A High School Student Interviews Duncan

Earlier this year, a Year 10 student interviewed Duncan on the practice, as part of a Design and Technology assignment.  The transcript follows!

1) What is the product, system or environment of the industry Utz Sanby is in?

Utz-Sanby are Architects, specialising in mainly residential projects, both new and refurbishments. We do some commercial work but this area would only cover 10 to 15% of our workload.

We tend to work on middle to large scale budget houses, so we would position ourselves towards the higher end of the market, working on highly detailed and well thought out projects.


2) Who are your clients and how do your clients and designers work together?

We are mostly engaged by what we would call, ‘end users’, i.e. for residential clients that will live in the houses we design. Clients usually come to us through either word of mouth referrals or by seeing work in magazines/on the web.

They would be clients with an above average budget that would be looking for ‘ a highly bespoke’ product tailored to their needs, integrated into an overall contemporary approach encompassing natural light and ventilation.

As a result we work very closely with our clients over a long period, could be up to two years on new houses. The meetings cover all aspects of design, from the overall layout of the rooms and their functionality, right down to materials, finishes, lighting and the built-in joinery. Every aspect is discussed with the client to ensure we are tailoring the design to their requirements – after all, they are the ones who will end up living in the completed project.


3) How do your designers use collaborative group approaches to manage their projects?

Architecture is all about collaborative approaches, whether it is with the clients or with the consultants, or finally with the builder, suppliers and subcontractors.

Initially we collaborate with the client to ensure all the requirements are met.

Second during the design stage we collaborate with the other consultants on the project, usually includes the Structural Engineer, Hydraulic Engineer and Landscape Architect. Here we coordinate their work to ensure that our design intent is reinforced in the project documentation and that the client’s needs are encompassed across all the consultants drawings that the builders will price on.

Under construction, we collaborate with the builder, subcontractors and suppliers to ensure that all of the construction elements come together in a legible form that again reinforces the design intent.

We are similar in some ways to a film director – it is our vision for the overall project and collaborate with all different trades and consultants to ensure our vision is realised in the way we want it to.


4) How do your designers evaluate the appropriateness of a design?

The are a number of different strategies that we use to evaluate design – all are different but all interrelated in terms of decisions making within the design process:

1. Does the design fulfill the clients requirements – if not – where are the compromises.

2. Does the design meet the budget requirements – if not, how can we change it so that it does – and what are the compromises of doing so.

3. Is the design meeting the environmental targets both we and the client have set – natural ventilation and light, insulation levels, solar panels, passive heating etc.

4. Aesthetically does the design ‘sit’ together as a whole and create spaces and forms that people want to live in – this final one is obviously compromised by all of the above points.


5) How would you describe the role of your designers and their responsibilities?

To put it simply, to resolve the 4 points above as clearly as possible without too much compromise.

Architecture unfortunately is all about problem solving and managing the compromises – that is what good architects excel at.


6) What design factors must your designers consider in a range of products. Examples are ideal.

Again, it’s a combination of Question 4 above – all these factors come into play when we choose a product.

Also collaboration plays a huge part in our decision. If a product manufacturer is keen to be collaborative to sort out the problems with the designer and builder and meet the builder’s time frame then we usually use these people again and again.

If they are not collaborative then we tend not to give them a second chance!


7) What is the criteria for evaluation for your designs?

This is similar to Question 4 above and the answers are the same – We use all four criteria – not just client requirements and their budget.


8) What responsibilities do your designers have the the client, community and environment?

Our first responsibility is to the client – we are their agent and we are engaged and paid by them to create their project.

Second to that is the immediate neighbours that are impacted by the design. we need to ensure that our design does not impact upon their amenity in terms of noise, sunlight, daylight and views.

Next is the wider public who view the house in the street – the elevation needs to respect the scale of surrounding houses but we strive to make a positive impact upon the street.


9) How do your designers communicate ideas? Examples are ideal

A number of methods:

1. CAD drawings are the main tool for communication to builders and consultants.

2. CAD 3D models are very useful for clients who sometimes find it difficult to read drawings.

3. Physical card models of projects that the clients can pick up and look at.


10) How do your designers use a range of technologies throughout their projects?

We would use any and all available products and technologies to help meet the client requirements, their budget and the ease of building the project.

We are open to all products and materials but they are always assessed for their appropriateness in relation to my answers to Question 4 above.

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