It’s a time of milestones for Sheppard Robson and the practice is very much looking to the future as it enters its fifth generation of ownership. And with architect numbers and turnover both up on last year, the practice is proving resilient to the omnipresent concerns of Brexit.
‘In the context of the political uncertainties, it’s been a very good year,’ says partner Alan Shingler. ‘We exceeded our budget of £25 million turnover with £26.5 million.’ He adds that the practice’s Glasgow and Manchester offices were particularly busy, with London stable.
The practice has surely been helped by the diversity of its work, and its success at building long-term client relationships – in 2018, 81.5 per cent of its turnover was for repeat clients. Although higher education, offices and commercial remain its three largest sectors, Sheppard Robson has recently successfully diversified into hotels and is also involved in mixed-use projects in both the commercial and education sectors, including a number of repurposings of regional shopping centres.
‘We’re always looking to invest and improve and to seek better opportunities,’ says Shingler. ‘There’s opportunity through change and there’s certainly change in the retail market, and that’s somewhere that we’re looking to utilise our skillset.’
Sheppard Robson’s recent key completions reflect the breadth of its work, from the £45 million Collaborative Teaching Laboratory at the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus through to a new civic centre for Hounslow and the timber-framed Hardman Pavilion occupied by The Ivy restaurant in Spinningfields, Manchester. In Sctoland, the practice is on site with its 2,500-student Barony Campus, which consolidates five schools on one site in East Ayrshire. Its interiors division ID:SR completed major fit-outs for BBC Cymru Wales in Cardiff, which opens next year, and Deloitte’s 1 New Street Square. The latter is the world’s first WELL Gold/BREEAM Outstanding dual-certified office fit-out.
Reflecting on the practice’s continued success, Shingler points to its high rate of staff retention and the fact that 10 per cent of its current team are returners.
‘Fundamentally it comes down to the culture of the place,’ he says. ‘It’s a fun place to work but also challenging and professionally rewarding.’ He adds: ‘The practice has always tried to grasp opportunities for projects that are innovative at that particular moment.’ Current areas of potential include modern methods of construction, co-working environments and ways to address the housing shortage.
‘We don’t stand still. We do innovate. We do want to be progressive in our design,’ he says.
Looking ahead to the current year, the signs are positive. While clients have lately become more cautious of making long-term commitments, Shingler nonetheless expects to see an upturn in work in the capital while cautioning of the need to be able to respond quickly to market changes.
‘We’re seeing optimism returning to London,’ he says. ‘We think we’re going to be busier than last year.’