Words:
Eleanor Young

The drive for 'One Keppie', that is more than a big corporate business, is bearing fruit, says MD Peter Moran

Peter Moran, Keppie

Position Managing director

Age 49

Practice size 148 architects

Turnover £8m

 

How did you come to be the new managing director of Keppie?

I joined Keppie in 1989 straight from university. I did my professional qualification here and went from architect to associate, then director. I have always had a desk in Glasgow though I have worked across the country and the world.

Keppie is an institution, one of the oldest practices in Scotland, going right back to John Keppie and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We recognised we were approaching a period of change in the business. We want a One Keppie approach, so we are all integrated, irrespective of location. I also want consistency of approach in different types of work, and a single cost centre.

How do you measure success?

The ultimate measure is happy staff, and delivering and winning good work. We recognise that we are successful to different degrees in different parts of the business and our target is to make sure that we are consistent across the business.

How are you pursuing that?

Six years ago we started pushing design with the appointment of a design director. We wanted to change the perception of Keppie as a big corporate business working on a big corporate bundle. We encourage regular reviews and internal presentations to peers and client bodies, and we now have a second design director and a design focus group.

Keppie is now seeing the first fruits of this approach and our projects have received several awards from the British Council for Offices, Glasgow Institute of Architects, RIAS and the Civic Trust. It is sometimes easier to develop in Glasgow owing to the scale of business there and type of high profile projects it attracts, but our target is to achieve the same level of success and recognition everywhere.

You are successful company already. Why push design?

Design is central to everything that architects do and if you consider it at the right time, at the outset, then you get a better outcome. And I think clients have greater aspiration for quality than they are given credit for.

Historically we start the concept design before the rest of the design team are involved, and then we bolt on other disciplines. Architects don't work in a vacuum, it is much more of a collaborative experience now and we encourage workshops with clients and the designers. Design is subjective so it is not about systems – we have them for everything else. It should be fun as well.

How do you set fees?

We try to be realistic in fee setting. There are different approaches with different building types. On Scottish public buildings for example there are frameworks and fees are capped at a low rate. We prepare fee tenders based on what we believe it would cost, using past experience of similar project types, and detailed resource plans, from the outset. We monitor it weekly and are time conscious to make sure we achieve our targets.

What or who has influenced you beyond the practice?

With a company the size of Keppie you become a business and not just an architectural practice. Our chairman is a lawyer and has a terrific understanding of how businesses work outside architecture. I have been involved for six years on the executive and in running parts the business so becoming managing director is not such a significant change. Next I need to put my ideas for the future direction of the business into action!

What next?

There are some big challenges. Retiring directors push succession to the fore: we need to allow others to grow in the business. Then there are the vagaries of the market. Procurement changes with every election so for us it is about being agile and adaptable.

And in recent months we have finalised the 431 Alliance with Stride Treglown and Todd Architects. When we bid together we total 500 architects in 18 offices across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have routine workshops, are developing a consistent BIM and CAD approach to demonstrate that we can work together and we now have several live bids. We’re not looking to merge but to  work on projects where collaboration makes us stronger. 

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