


How do you see the role of architects in relation to façade design currently and moving forward?


The architect will remain to be the key person to design a project and to organize and integrate the specialist’s contributions. Pending on a local plot, situation and the certain circumstances he will create the appropriate idea, as he has always done. Design tools like Rhino, Grasshopper, Revit and others may allow him to create free forms and to push the boundaries of well-tried architecture. Maybe he´ll lose more and more his role as the generalist, while always more experts are needed in the construction process. However in the end, especially in an integrated team, he will remain to be the professional who is in charge to bring everything together for the final masterpiece.

Financial Controller shares interesting insights

To learn and establish exactly what the differences between the Construction Industry and other industries are, we sat down with David Raffaelli (Financial Controller).

Having been in the construction Industry for 6 months now, since you started here, what would you say is the biggest difference between the way the oil industry works (where you previously worked) and the way the construction industry operates?

I would say the biggest difference is the offering of the product. This may seem an obvious answer, but in the oil industry, you only really sell one thing, which is oil products (petrol, diesel etc), and there is nothing you can do with that product to really differentiate yourself from your competitor, so price is generally always the number one factor, followed a long way back by service and relationships
In the construction industry, and particularly with what Colorminium are offering, there are several ways you can differentiate your product to gain an advantage on your competitors, and it isn’t necessarily price driven. Certainly, value for money is a key decision factor in any industry, but working with your customer to bring their designs to life, and understanding their needs can be far more valuable to them than a pure bottom line decision.

Having seen and experienced several large and small construction companies over the recent months face financial difficulties and even fall into administration, what is your advice for medium-sized businesses such as ourselves to ensure they have plans in place to remain strong financially in today’s marketplace?

It’s incredibly hard to say without being inside one of those organisations what has gone wrong for them, and I’m sure the story will differ from company to company, but I am a keen believer in the old saying that “cash is king”. I think sometimes companies can focus too much on how much profit they are reporting, without making sure that the cash is also flowing in through the doors. You are nothing without assets, so it is important that you are turning those debtors into liquid assets as soon as you can and have robust contracts and collection processes in place to make sure that you don’t ebb away your hard-earnt work with poor financial processes and practices.
Secondly, I think sustainable growth based on a carefully considered plan is key. It is very easy to take on jobs that can be too big for your organisation, or don’t suit your plans, in order to chase a pay day, but you must consider, do we have the workforce for this? What will this add to our overheads? How will we cover our overheads once this job comes to an end? Sometimes the best business decision can be to turn down work, as tough as it may be, if it doesn’t fit with your goal.

What can you tell us about your experience in working at CLL – would you recommend it to others and what do you feel makes us different from other places you have worked?

Working for Colorminium these last 6 months has been a really good experience. There is almost a perfect balance of the family company that it has grown from, and the professional corporate world which it now competes in. The key thing is that the family feel helps to create a set of values that are different from the generic ones a lot of companies set out and are brought into by the staff that work here – I’m quite proud to think that they saw these values in me during the interview stage!
Adapting to a new job and indeed a new industry can always be a daunting thing, but the team here and the management have been great, always offering insight and knowledge when I have called upon them, and also being keen to listen to ideas I have brought along from outside the industry.
My one complaint is that it took me 21 games to win a game of table tennis… it took me a while to realise that the ‘Play to Win’ value extended to the lunchtime activities too!

From being in the Finance department, why is reporting and in particular cost reporting so essential?

Cost reporting is absolutely essential, in particular where the projects are so sizable and long term, as it brings visibility and control to the projects. If we don’t report accurately on the costs, we may not be aware of them, and if we aren’t aware of them, then we can’t control the money going out of the business or make the necessary decisions on how to reduce/stop the costs occurring, especially those that didn’t need to. Bad money will follow bad money if you aren’t careful, and cost reporting is the key to identifying and controlling this.
It is something that I think is done very well here, and the Quantity Surveyors are able to report on their projects to a low materiality, which helps us to identify our costs, and make good decisions.

So, it is essential that is accurate then, because it gives you more control?

Absolutely, accuracy leads to control, leads to informed decisions. Put another way, if you are provided with poor data, by and large you’ll make poor decisions… if you are provided with good data, that puts you in a position to make good decisions.

Market trends

To find out more about the direction the market is heading, we sat down with Ronnie Myatt (Business Development Manager).

How is the industry changing in terms of the style of buildings being built and does this suit us?

The architecture of today is an ever-changing and evolving piece. There is a continual drive by architects and clients to create buildings that are more sustainable and more efficient. Where we see the effect of this, is that there is far more focus placed upon BREEAM and increased thermal efficiencies needing to be achieved across the façade.

In addition to this, clients are not satisfied with mediocrity when it comes to the design of their buildings which as a result, architects are continuing to push-the-boundaries of what has been achieved before. This in a way, is great for Colorminium because we are known for Engineering the Exceptional when it comes to façade design.  With our focus on innovative design, we can bring great ideas and advice to clients and architects during the early design stages in assisting the development of the façade design.

What’s your favourite project?

That’s a hard question, having been involved with well over 100 schemes, each one is different. But I think personally I would have to say the Emily Wilding Davison Building – Royal Holloway University has to be one of the best. When you look at the building, it really amplifies everything that Colorminium is about. A highly complex façade with numerous interfaces and complexities – to name a few, we had:

  • Inclined front entrance screen with glass panels 7m high by 2m wide
  • Pure folded, perforated, copper cladding
  • Extruded unglazed, Terracotta Baguettes – some 8000m of them!
  • Ceramic Black Granite Cladding
  • Bronze Anodised Cladding forming projecting pods
  • 3 or 4 large rooflights with automatically operated blinds for solar shading
  • Aluminium Anodised Curtain Walling incorporating brise soleil solar shading and opening vents
  • Fire-Rated Facades – the list goes on

It was a project that truly showcased Colorminium’s motto – Engineering the Exceptional. We were given the concrete frame by Osborne the main contractor and we took control of the whole building envelope. The complete façade was Colorminium’s responsibility which is where we score best. All interfacing and design coordination was limited to as fewer trades as possible resulting in us having greater control of the envelope.

Having been involved with the project for some 18 months prior to the project being issued for tender, there was little we didn’t know about the project. We worked closely with Associated Architects in developing the façade design and assisting Faithful + Gould in ensuring the cost plan was aligned to the façade design throughout the Stage 2 & 3 design. When the project finally came out to tender to the main contractors under a two-stage, we provided advice and tender support to all of the main contractors who in return named us in their tender submissions. The process worked well, and we were able to bring value to all the parties involved.

Where do you see the current procurement trends for clients in the industry?

There appears to be a drive from clients at the moment to gain greater insight into project costs far earlier in the design process. Clients are continually getting more frustrated by great aspirational designs that fundamentally cannot be built for the budget. As a result, we are seeing more and more clients wanting façade contractors like ourselves involved during the design process to ensure the cost plan and the façade design are fully aligned.

Why is relationship building so crucial to your role?

As you know, people buy from people and we are continuing to build upon relationships that were created well over 20 years ago with some of the founders of Colorminium. Only the other day, I was speaking to a good friend and client and he shared how he had enjoyed working with Colorminium ever since 1993.

We are in the business of helping people realise their dreams, fulfil their aspirations and achieve their ambitions. The more relationships we can create and the wider the sphere of influence we create, the more people we can help.

What is the biggest macroeconomic factor affecting the market currently?

There are two macroeconomic factors

  • Brexit
  • Change in Government

Both of them we have virtually no control over. Brexit is upon us and there is nothing we can do to change it, however, it would appear that although there was an initial tremor in the industry with a few schemes being delayed or put on hold, in most cases, these schemes are now fully live, and investors are beginning to see past Brexit and realise that the UK and London marketplace in particular is still open-for-business.

A change in government is the one factor which is of most concern, and appears to be the case for a lot of investors and clients we have spoken to. Again, we have little control over if this happens or not, but the outcome could be catastrophic for the industry.


Our partnership with Alban Safety

To establish the value of our partnership with Alban Safety, we interviewed Lloyd Roberts (Managing Director at Alban Safety).

How is the new Colorminium & Alban Safety partnership enhancing or achieving a sustainable behavioural safety culture?

A positive H&S culture can be achieved through the efforts of Colorminium and its management team building good relations with its subcontractors and interacting with the workforce to promote positive change. Alban Safety will work alongside Colorminium to help promote and achieve this goal. Alban Safety run a bespoke Behavioural Safety training programme which could be delivered to your managers at head office, this in turn would give them insight into and how to achieve a positive safety culture across all Colorminium sites.

What are the key challenges our industry is facing through health and safety as we come out of 2017 and head into 2018?

One of the key focuses for 2017 is occupational health which is not surprising as there are over 13,000 deaths every year with the biggest killers being asbestos and silica dust. We envisage well-being as the next big challenge, with mental health issues increasing every year and the construction industry being the main sector for male suicide, it is only right that we focus more on this epidemic and put measures in place to reduce stress levels from the workforce up to management. Worker engagement is also vital and Alban Safety will work hard to promote this with the Colorminium site management teams.

Here at Colorminium, we are excited about some of the initiatives coming out of the new partnership – can you give us some insights as to what we can all expect to see?

We have recently commenced H&S support days which involves a dedicated Alban Safety H&S Adviser supporting the site teams for one day per week. These support days generally entail visiting two sites in one day and the H&S Adviser would help out with documentation and advise on safe working practices. H&S training is also conducted to Colorminium teams as and when required. So far this has been well received and initial feedback from site managers has been positive. Alongside this, we’re also carrying out the regular site inspections and issuing a report to site that requires action and close out. We are also now working closer with Colorminium, the safety leadership team (SLT) and attending meetings at head office once a month. We will also conduct a bi-annual review to discuss general Safety, Health and Environment matters throughout Colorminium and what measures require implementing to achieve safety excellence throughout the business.

In the last year Colorminium have invested heavily into the improving and enhancing of our approach to SHEQ and what are your observations on this?

We have been working alongside Colorminium now for 18 months and have observed Colorminium’s commitment and passion to achieve safety excellence and to promote a positive change. Alban Safety will endeavour to work alongside Colorminium in helping them to achieve the goals and ensure statutory compliance.

What are the key positives from working with the team here at Colorminium?

The key positives for us working with Colorminium is passion and commitment from your top level management, good attitudes towards H&S matters and integrity. This approach helps us immensely as we know that matters are taken seriously at Colorminium and that safety is driven from the top down. This positive attitude then cascades through levels of management and in turn to the workforce. All of this helps to promote a positive culture and safer sites.

Programme Management in Construction

To learn and establish exactly why Programme Management is so essential in Construction, we sat down with Steve Woodcock (Contracts Manager).

Why is programme management so essential?

Delivery timescales in a construction project are as important as the spec, the performance and the quality of the product. They are all contractual obligations that must be achieved, it’s not optional.

What are the factors that can affect the programme most?

Change in my view has the most major impact on any programme or any delivery that I’ve ever made. It almost always results in extending the programme. Change can take many forms, there are client led design changes, design changes which are architect led, specification and performance changes which would be consultant led or even just additional scope or scope creep. When change happens, we all too often focus on the monetary impact of the change and don’t assess the time impact which is equally as important. Time is money! We look at the cost of the materials, the cost of the design and the consultant involvement but we don’t look enough at the time impact and how it is going to affect the delivery of the project. Sequencing of construction activities, can have a huge impact on programme timescales. As an envelope contractor with a lot of interfacing trades, we have to identify interfacing trades on the programme and make it clear what our sequence is: who should be before us and who should follow us on, because if you put everyone in the same area of the building, your efficiency is massively affected, your level of output is dramatically reduced, and you don’t achieve your plan. In summary, unplanned interfacing and partial releases of areas can seriously affect our construction durations

Why are suppliers so key in ensuring the programme is managed correctly and kept on track?

Well we are a Project Management Company, so it is absolutely crucial. We are all about bringing suppliers and consultants together to achieve a façade delivery so it’s crucial we have a supply chain that supports the programme obligations, takes them seriously and ultimately signs up to them. As I said before, to get the product on time, is just as important to get a product of the right specification at the right quality delivered. So, you can’t compromise on any of those factors. Programme is as important as quality and time. So, in summary, we look for suppliers that take the programme obligations seriously, come to the table if there is a problem and look for opportunities to accelerate and work as efficiently as possible.

What are the methods used to ensure a programme is kept on track?

Once the programme is established and signed into, it is all about reporting. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it, that is the same in any budget, whether it is a time-related budget or a cost related budget. At a minimum we need to produce jagged progress reports weekly, so you draw a jagged line down the programme. This gives you a clear view of performance against the plan, from there you discuss with the team about the necessary recovery measures, resource allocation, whatever we need to do to ensure we achieve the planned outputs. Under achieving is not an option.  Resource allocation is absolutely critical to ensure that we keep on track. You must look ahead, you have to look at the resources against each of the activities on the programme to make sure you aren’t planning to fail. Reporting is also a key way to ensure that change is recognised, and the time impact of change is recognised so if you are doing reporting weekly, you look at the impact of the change, you forecast the impact of the change and then you can communicate it – you can talk to your client about. The more time that you are going to need, the more time that they will need so it is a very positive thing and is absolutely vital that it is done routinely and clearly and the whole team gets to input into it.


How we differentiate ourselves throughout the sales process.

To learn and establish exactly what our key characteristics are that make us different throughout the sales process, we sat down with Scott Price (Sales Manager).

What characteristics does Colorminium possess that sets us apart from other sub-contractors when we are quoting for a project?

I’ll start by saying it’s about our technical ability and our experience and diversity in providing bespoke solutions, but with a value engineered approach for our clients. This would predominantly be the way we would approach our schemes but above all it’s about our people. We have a unique set of people, they are our point of differentiation in the market and with a high proportion of our business being from repeat clients it bears this out. I would say that would be the key characteristic that we possess that brings customers to us, followed closely by our technical ability and experience.

How has our approach towards clients changed and improved to attract the clients to use us more since you have been at Colorminium?

I have been at Colorminium for a number of years now and we have seen the market approach fundamentally change. We aren’t in the game of competitive tendering any more as we like to work a much longer process where the collaboration is higher and our approach is more geared around the front-end offering. That brings true value in terms of combining consultancy with mainstream contracting. The comfort the client gets from this is that we can provide designs that meet their aspirations that are covered by our insurance through the delivery process and backed by warranties afterwards – they wouldn’t get this with a consultant.

What would you say that the main things clients would consider which company to go with, other than price are, and how do we reflect these attributes?

Very good question and I would start firstly with attitude.  It’s about how you approach the project and about how you align yourself with the client’s aspirations. Then I would say next of course comes your competence and track record; as a company have you physically delivered one of these before for a similar style client, in a similar style location – that means a lot in terms of giving the client the comfort that you have the competence to deliver. I would follow thirdly with technical ability. Everything we do has to be underpinned and approved by a high level of technical expertise to make sure the designs we engineer are physically capable of what they are meant to do. And lastly, I would say financial standing.  Being in the façade industry for over 40 years, with a cash-rich balance sheet, free of debt, gives a huge competitive advantage when clients can see the strength in depth of our company with the resource that’s needed to deliver a scheme.

What would you say about consistency in service to clients – and that being a main reason that clients would come to us?

Consistency is key, that’s another area where we stand out.  The culture and service that we provide to our customers and the dedication to personal relationships result in a large volume of repeat business.  The measure of our repeat business is about 80% of our income stream and that is a huge testament to the way that we service our clients.  It doesn’t mean that in contracting there isn’t the highs and lows and the pressures of live project environments, but the consistency in approach and the reliability of the persons involved is very important.

How do you ensure that you maintain a good reputation throughout a quote and dealings with clients?

Okay, this is a good question. The fundamental thing for us at this point of the process is communication.  At any given point does our client know where we are in the process of a tender or quotation and are they able to tap in and influence that?  Often the style and size of the projects we get involved with, could have a lead in just for the quote of 4-6 weeks, and it’s vital to us that we maintain communication with the client throughout the process.  There are key milestones where we engage to ensure that when the quote is received, its aligned with what they’ve asked us to do.  If we didn’t communicate, it would be very easy to get off track during that process. I think it’s very important that clients do feel that level of service and it actually ultimately eases the process into contract at the end.

What would you say that we offer as consultants?

This is where our business model is a bit of a game-changer. We have morphed over the past few years from being a run of the mill mainstream sub-contractor to getting involved much earlier in the project process. This is often before a principal contractor is involved, and at a very early stage of the design process. This finds us working alongside consultants in terms of delivering the scheme from a compliance point of view and what’s important here is that the client is assured and restful that where they are spending their money, in terms of design and ensuring compliance, is measured and informed.  What I would finish by saying to that question is that ultimately, they need to think about where the delivery sits in terms of the warranties and professional indemnity insurance so they have the back up and the comfort should something happen down the line. That’s where we can really make a difference as a business by adding it to our delivery offering over and above pure consultancy.

Colorminium and Client Relationships

To learn more about how we manage our client relations, we sat down with Steve Sharp (Commercial Manager at Colorminium) to find out how we approach relationships with our clients to ensure they remain happy throughout the project duration.


How do we deliver value for clients?

Our aim is to work closely with our Clients as early as possible within the life-cycle of the project. Often this is with the Design Team and other Consultants to bring the concept design to the table within the parameters of their cost plan. Throughout the process we also take a very pro-active approach to best value, offering options to the client which may help reduce costs but maintain the integrity of the building in terms of look and feel. With our preferred supply chain partners, we can work with them to ensure we deliver the highest possible quality whilst keeping within time and cost restraints of the project.


In your role you are tasked with creating long lasting, strong relationships with clients. How do you achieve that?

Our business is people to people. Relationships are the most important part of the jigsaw in my eyes and it’s therefore essential for us to establish a valued relationship with our clients from the outset. From here, it is very important that we maintain regular dialogue with our clients – listening to any issues they have that we may be able to help with and also sharing any issues or concerns we have.  Relationships are built on trust and this is borne out of transparency with both good and bad news! Should we come up against any challenges once the project is live, we always have a plan to overcome which we then share with our clients and make sure they are aligned with our plan. We pride ourselves on the volume of repeat work we have with our existing clients. That is the simplest way to measure whether you have successfully built long lasting strong relationships with clients.


What do we do to ensure a project is running to our high standards?

As mentioned previously, we work very closely with our Clients and Design Teams to resolve any constraints or issues that may jeopardise the high standards we wish to achieve. If we think there is potentially a better solution, we will discuss with the Design Team and help them develop alternative options which all parties will benefit from. Coordination is another key element during the process which, if not instigated early on in the design process with other trades, can have a negative impact on achieving high standards. We aim to not only coordinate with other trades as early as possible, but to become part of the ‘project family’ and in this process, reduce the likelihood of reduced standards.


If a project experiences an issue, what do we do to rectify it?

It should come as no surprise that the majority of projects do experience some issues, that’s the nature of construction. But we never go to our clients with issues, we go to them with solutions. Whether this is in the early design stages or late in the construction phase, we are always looking ahead for any obstacles that may hinder our progress. With a proactive attitude in this area, issues can usually be resolved relatively easily without causing to much of a distraction.  A mantra we run at Colorminium is, it’s not how a horse falls, it’s how it gets up.


What do you think you offer that promotes repeat custom and makes clients love working with Colorminium?

Getting involved in projects at the early stages really helps us understand our clients vision. When we are engaged in a project at this stage, we can really help drive this to make sure their vision becomes a reality in what we produce. We build relationships with the project team from day one and throughout the project. Our proactive nature and attitude alongside our experience and knowledge with our supply chain partners allows us to thrive on a project. This is what the clients love about us and is the reason we have so much repeat work from them.


Why do you believe Colorminium are better at the commercial process than others?

I like to think we do all we can to accommodate our clients needs. Regardless of whether they want to change a lock on a door or an entire elevation, we will always work through the options to ensure that the client gets what they want. From a commercial aspect, we also aim to get the final account wrapped up before we complete works on site. We try not to make this a distraction for our clients which allows them to really enjoy the completion of the project. When we complete a project and the client turns around, shakes your hand and says “thank you for all your hard work, we really couldn’t of done this without you”, that is when we know we have done a good job.


Colorminium Move to Chelmsford – 2 Months On

To commemorate the move to our Chelmsford offices, we sat down with Ian Price (Founder of Colorminium) to find out if the move was the right decision and if it has had an impact during this short space of time.


Does this new office space reflect Colorminium’s core values?

I think it totally reflects our core values. To care for our staff is our top priority because we are a people business. People to people is where we win. I firmly believe that you can feel the passion flowing, it creates an energetic environment, that is what Colorminium is. The more we look after our people, the more we bond together, the more we knit together helps to make the entity in which we work in thrive and become stronger.


Why did you decide this type of work environment would be suitable for Colorminium?

It provides a great collaboration area for cross fertilisation of ideas. It creates a variety of ambience in the building, we’ve got the breakout area, railway carriages, quiet rooms and various meeting rooms, which gives a completely different feel. Depending on the type of meeting you are planning, either with clients or colleagues, you can choose the type of environment that best suits the nature of the conversation you need to have.

I think we’ve won by having all the different types available to us. It’s the modern approach to working that you find in offices in the city.


During the design process, we worked closely with Envoplan to ensure the office would accommodate all our needs. Do you think they got it right?

Envoplan opened our eyes. The “habit action study” was a new experience for us but proved hugely beneficial in providing meaningful insight into the different types of working environment we would need in a new office space. Envoplan sat down with us and looked in depth at our business model and how we functioned on a day-to-day basis. They really drew out from us the type of environment we needed. It was new to us, but they are experts in their field and I am an advocate for what they have done because I think it has been world class.

We now get a lot of comments from visitors to the office who say how much they like it. Candidates for job roles have come in and said that they can feel the energy in the office and that they want to be a part of it.

Envoplan absolutely got it right.


How do you see this workspace helping Colorminium to achieve some key objectives?

An ongoing aim of ours is to recruit top talent, that is something we are really pushing for with these new premises. This new vibrant and exciting atmosphere is really the type of environment that up and coming prospects want to work in and want to be a part of.

We are all about pushing boundaries through creativity. This new creative environment helps the team to work more collaboratively and bounce ideas off one another, which is already evident in some of our current projects. This space gives us further opportunities to learn from each other, we have highly skilled and qualified staff with a wealth of knowledge, we now have a premises that allows us to teach each other far more easily.

Celebrating 40 Years of Colorminium

To celebrate 40 years of Colorminium, we sat down with Ross Price (Managing Director at Colorminium) to find out how Colorminium has stood the test of time and how the industry has changed. 


Colorminium is 40 this year. You must be very proud of what the company has achieved?

We are very proud of our legacy. You only have to look over the London skyline to see the impressive array of projects we’ve worked on over the years, utilising different styles, materials and designs.

We’ve had 40 years of success, but we always feel we have more to learn, and more challenges to face, which will help us grow and advance as a company. We can never sit back and say, ‘we’ve made it!’, because there is always room for improvement.

We question what we do, why we exist, and we genuinely believe that through our contribution, we add value for clients with buildings that enable them to enhance their public profile or attract and retain staff.


How has Colorminium withstood the test of time?

Passion and being a family-owned company. Our passion for what we do is inherited, passed down through the generations. We have strong core values and an integrity that goes back to my grandfather who insisted that ‘our word is our bond’. We have customers going back 25 years to my dad’s generation who will say ‘Ian does what he says’.

Customers never forget honesty – they remember the traits and culture of a particular company because its what sets them apart. Honesty comes naturally to us – its not a strategy its just who we are. We are not interested in making a quick buck.


Over the years have you noticed any particular trends or fashions in design or materials?

I’ve worked over the years on site and in factories and I do remember a time when, for example, blackened aluminium was all the rage.  Everyone wanted it!

Dark glass was another trend – You often see buildings particularly those designed in the 70s and 80s featuring green and darker shades of glass, whereas the current trend is for transparent glass.

Interestingly, bronze is a material that is in a revolving cycle – it was very popular years ago, then out of fashion, but is now once again in high demand.

Anodised material is currently popular – dark bronze anodised, which we have in our own reception. Its replaced a trend for powder coated finishes.

We used to do a lot of curtain walling but now it is all about unitised glazing. It makes a lot of sense because it can be constructed off-site, in a more controlled environment. Its great for constrained urban sites which require tight logistical control. Storing materials is an issue – particularly in London – so being able to bring in complete projects and crane them into place is ideal. It’s a construction method that is evolving, though perhaps not at the pace currently required.

We do find that many architects are really pushing the boundaries of design and testing the technology and capabilities of materials. We see designs which require bigger panes of glass, so slimmer aluminium frames for example. Design is pushing the industry to be more innovative in achieving the desired finish.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry?

There is a skills shortage I think. I also believe that we need to bring in other specialists from different industries and backgrounds.

In some ways our industry is a little archaic.  In the automotive industry for example, cars are simply not built in the same way they were 20 years ago, they use robotic production lines and very little manual labour. By comparison the construction industry builds a concrete frame in London pretty much the same way as it did 20 years ago.

We need to bring young blood into the industry, possibly via digital technologies. We need to harness some of that energy to create great, fun jobs in construction. We need to engage young people via schools and colleges by offering apprenticeships and explaining the benefits of working in this sector. A lot of young people will thrive in this industry – they just need to be guided to it.

Brexit is a challenge, of course. We need to overcome the current uncertainty to encourage the ongoing investment which will drive development.