Managing director, Aitken Turnbull Architects
What does the company do?
Where is it based?
Edinburgh, Galashiels and Dumfries
Briefly outline your working day
One of the joys is that no two days are the same. My time is split between our three studios, meeting clients, and visiting sites. I find a useful couple of hours to focus from 7-9am. From 9am the morning is typically spent in meetings with clients or team members. I know my productivity drops early afternoon, so ideally, I catch up on phone calls and go for a walk around 2pm. I tend to work later in the evenings than I should – but I’m trying to improve on that pattern.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business right now?
The economic situation will impact on us in the coming months, confidence and stability in the financial markets are vital for a healthy Architecture & Design industry. Finding suitable staff is an ongoing challenge in our sector.
What should be done to overcome these challenges?
A stable approach to the economy and well-procured and managed government funded infrastructure projects. As an industry we need to attract more people and diversify the routes into architecture to broaden its appeal to new staff.
Have the Scottish and UK Governments called it right on taxes?
Governments need to raise funds. As individuals we benefit from this in the services we enjoy as citizens and, as a practice, a significant part of our workload is in the public sector. The key is how efficiently these funds are managed and the value gained in their expenditure.
Has Brexit impacted on your business?
Yes. Brexit brought challenges, as any significant change does. Some European staff left to avoid employment challenges. There are fewer staff looking for employment and on the construction side supply chains have been impacted.
Do you support plans for a workplace parking levy?
We don’t provide on-site parking at our studios so are probably not best places to comment. However, if workspace parking is being restricted then better, more integrated transport options need to be implemented.
What action would you like to see from your local authority?
We have studios in three local authority areas and all of them have specific local challenges. The universal challenges are around Planning & Building Control processes and timescales; however we are seeing improvement in these in many cases. Post-Covid all of our communities are suffering and I think more needs to be done to revitalise our towns and cities. This can’t just be for local authorities and will require genuine partnerships between local authorities, government, communities and business.
Do you use public transport?
Whenever possible in Edinburgh I walk between meetings and in my commute to the office.
What do you drive? Is it petrol, diesel or electric? What would make you switch?
I’ve driven hybrids for about four years. I would switch to fully electric if the charging network was improved in both urban & rural areas.
Do you favour a four-day working week?
I support flexibility and promoting work-life balance. While there are benefits to the four-day week I think it is by its nature quite rigid. I think it brings challenges in serving clients and providing continuity and can add additional workload to other colleagues.
What is your company doing to support the green agenda? Have you increased or decreased your commitment? Are you a purpose-led company? If so, how?
We are passionate about reducing our impact on the environment, through our actions in our studios and in our project output. Buildings and construction account for a significant amount of the carbon output globally and nationally so we are well-placed to create positive impacts.
Do you think this is the right time to call an independence referendum?
We tend to avoid overt political positions and think it’s important to allow liberty of choice for all staff. Ultimately, we need to work with the frameworks and policies of whichever party is in power and whatever approach is taken.
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