Meet our residential rising stars

Sarah Brown
Following Faithful+Gould’s attendance at the RESI Convention 2019, Suzanne Gray and Tom Kavanagh took time out to share their thoughts and experience of one of the main events in the residential calendar.

Q: This is the first year you have both attended the RESI Convention, what were your initial thoughts?

Suzanne: I was taken aback by the range of people and companies who attended the conference, from well-established funders and developers to designers, consultants and new start-up companies. There were plenty of opportunities to network so I was able to meet and speak to a variety of people in the residential sector.                   

I was also impressed by the amount of topics covered by the panels and presentations - not only did they cover the main themes around mixed-use, BTR and MMC, but they also touched upon resolving homelessness, land and planning and the social impacts of the spaces we design.

Tom: The convention was full of industry leading professional’s covering some of the most up to date topics of the residential sector. Because the format included both key note speakers and panel debates there was a really good insight into the state of the industry and the current trends of the residential market, with particular emphases on build to rent viability, co-living and mixed-use schemes. I also found it interesting that there was so much emphasis on volumetric construction which I have noticed is something that our clients are becoming increasingly open to adopting into their schemes.

Q: What were the key messages you both came away with from the convention?

Suzanne: We need to work smarter and more efficiently to achieve the targeted 300,000 new homes per year - BTR, co-living and modular house building have a big part to play in this.                             

I have a particular interest in BTR - it seems to now be evolving beyond a premium offering and diversifying in response to the needs of the market. It’s becoming a standalone sector, with the creation of companies in direct response to the needs of BTR schemes. For example, now we are seeing utilities companies that cater specifically for BTR.                             

But BTR is still relatively new, and developers and operators are still experiencing teething problems. Legislation and local authorities are still catching up with issues like landlord licensing and council tax to consider. Despite this, I think BTR is here to stay.

Tom: Homes England are actively trying to facilitate the construction of as many new dwellings as possible by providing supplementary funding to schemes through engagement with SME developers across the entire country. After the panel discussion on whether volumetric construction is now affordable, it’s clear that industry leaders are starting to look at this and it is becoming increasingly more attractive to developers but is still not without it’s own barriers e.g. capital expenditure/R&D and then market capacity which are probably the biggest factors in the slow uptake we have seen to date.

Q: As a RESI Trailblazer Suzanne, what did find most useful?

I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet my fellow Trailblazers – they have all made a significant impact on the residential sector, and had some really exciting concepts that were pushing the industry forward. It was great to exchange ideas with some really interesting people and grow my network too.

Q: Tom, you are a member of the National Commercial Property & Residential NxtGen community, what lessons learnt will you feedback to your peers?

For me personally, the conference was not only very informative from a technical perspective but also a brilliant opportunity to network and meet new people.

Q:  If you had to sum up the RESI Convention is one word, what would it be?

Suzanne: Progressive

Tom: Informative

Modular housing is currently a hot topic in the residential sector, and something I personally have a keen interest in, having watched a development grow from a plot of land to ten fabulous looking homes. Can modular help the sector to achieve the targeted 300,000 new homes we desperately need?

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