Words by Greg Lomas
Photos by Edmund Sumner
Originally published in RIBA Commercial Directory
Standing out from the crowd is not always easy so developing and promoting your strengths is key.
When we started Foster Lomas we initially focused on private residential work but as the practice matured we discovered an opportunity to develop our own housing scheme in Dulwich. We had some commercial experience working for developers but crossing the divide and becoming developers ourselves was a step change.
Embarking on this journey was risky even on a modest four-unit scheme like ours and the learning curve was steep. In the space of 24 hours we became the client, contractor and developer in addition to being the architect.
Appreciating that once the site purchase is complete, time is quite literally money, the clock is ticking, brings a focus to the architectural design process. But whilst the experience was on occasion painful and chastising, surviving it has given us the confidence to promote ourselves to new sectors. This has enabled us to expand our portfolio to include some unusual and challenging commissions such as a hotel in Bangladesh and a Visitor Centre on the Isle of Man.
What we learnt during the process now provides us with an edge as we are able to better assess the viability of new sites through hard-won knowledge of the commercial pressures that developers face. We were acutely aware of these pressures when selling the properties in the highly charged political climate of the 2016 referendum, culminating in a sale falling through on the 24th June that year.
We promote this experience and it provides a positive connection when talking to new commercial clients on the basis that yes, we have an insight through experience but equally that we had the drive and vision to do it ourselves.
Now as we near the revised Brexit date and the political climate reaches boiling point again, we face a new post Brexit world and how we as a profession promote and adapt ourselves will be increasingly important.
The RIBA Commercial directory can play a role in this, placing your service within its context in one well-structured location that is a genuine research tool for commercial clients and developers.