In the first of a series of talks by architect developers, Mark Shaw discussed the two houses that he and two architect friends built in Walthamstow, east London.

The site, in Walthamstow, east London, was a disused MOT garage surrounded on all sides by existing houses and gardens. The architects bought the site with planning for two houses but quickly realised they could increase the values.

Working to a tight budget, the architects managed the contract themselves. The build took just 11 months from start to finish.

Our three takeaways from Mark’s talk are:

1. Have a realistic time frame. Everything takes longer than you think it will. In Mark’s case the 27 party wall agreements took a year to negotiate.

2. Have a spare pot of money. Mark was determined not to go over his original budget of £400,000 so he built in a contingency to make sure each package cost less than the figure in the appraisal. That way he had money at the end to spend on the kitchen, fitted furniture, blinds and curtains which he hadn’t budgeted for in the appraisal.

3.  Everything can be solved. Most developments come with a set of issues. In Mark’s case the site had what was initially thought to be sewers running across it. In fact, they turned out to be clay pipes which were simply removed. Interestingly, it was this that put off other buyers at the auction and meant that Mark and his friends were able to buy the site for a reduced price.

Mark Shaw founded London-based Studioshaw in 2016 focused on low energy, sustainable development. The practice is currently working on an apartment building in Hackney Wick, a new theatre and restaurant in Bethnal Green and a community housing scheme in Somerset.

The next talk will be by Alex Wright on May 25th.