Spec Finish

Interview COVER STORY Darren Ross-Dreher is a Technical Director at Gensler, an integrated architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm. He is head judge for the FIS 2021 Contractors Awards and we asked him to talk to SpecFinish about the main challenges (and opportunities) that the fit-out industry is facing. THE CHALLENGES (AND OPPORTUNITIES) FORTHE FIT-OUTSECTOR 20 www.thefis.org F IRSTLY says Darren, the challenge is the continuing focus on lowest price rather than best value. He acknowledges that as our future is increasingly unpredictable, we must show leadership in being as sustainable as possible, so that Government does not force our hand with measures that are not reflective of what clients need. The opportunities he identified lie with technology, including development of better electronic communication and collaboration tools, and flexible furniture solutions that can offer an alternative to hard construction. Q: What should clients think about when starting a fit-out project? A: “For most clients the financial cost of a project will be key. There is a tendency to only look at the capital expenditure (capex) elements, but the longer term operating expenditure (opex) should be considered first, and are perhaps even more important. “This naturally applies to the built environment, but the capex of construction is only a small part of the 20-25-year opex when considering energy consumption, rates, wear and tear etc. Perhaps more importantly though, opex costs also apply to the employees – attracting the right staff and retaining them can impact this significantly. Employee opportunities to learn, grow, do great work and progress in their career can all be affected by the environment they are given to work in. To replace a member of staff can cost about 30%more on top of their salary when recruitment, training costs and other factors are considered. This will be in addition to the drop in productivity whilst a new employee is found, plus the potential benefit a competitor may gain from hiring them instead. Therefore, a client that invests in their staff; directly through salaries, benefits etc, and indirectly through their working environment, shows how much the employees matter to the employer. “However, of more importance to the world and for an increasing number of clients, is sustainability. Sustainability should be at the forefront of every single business. “Within the construction industry, we all know that new buildings and interior refurbishment can have a big environmental impact in the short term from high embodied carbon. Since completing our first LEED project for Armstrong World Industries nearly 25 years ago, Gensler has continued to raise the profile of sustainable design around the world to help reduce this. Of the more significant steps, Gensler signed the Paris Pledge at COP21 in 2015, and have committed to making all our work completely carbon neutral by 2030 – being designed for both net zero energy in operations and net zero impact in construction. “We firmly believe that if designed correctly with optimum building placement, sensitive material selection, flexibility of

RkJQdWJsaXNoZXIy Mzg1Mw==