Focus On Mark Wilson: Chartered Architectural Technologist at Design Office Architectural Ltd

Focus On Mark Wilson: Chartered Architectural Technologist at Design Office Architectural Ltd

For the second article in our ‘Focus On’ blog series, I spoke to Mark Wilson of Design Office Architectural Ltd and BD Expert.

Tell us a little about yourself…
I am a Chartered Architectural Technologist and passionate about getting building design right; not only the aesthetic, but the way the design and assembly of materials that form the building or building part, work together to form the detail, and the way the details work together to form that large picture.

My practice Design Office Architectural Ltd began over fourteen years ago. I started out as a one man operation and have had no cause to alter that set up. Over that period my daily routine has altered significantly; largely as a result of developments in communications technology - with email, and more recently social media. I suppose the latter is still something you can either choose to do, or simply opt out. But email!? The greatest loss must have been to the post office, as I think I last bought a stamp around three years ago. Everything has a positive, unless you are trying to reshape the postal service.

How do you work on a day to day basis?
My day always starts early, around 7.00am at the computer screen. I like to think that if I can sit down and begin addressing the day then I can get a head start on trying to get email out of the way. But now I also have Twitter and LinkedIn to deal with as well. The election to do social media, albeit on a limited scale, went hand in glove with my plan to promote my new website. But this was not a website to promote my practice, but a planned information hub to source useful information from across the web, and put it all in one place for use by fellow industry professionals. Why? - A question I often ask myself. Ultimately it comes down to a simple realisation of a long term goal to do something useful with the wealth of information, knowledge and experience that we middle aged professionals accumulate.

Who do you work closely with?
As a lone operation I end up as the archetypal chief, cook and bottle washer. I tend to interact on all levels with all walks of our industry, although my main contact is with clients whose projects I am almost always at a variety of differing stages with. This is the only way having a variety and number of projects on the go all at once works. If they all ran concurrently, they would all need to be submitted for planning at the same time, which would make my one man existence impossible instead of just mad.

Some jobs have a habit of just dying, after feasibility, or at various stages of planning. Often for a variety of reasons, not always, in fact rarely in my control. After all why would I want a job to die? But acceptance of this is part of professional life's rich tapestry. The greatest loss, after my fee income, is generally to the supply chain that includes product manufacturers and contractors of all persuasions.

What resources do you use regularly?
I utilise ArchiCAD software for building model production from the smallest domestic extension, to office, light industrial and small retail developments. Sharing this information with the wider world has never been easier, quicker or cheaper given the accommodation of common file formats, such as PDF, across all computer platforms, and the magic of the inter-web. I'm afraid to say that I now could not work nearly as well without it. So, apart from my essential software, the world wide web is one of my key tools, and all via the gateway of my most essential Apple iMac computer. When I last had a real job I had a computer and a drawing board, but it got to the stage where the best use of the parallel motion was to stop all the file paper falling off the board, and if I angled the board just right, it would nicely support a mug of tea.

My website has paid more dividends than I could have hoped for initially, as in populating it I get to undergo the most incredible process of CPD. Plus the resources are just what I need too. Of course I don't need to read the blogs, or listen to the podcasts, although I do a podcast every now and then, when I think I am up to listening to my own voice for thirty minutes plus; usually during some exercise, or a car journey. I am always amazed at how straight forward the whole website thing is. If someone had told me three years ago that I would be producing audio podcasts for the construction industry that were being downloaded via iTunes in over a dozen countries, I would have informed them that they needed to see a doctor.

How do you specify products and keep up to date with the latest news?
One of the best, and most useful, features of the website is the product search and notification sections. The current homepage, which of course I visit every day, provides a great 'heads up' on the latest product news, and when I need something more specific, the product search page ticks that box. The whole package is powered by Barbour, who agreed to let me incorporate their system within the web site from day one. I had been a recipient of Barbour's compendiums for decades, so the inclusion of their online system just works for me.

Having identified the manufacturer, product or system that I would prefer to use, or think I would prefer to use, it becomes a case of ensuring that the costs are in line with the client's budget, and then possibly entering into the world of the 'push-me-pull-you' to try and make the jigsaw fit.

And finally, what are your suggestions for the future of specification?
Barbour provides one of the better online product search facilities, and there's enough of them out there. But no search facility can turn up every possibility for us specifiers. But it seems there needs to be more consistency with the search facilities, and/or the information provided by them from the manufacturers. In these days of BIM there is an increasing demand by specifiers for a more intense level of detail about the products, finishes, fixings and who knows what else. This may have been done to death, but probably a leaf out of the good old NBS information provision would act as a good yardstick for the level of information required. If there was a consensus on common ground in this regard that made it a simple copy and paste exercise to populate a specification. Those manufacturers would have a head start. If only they would think along the lines of actually making it easy to specify their products…….. I will leave you with that thought.

Mark Wilson, BD Expert

Further information

Take a look at Mark’s website, BD Expert, or follow him on Twitter, @BD_Expert. You can also contact Mark here.

Do you specify building products?
If you’re interested in featuring your company in our ‘Focus on’ blog series, or would like more information about Barbour Product Search, please contact Grace Lewis, Interim Editor:

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