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14


INSIGHTS


in improving it, and it was the best decision we ever made.” The result is the highly engaging and SEO-friendly www.marraum.co.uk, and it wasn’t long before the firm was climbing the rankings. The practice is currently the top Cornish architect on Google, showing the power of a good website.


Laskey says that the site has not only led to competitors adopting a similar look, but it has led to a situation where the firm is now turning work down: “We are getting more enquiries than we can undertake.” However he says this is a good problem to have: “It means we are getting the best projects for us as well as our clients.”


Accuracy a speciality


Laskey describes how the firm’s approach – demonstrated initially in renovating domestic properties within a 10 mile radius of Falmouth – centres on a focus on the client’s space needs. “We will look at your house and not build an extension just because you want one, but look at how you use the space. The room at the back that’s cold and damp and full of boxes, how can we incorporate that into the space to improve it, rather than building something new and still having the same problem?”


He is also very proud of the accuracy that the firm is able to achieve thanks to its investment in ArchiCAD software which enables the team to design in 3D. On a current high-end new build residential scheme on the desirable Roseland peninsula, he says “the contractors are building a very complicated cranked roof, and we are 4 mm out over a 7 metre length.” Laskey continues: “I was always told ‘we’ll work it out on site’ – but I’m being paid to work it out, that’s my job, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t.” The house was built to scale in ArchiCAD, he says, “so every roof truss, rafter and hip was plotted in three dimensions, and nothing has gone away from the plans.” One of the practice’s most demanding renovations yet was at a prestigious but dilapidated house on Dunstable Terrace on Falmouth, which led to three further jobs on the same street. “The building had been renovated so many times that we weren’t able to find what was load bearing and what wasn’t,” says Laskey. “The floors were falling apart, so we said strip it and start again.” Other key projects have included the conversion of a Grade II listed former schoolhouse in Devoran, Cornwall (undertaken by Hormann as a sole trader but working with another architect – the late Chris Hendra) into two private dwellings for a couple and their children.


Another outstanding project – this time in the village of Feock – was a major renovation and extension of a simple two-storey timber chalet into a desirable house with views down the valley to the sea, with a high quality finish and materials. Its light, open plan internal areas led to it being used as an ‘inspiration’ project on TV’s Building the Dream. Laskey says the clients are very happy, and adds “we have maintained a nice relationship with them.”


Virtual reality


Thanks to further recent investment, the practice claims to be the first in Cornwall to offer virtual reality as part of its standard package to clients. This followed a conversation between Adam and computer programmers Sarah and Andrew Davey of Equin Ltd): “I said everything we do is based on 3D modelling and ISC files, so surely we can bring that into BIM and I can send it to a client to get a VR experience of a design.” The friend then found three programs that interact; Märraum then trialled it with great success on the Roseland residential project, and as Laskey says, “the first


WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK FACTFILE: MÄRRAUM ARCHITECTS


Location: Penryn, Falmouth, Cornwall Number of staff: Five Key specialism: Residential renovations USP: Only Cornish practice offering free virtual reality as standard Unusual fact: Clients have to make initial visit to office


SENSITIVE RENOVATION The practice rescued a fairly dilapidated house in Dunstable Terrace, Falmouth and turned it into a desirable double-height residence


reaction from the clients was ‘wow.’ The firm now offers a free VR experience of any stage of a project – delivered in its conference room, and produced in around 15 minutes. A major practical benefit of VR beyond the simple excitement of experiencing the ‘real’ building before it’s built, is that it enables clients to understand, and help make, design changes: “It gives people the confidence,” says Laskey. “Explaining to a client what certain aspects of a space will be like in 2D is incredibly difficult, but VR is very helpful for giving clients options,” he adds, giving the example of a current client who is extending a bungalow upwards into the roof space, necessitating removing and replacing the roof. With a tricky balance to strike between permitted building height and adequate head room, VR was ideal to show this client, who has arthritis, how much head room she needed. “500 mm higher was OK in theory but testing it in VR made her duck – so we increased it to 800, which made a huge difference but was within limits.” VR is also useful for helping explain things to the planning author-


ity, he says – “there are certain things you do that they can’t ‘feel’ in 2D,” and with contractors – “on one complicated project we had the builders in the office and they looked at the VR walkthrough – they then decided to get a specialist to build the staircase.” As the practice and its reputation have grown, the team has had to be flexible regarding their mix of job roles, with Michael and Adam in particular having to accept compromises. The initial inten- tion was for Adam to do more design work and for Michael to be able to get involved in initial client meetings. However as Märraum’s workload has increased, they have had to concentrate more on, respectively, front-end scheduling and new business, and design delivery. 


ADF APRIL 2017


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