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Interview with Albion Nord's Project Manager for Industry Tips

Establishing a design programme from the beginning sets the tone from the very get go. Here we talk with one of London's best Project Managers about the importance of a programme and how to create one.

Albion nord
July 14, 2022

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Hi Anthony! Thanks for your time and lovely to meet you!

 

Hi Lori. Likewise, really love to meet you and I must start by saying how much we enjoy working with Portaire. A wonderful collection of products.

 

1.    Can you tell us about your career journey to date.

 My career started about 20 yrs ago in Sydney, Australia when I joined a medium size construction company out of university. Here I learned the fundamentals of building. How to read drawings in a real life / real time setting, how a build project is pieced together and in what order. Also, how long it took to perform various tasks. More so, I learned to ‘speak construction’ to those undertaking the works. An invaluable period in my career.  

I then moved into Project Management for several years before moving to London. I took my project delivery skillset ‘client-side’ and worked as a Development Manager initially for a one of the UKs largest privately owned developers and then with a family office overseeing the delivery of their central London portfolio.

Finally I moved over to Candy and Candy (to become CPC), and again managed the delivery of luxury residential projects in Central London.

In 2017 I launched Albion Nord with my business partners, and we design and deliver some of London’s most beautiful homes.  

 

Albion Nord team (left to right) Ben Johnson, Ottalie Stride, Anthony Kooperman, Milly Clarke.

2.    How long ago did you set up Albion Nord and can you tell us about the studio.

We set up Albion Nord in 2017. So about four and half years ago now. The studio is 14 strong, and comprises a mix of architects, interior architects / designers,FF&E designers, CGI artist, procurement manager and of course myself as a development or project manager.

We focus predominantly on the residential and hospitality sectors and mostly within Prime Central London. Though we do have projects in the countryside and abroad.

Our style is focussed on creating properties and interiors with a sense of understated luxury, timeless design and filled with palettes and unique furniture and art that ensures we are creating unique homely spaces.

 

3.    What has been the best career moment for you?

There have been many over the years. But setting up Albion Nord was certainly a key moment in my career. And the company has gone from strength to strength which is something we are very proud of.

In terms of projects, I would say either the Chelsea Barracks Townhouses or the Benham Park project.

The Barracks was our first landmark projects which somehow managed to complete in the height of Covid lockdown. Given the state of the world during 2020 achieving what we did on site was truly remarkable.

And Benham Park we both designed and project managed. 30,000 sqft period mansion the countryside.

Living Room in Chelsea Barracks

Living Room in Chelsea Barracks

Outside of Benham Park

Outside of Benham Park

Library in Benham Park

4.    Overseeing designers all day, what do you see is the biggest issue to manage?

We have pretty good systems in place so our designers know what sort information they need produce at what design stage and when this information will be due.

Setting up the programme in the first place is generally tricky – ensuring sufficient time allocated but also ensuring we work to set milestones. The balance of time to creative freedom is challenging.

 

5.    As a project manger how important is establishing a design programme from early on?

It is critical to any project to set up the programme early. The programme sets out all the key milestones and gives structure to the creative process.

A coordinated programme, so one that dovetails into the wider design team, should hold a project on course from start to completion.

Setting out key milestone is the only way to focus the mind on performing tasks holistically. By this I mean ensuring one is focussed on the big picture – who is relying on this piece of design information so that the remaining tasks on the critical path are met.

On a purely commercial basis, a programme is key to ensure we do not over commit on resource allocation. Our designers have a pipeline of work, so hitting a programme milestone and moving onto the next task/project is important for my business management.  

 

 6.    Can you talk us through how you establish a design programme?

 We use an adapted version of the RIBA design Stages 0-4 + construction and an FF&E Procurement period.

 We establish the brief from our client, then set out the design stages and how many weeks we believe each stage should take.

  

7.    During the design process, when you change the design programme how do you manage the clients expectations with delays?

We try not to change the design programme. The programme we submit at fee tender stage is the programme we stick to (our resource and fee are tied into it).

The programme tends to only change / is prolonged when there are client requests / changes beyond the original scope. We try to absorb these wherever possible but in some instances we do reset the programme and issue to the client.


At each major change request, we project the delay to the interior design programme and the impact on the wider project programme, and set this out for the client. They can then decide how important this change is to the project.

 

8.    Any tips you would give to designers on creating a programme for a project.

Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the creative process. And for your client to enjoy the process.

Set out the process in design stages. It is key for each stage to be considered, reviewed, presented, commented, updated and resubmitted for approval. Then moved onto to the next stage.

Don't rush through the design stages or skip stages if the programme is short. You will get caught out.

A lot of clients have unrealistic expectations of design duration, or want to ‘get to site as quickly as possible’.  Set out realistic periods for each stage.

Keep the programme clear and simple. Use colours to show each stage, set out the deliverables on the same page, or separately first, so you can allocate durations to each deliverable. This will building up your total stage duration.

 

9.    Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work? 

To someone looking to pursue a similar line of work – be true to your own design style. There will be clients out there who want you for your own style. Individuality will set you apart.

And enjoy it all – don’t be a slave to your clients. If they make your life difficult, the project is probably not worth it. There are plenty of lovely clients out there who will enjoy the journey as much as you should!

Family Room at Mulberry Square in Chelsea Barracks

Kitchen at Whistler Townhouse in Chelsea Barracks

Living Room in Holland Park

Hallway at Benham Park

Sitting Room at Benham Park

Cinema at Benham Park
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