George Allingham, Builder

George Allingham of Gransden Constructions talks about working with Suzie and the style of home they’ve built together.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about what it’s like to work with Suzie and describe those projects?

Bedfordale House, Architect Suzanne HuntIt’s lots of fun and very interesting working with Suzie. We do very exclusive and bespoke luxury homes. We’re allowed to use the absolute best materials that we can find. That’s great fun to do. She allows us to excel at what we do. All the tradespeople realize that.

For example, we did a job up in the Hills and the stonework on that job was significant. The external stonework on that job was very much hands on and took almost a year to do, but that was just the start of the home, one component of it.

Suzie always has a good sense of humor and is very focused on the clients. She’s probably one of the few architects who expends an enormous amount of energy on-site and with the client. Some architects like to hand over the drawings to the builder and maybe visit the site once every six or eight weeks, monitor the job, you won’t see them much. Suzie’s very much there, very much hands on all the time.

She's very willing to listen, she's very willing to interact with the trades and hear what they have to say, and see if we can get the best out of them, and we do. That's the best part of working with her.

She visits the sites probably a minimum of once a fortnight and often more depending on what’s happening. It’s good fun.

Q: It sounds like there’s a real atmosphere of mutual respect.

It’s teamwork. Any good project, in my view, and any good architect will realize it as well, there’s no one individual can do it, it’s a team. It’s the owners, the builder, and the architect working collectively to get the best result. That’s what happens on her jobs.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the design flavor that you see coming through?

Very different from what you see for a lot of top end homes. A lot of designs tend towards the same thing, a very minimalistic look which is fashion now. Suzie tends to use a lot more natural materials in the job. She uses a lot of timber joinery, rammed earth, stone, very high quality products placed in a high quality fashion. That really makes the home look very different. She still adds a modern touch so the lines are all very clean and you can see that in her designs.

Q: It sounds as though there’s an enduring quality that she’s after.

We’re building hundred year houses. We’re not building a house that will look dated in five or ten years. You’re not going to look at ours and say, “Oh that was built in the ’80’s” or “That was built in the 2000’s.” You’re looking at houses and you won’t be able to tell. Was that built fifty years ago or was it built ten years ago? You wouldn’t be able to tell. That house will be standing in fifty years time, in a hundred and fifty years time, and it will look fabulous.

Q: That would be very satisfying for you.

It’s great as a builder. We love seeing that kind of stuff.

Q: As a builder, what’s it like to work with the project documentation that Suzie’s team puts together? How does it affect the way you work? 

Suzie allows the process to be very organic to ensure client changes can be taken in. Suzie’s assistant architect, Catherine churns out a lot of drawings during the process. Catherine will adjust, tweak, and fine tune the documents to make it work better every time. There’s a lot of documentation. Suzie’s team really does put a lot of effort in up front in the actual concept, and in the working drawings. Suzie’s team will work near full-time on making sure those drawings are one hundred percent before they’re on site.

I’ll give you an example. Suzie arranged a set of drawings for a tiling layout and afterwards the tiler came to me and said, “That’s the first job where we’ve actually laid our tiles within millimeters.” That’s pretty impressive. That’s the kind of level of detail she goes to.

We did rammed earth walls. You have to be very precise around rammed earth walls because the position of the windows and so on have to be exactly right. Suzie and Catherine’s documentation, invariably, is spot on. They spend a huge amount of time and effort getting those details spot on.

Q: I would imagine getting details right saves money.

You certainly get a better result. You certainly get better value. People who are building these sorts of houses are looking for value of money, not necessarily looking for cheap or less money, they’re looking for value. People that are building these sorts of homes recognize the value for money and quality and you get that with Suzie’s team.

Q: You’ve obviously worked with a lot of different architects over the years. You’ve identified a couple of differences with Suzie. Are there any others that you can think about?

Her energy. Like I said, she’s on site all the time. She’s very interactive with the clients. I’m not exaggerating, she’s in  frequent contact with her clients, she spends a lot of time with them. That job that we just did, that’s a five year relationship for her; from design right to the end of construction. It’s a big project, she is closely involved and listens very carefully to what the clients say. She guides them, I think, very well.

Q: So you enjoy working with Suzie?

I love working with Suzie. I’ll tell you why. At the start of the project up in the hills there was interest from that TV show called Grand Designs. They wanted controversy. But there isn’t controversy on the jobs with Suzie. They were never going to have the disgruntled client, the agitated architect, the frustrated builder, it just wasn’t there. So we knocked them back. It’s a shame because it would have been good to be on TV.

Q: Thanks George.

Visit George’s website: Gransden Construction


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