Last edited 05 Jul 2021

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Brewer Smith Brewer Group London Office

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Contents

[edit] Introduction

Brewer Smith Brewer Group (BSBG) is an international architectural practice founded in 1976, with offices in Dubai, Vietnam and a recently established office in London, made up in no small part by those with a passion for Architectural Technology. I spoke with two of the staff about the vision, day-to-day and future of the London office.

[edit] Emphasis on Architectural Technology

Shaham Ahmed, BSBG Head of Studio London, explains that when the firm entered the UK market (originally in 2017), it brought with it a new level of expertise in project delivery, and a depth of understanding of how to realise design intent. There was a gap that existed in London and they were keen to fill it. He says: “BSBG is known internationally for strength in delivery of very complex buildings, and we saw a real need for this in London.”

BSBG’s delivery solution is achieved in no small part with the help of Chartered Architectural Technologists. Shaham tells me that they are vital to the success of the practice. “From day one, we know how the structure is going to work,” he says. “That puts us in quite a strong position in the market.”

Collaboration between Chartered Architectural Technologists and architects is important – they work side by side at the practice – and this allows them to deliver some eye-catching projects.

James Spitzer ACIAT, a Senior Architectural Technologist at the firm tells me about one he has been working on – a five-star hotel in Mayfair not far from the Ritz. It is a conversion of 15 joint townhouses which has no doubt seen his skills as an AT come into their own. “I’d say compared to the other places I’ve worked, BSBG definitely has more of a technical delivery focus, which is where our strength is,” he tells me.

Chartered Architectural Technologists at the firm are often involved in the drawing work, technical reviews, QAQC reviews and make visits to site. Their work is interesting and varied.

[edit] Pandemic operations

I am keen to know how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the office’s operations.

When I speak to Shaham and James in October 2020, employees are splitting their time between working from home and going into the office. Shaham tells me that it has “its challenges and advantages,” and James fleshes this out. He points to the benefits of “more flexibility” and “less distractions” and talks about how MS Teams calls can be a more efficient way to communicate than meetings but misses “get[ting] together around a table” where you can “put your heads together”.

James points out that both the Dubai and Vietnam offices had been collaborating with London on projects for some time prior pre-COVID-19. This meant the practice was well prepared for a seamless shift to more remote working when the pandemic hit.

James points out that both their Dubai and Vietnam offices have collaborated with them on projects for some time. James tells me: “It is very easy at the moment, because you have BIM 360... you have Revit... you just log on to your computer, open Revit, open the model... you can open it from home. Dubai can access it. It is a very straightforward process.”

[edit] Training challenges

Like many businesses, the company is likely to opt for a hybrid approach after the pandemic.

Shaham points out that one thing that it is harder to provide remotely is training. Mentoring less experienced employees is much more difficult. He says: “If you have more junior staff, talking to them, teaching them, providing guidance and support – that’s something you can’t do online.”

Training is something that is important to the office. Processes are still being developed, but one thing that is already vital is finding out from staff what they need and where they see themselves going. Staff sit down regularly with their managers and discuss which kinds of work and software packages they want or need to learn more about. The practice then tries to accommodate this as they are assigned to projects.

The practice and office are holding up well through COVID-19. As Shaham looks to the future, he tells me that the office is keen to be involved in both the design and delivery of many more exciting projects. Given what they have achieved in just a few years in the UK market, BSBG is surely a practice to watch.


This article originally appeared in the Architectural Technology Journal (at) issue 137 published by CIAT in spring 2021. It was written by James Evans, Communications & Digital Administrator.

--CIAT

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