Throughout 2020, CBRE Façade Consultancy has gone from strength to strength, offering its clients technical support and specialist advice on building façades
Writer: Dani Redd | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
COVID-19 has undeniably disrupted businesses across the world, thanks to loss of face-to-face interaction and disruption to supply chains across borders. But every now and then, one encounters a rare success story.
And CBRE’s Façade Consultancy is one such example.
“2020 has been a fantastic year for the team in terms of expanding and diversifying. The team has exceeded financial expectations, which is even more commendable considering the difficult market conditions,” says Tudor Pop, the company’s Head of Façade Consultancy.
The façade industry is fast emerging as a profession in its own right within architecture. But this wasn’t always the case.
“In the early days it amalgamated professionals from other more established professions such as architecture, structural engineering and building surveying,” explains Tudor. “There weren’t many professionals who would call themselves Façade Engineers, it was just those with an affinity for niche, quirky technical challenges and design.”
Tudor was one of them. “From early on I have been interested in how buildings perform,” he continues. “The façade is the first defence against the weather and bearing the brunt of the elements. Combined with my interest in heritage, the link with the façade industry was made early on.”
Joining CBRE over a decade ago has allowed him to focus on his interest in façades within a highly specialised environment. As a façade consultancy operating within the real estate market, the team jokingly refers to itself as a “niche within a niche”. However, since inception it has highlighted the benefits that a specialised façade consultant can bring to the real estate industry.
Experts in the field
CBRE is the largest real estate advisor in the world, and the only one with an established in-house façade consultancy. It has been firmly established in the UK for over 16 years, and is able to integrate and add value to a number of other service lines CBRE offers, including property valuation, advisory, and consultancy services.
“We are heavily involved in the façade industry, from taking part in academic research to detailed specialist inspections on-site and everything in between,” the Head of Façade Consultancy explains. “Our wealth of knowledge and experience ensures we help clients to strike the right balance between a building that looks great and performs exceptionally.”
The consultancy offers a range of services: expert witness; façade fire risk assessment; monitoring, re-cladding; defect analysis; advice on materials and finishes; technical audits and much more.
It consists of a growing team of eight experienced façade engineers based in London, with regional hubs beginning to emerge across the UK. This provides greater coverage and specialist local knowledge of particular façades – such as the unique knapped flint common in Norfolk and Suffolk – which is integral to preserving built heritage.
The consultancy boasts a broad client base of investors, lenders, owners and agents.
“As technical advisors operating within a commercial environment, we are acutely aware of the wide ranging requirements of our clients,” Tudor says. “Gone are the days of simply meeting the scope of the brief – we strive to surpass in every instance, ensuring that we understand that client needs from the get-go.
“Our clients are furnished with independent and objective advice centred around the huge wealth of specialist knowledge within CBRE. This will eventually be reflected in clear proposals that give clients a cost-effective route to achieve their goals in relation to matters such as due diligence, commercial risk and growing factors such as fire safety.”
It is this adaptability, combined with a well-grounded commercial understanding of complex specialist technical advice, that Pop believes differentiates CBRE Façade Consultancy from its competitors.
“CBRE had a vision to establish a façade consultancy team a long time before anyone else in the market. This has given CBRE a strong advantage and lead,” he says.
Its established client base and regional presence means CBRE Façade Consultancy has an eclectic mix of current projects. These range from the maintenance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to new-build construction façades, which total around 25 to 45 percent of total building cost. Not only must such façades be aesthetically appealing, but they must also conform to ever more stringent regulations.
The importance of building cladding has become shockingly apparent in the UK after the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017, when an electric fire spread quickly through the apartments, killing 72 people. The fire’s rapid spread occurred mainly due to the cladding on the outside of the tower, which incorporated a highly combustible polyethylene polymer filler.
“The Grenfell Tower Fire has had a deep impact on the industry,” Tudor says. “Clients are finding themselves in the extremely complex position of navigating the mire of legislative changes relating to fire safety and building safety. They are also having to deal with assets that undergo significant investigations.”
The consultancy has found itself increasingly engaging in large scale re-cladding schemes due to fire safety issues. After identifying the issues, the team guides clients on funding applications, finding subcontractors and tender submissions.
It prides itself on providing advice that is detailed, precise and insightful. The façade team often deals with complex mixed-use assets – where retail, residential and office space are incorporated, for example – and takes care to provide objective advice to mitigate risks.
Expanding and diversifying
Despite the fact that 2020 has been a year of lockdowns and restrictions, CBRE Façade Consultancy has continued its valuable work throughout the year, predominantly conducting health and safety inspections and glazing audits.
One of its largest projects has been its contribution to a large number of student accommodation blocks across the UK – this has involved a review of complex fire safety information, alongside a consideration of the long-term performance of the building façades.
The Head of Façade Consultancy professes pride in how his team have handled COVID-19.
“We have had to adapt to the ever-changing situation, utilising new digital tools with- old-fashioned teamwork to ensure continuity of our services to our clients, which is more important than ever,” Tudor says.
“The team is continually growing and developing better, more efficient ways to service our clients, whilst aiming to retain and develop its people.”
Attracting new talent has, he said, been difficult under the circumstances – despite an increase in the number of jobseekers, such a specialist profession often relies on casting a wide geographical net to broaden its limited recruitment pool. For this reason, CBRE strives for high employee satisfaction.
In 2019, the firm won a slew of awards: Best Employers for Diversity by Forbes; it was one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies® for the sixth year running; and it was the highest-ranked the real estate company on Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies list.
“Diversity is one of the core pillars of CBRE’s values, with the Façade team providing a good representation of the inherent diversity in the industry,” Tudor says.
“We also speak a range of languages and undertake work regularly outside of the UK, covering EMEA and even further afield. We are acting for both UK and international clients who seek out the independent and objective advice we provide.”
The strength of his team’s specialist expertise, international outlook and adaptability make Tudor very optimistic about the upcoming year. He is confident the team will carry on developing and delivering its services, furnishing clients with the technical and commercial advice to make well-informed decisions about their building façades.
“CBRE Façade Consultancy team continues to grow, thrive, exceed client expectations and have never been better placed to provide the best advice and widest ranging services than now,” he concludes.