Ian Bailey, Managing Director of Bailey Artform, specialists in design-led street furniture, talks about the need for architects and suppliers to work in partnership to overcome the challenges of the current economic climate.
All around the globe people are on the move more than ever and, for cities and large towns in particular, the issue of how to manage people in motion is an increasing challenge. The physical environment plays an important role in enhancing people’s experiences and, ultimately, their quality of life. In order to balance all the environmental, health, safety and comfort needs, we need to create urban centres and public streetscapes that offer comfortable, high quality facilities and amenities that make public transport, walking and biking as stress-free as possible.
As a result, the expectation for architects to create impressive yet practical public spaces has never been higher. Quality, design-led street furniture that complements the environment in which it is installed can play a key contributory role in helping specifiers to meet this challenge.
Yet with the current economic climate forcing budget cuts across the board, architects’ specifications are increasingly being overwritten by contractors looking to squeeze costs. Sustainability, which was once so high on the agenda, appears to have gone out the window in order to meet diminishing budgets and, where stainless steel and hardwood was once the standard, these materials are now being downgraded to simply ‘softwood and galvanised steel’.
Whilst contractors changing specifications is nothing new, they appear to now be more in control than ever of design and build projects. But downgrading specifications to meet short-term budgetary requirements is inevitably destined to lead to long-term problems as cheaper product nearly always equates to inferior quality and, as a result, diminished longevity. The time bomb is ticking and, when it finally explodes in the not too distant future, it is likely to leave a host of problems in its wake.
The problem is that what contractors consider a ‘like for like’ change in specification is, in reality, often worlds apart in terms of quality. Only true product experts really understand where value engineering stops and a product becomes a simple commodity – and it is easy to understand how the contractor’s head can be easily turned when there are so many suppliers out there who are happy to compromise on quality in order to secure orders.
To overcome this issue architects need to work in partnership with street furniture manufacturers and suppliers who are true specialists in this product arena. Such partners will work alongside the architect to help manage the entire project life cycle, including the initial specification, through to design and development stages and into project completion. They will provide professional advice and input at every stage and have the indepth product knowledge that will enable the specifier to respond to budget reductions if necessary. This may be suggesting either slight modifications in design or proposing alternative products that are fit for purpose and will not compromise long-term longevity requirements.
To help specifiers further, street furniture suppliers need to ensure that they are fully in tune with the design and aesthetic requirements of architects. Through constant investment in research and development, they must be able to offer a wide range of continually evolving design-led products that will fuel specifiers’ creative desires whilst also meeting environmental requirements and offering guarantees.
Bailey Artform’s Metro40 range from Landscape Forms, for example, has been designed specifically to meet all the requirements of architects tasked with specifying street furniture and is the first fully integrated collection of site elements for streetscapes and transit cores. Created through collaboration with some of the world’s leading designers, the range combines innovative urban design with functionality and sustainability and encompasses cutting-edge street furniture products manufactured utilising recycled content aluminium and steel and responsibly sourced timber. Through its team of designers, engineers and project managers, Bailey Artform can offer a single supplier solution from project conception to completion, enabling the company to offer a bespoke approach that can help architects to meet challenging budgetary requirements without compromising on their specifications.
Products from Bailey Artform’s extensive and exclusive ranges w ere recently installed at the University of Liverpool, where quad seating was required to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The original specification included a bespoke concrete seat with an end profile that replicated the royal ER and incorporated corten lettering but it became clear that this design would exceed budget. The client required a circular seating solution for a raised area that would be used for ceremonial presentations so Bailey Artform worked closely with ADP Landscape Architects Birmingham and Liverpool University’s Facilities Team to propose a number of options. They agreed on the use of a standard but flexible product from the Metalco range, incorporating a curved diamante seat fitted with bespoke hardwood and white granite, complete with stainless steel supports. Bailey Artform also designed and supplied a bespoke anti-skate deterrent for the seating and assisted the contractor, North Midland Construction, by overcoming site issues when delivering the products.
The external environment is set to play an increasingly important role in enhancing our everyday experiences, particularly as the world in which we live continues to evolve at such a rapid pace. By specifiers and suppliers working together in partnership, we will be better equipped to meet the challenges of the current stressed economy, whilst simultaneously ensuring that we benefit from lasting products that will both complement our urban architecture and improve our quality of life.