A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by S C H D's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from S C H D is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
34 | SCHD
Simon Hurst, managing director
New pool building
SCHD Ltd is a small architectural practice; in fact, they only
employ one individual: the director, Simon Hurst. His success
has come as a result of the company’s flexibility, and his
ability to call upon as many freelance part-time consultants as
necessary depending on the workload. This has meant they have
been able to focus on projects without considering workforce
restrictions, whatever the size, and outsource manpower to meet
requirements. From their headquarters in Walthamstow, London,
SCHD carry out projects that range from £50,000 to £5 million.
I trained at the University of Bath, then the Prince of Wales’ Institute of
Architecture, and was awarded a scholarship from the Society for the Protection of
Ancient Buildings 20 years ago. This has provided me with a very specific group of
skills which are especially pertinent when looking at traditional architectural design
and the conservation of historic buildings. Our practice is known for high-end
residential work, spanning from traditional or classical new builds to alterations or
extensions for listed buildings.
After working with a larger practice for a few years, I then decided to set up my
own architecture firm to concentrate on projects that had more affinity with my
interests. We began with small projects, accrued mainly through the Yellow Pages
or the Royal Institute of Architects’ directory. Over the years, recommendations
from previous customers or other consultants we’ve met along the way have
generated new leads and a growing network.
»Managing director: Simon Hurst
»Established in 2001
»Based in London
»Services: Architecture
»No. of employees: 1, plus 5
part-time consultants
»Other directorships: TheArt
Workers’ Guild Trustees
Limited, The Drake Trust
35SCHD |
Works we have undertaken over
the past 17 years have included
the remodelling of a large Grade
II* listed property in Chelsea, and
continued works to the Grade II* listed
premises of the Art Workers’ Guild
in Bloomsbury; this included a new
glazed cast-iron roof over a courtyard
there to improve its usability.
In addition to this, our new-build
projects have included a new country
house near Basingstoke, and a new
Cotswolds farmhouse complex
complete with a new indoor swimming
pool, cart sheds and a carriage house,
all in the style of the local area.
More recently, works have included
designing new housing for developers
ranging from 2 to 30 buildings per
site. As a sideline, however, we
have bought, renovated, and rented
or sold properties as an additional
Office set-up
The “virtual office” we utilise relies
heavily on the responsible use of
technology and good management
of time. It is generally manned by one
person, myself, with the freelance
consultants operating from their own
homes or small offices. By working
with CAD software, drawings can all
be easily shared via email between the
part-time draughtsmen and women, so
that they can all work remotely.
By sharing files over the internet, our
various consultants need not actually
ever meet, but can still work together
with all co-ordination carried out in the
London office. Of course, without staff
present altogether in one space, we do
require good management to ensure
all work outsourced is produced on
time. It’s difficult – you cannot stand
over someone’s shoulder and provide
the necessary encouragement when
a deadline is looming with the office
format we use.
The main benefits of our remote
staff team, most of whom only work
part-time, is that the office running
costs are very low; there are no large
monthly wage bills to pay out, even
if income fluctuates. This means that
it does not matter if workloads vary
month on month, as outsourced
labour costs are directly related to the
work in hand at that time.
Maintaining a consistent workload
is nearly impossible, but having a
relatively niche unique selling point
helps. We can provide sensitive
intelligent traditional design or
alteration work, and we have required
no advertising to provide sufficient
business. Sometimes it is just enough
for one person, but it can often in
a certain month require nearly all
the consultants to be called upon to
meeta deadline.
New Regency-style
country house
We have
renovated, and
rented or sold
properties as
an additional
income stream
Highlighting best practice
36 | SCHD
The specialisation has also given us the
ability to ride the rises and dips in the
market. As we operate in a niche field
of expertise, our area seems to have
been less volatile when it comes to
influences within the wider economy.
For example, when the recession first
hit, there seemed to be a change
in the type of building work that
was continuing apace; commercial
projects were more likely to be put
on hold, whereas, generally, wealthy
individuals were perhaps staying put
in their current homes rather than
moving, and altering or extending
Procuring work
On the subject of finding work, as
mentioned above, we have been
largely passive. Almost all new jobs
rely on early clients’ recommendations
and this has so far provided a network
that can grow the business. It has
meant, however, that we have been
somewhat typecast into a particular
field of work – the renovation of old
properties. In recent years, this has
involved substantial remodelling and
even new-build work, but not as
much as we would like. We have seen
a real challenge in trying to market
the business to more potential new-
build clients, and this is where we are
looking to head.
In order to move the business in this
new direction, we have worked on
some modern strategies. We have
tried both Google Ads and Yell, but
they have ultimately proven to be
unsuccessful. The problem seems
to be our demographic; the type of
customers that might be looking to
commission an architect for, say, a new
country house probably have friends
who have already done so. As a result,
personal recommendations lead to
further commissions. Trying to target
specific audiences is now the direction
we are taking; time will tell if this
pays off. Social media can be a free or
cheap way of raising exposure, so we
use both Instagram and Facebook to
post images of works carried out. It
has not led to new enquiries thus far,
but we are hopeful.
Lessons to learn
Though we may not be a typical
architectural practice, we feel that the
work SCHD has completed since 2001
has proven three things. These are:
»Having a USP can generate its own
income stream.
»Running a virtual office means
cashflow can cease to be an issue.
»Diversifying can augment income.
Going forwards, we are hoping that
we acquire more new-build work, and
want to keep completing projects to
the high quality and standards that we
have become renowned for.
Our niche field
of expertise
has helped us
to ride the
rises and dips
in the market
New glazed cast-iron
framed roof at the Art
Workers’ Guild


This article was sponsored by S C H D. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy