DAMIAN BREE Dip Arch Tech
Why did I choose to study architectural technology?
'I remember in primary school looking at career leaflets left in the class room by our teacher. The two jobs that I really fancied were being an airline pilot or being an architect. The salaries were really good too, especially for an 11 year old, about £2,500 year.
So while I wanted to study architecture I wasn't successful in my application. I was offered a place in architectural technology and while I didn't know what architectural technology was, I found that it suited me very well indeed.'
Why did I study at DIT, and what are my main memories of student life?
'In the early 1980s Dublin was the only real option if you wanted to get a good qualification in architecture and Bolton Street had courses in both architecture and architectural technology.
Each summer holiday I worked in the local Sligo office of a Dublin firm, there was only the associate and secretary there and my presence increased the workforce by 50%. Working in such a small office was brilliant experience, for both the subsequent student year in Bolton Street and in my professional life, as I had an opportunity to be involved in all aspects of projects and saw at close range how an office would be run. If I had worked in a larger office I fear I would have been a junior member of a team pigeonholed on some minor task and missing an opportunity to expand my experience.'
Where am I working now?
'After graduating with my Diploma in Architectural Technology in 1983 I applied to study architecture. I was offered a place by three London polytechnics, but decided to take a place offered to me in Bolton Street.
Studying architecture didn't work out for me and I went to London in 1984 and joined the majority of my architectural technology class who had already emigrated. With a network of friends and contacts I found work immediately. I worked for a couple of practices and built on the reputation the Irish were quickly making for producing competent architectural graduates that knew how to design, detail and draw quality schemes reliably.
In 1986 my employers sent me to Kuwait to work in their site office., which proved a great experience, opening my eyes to travel and a cosmopolitan office environment. The experience I got from working in the Middle East gave me the confidence to look for roles with more responsibility. I soon found myself running two jobs under the supervision of a partner.
A colleague who moved to another practice offered me a job there and I was given a £4m refurbishment project to run in the City. I was now also venturing into the realm of the architect, in drafting Architect Instructions, Interim Certificates, dealing with Extension of Time claims and other project administration tasks. Over a period of 3 years I was doing less drafting and more project administration.
With my interest in computing, it was around this time (1990 - 1991) that I started to advise the practice on CAD and IT strategies.
In due course I left employment to form my own practice, Bree Day Partnership, in collaboration with an architect.
Bree Day Partnership started out on the back of some building surveys we won from the Home Office. My business partner had been investigating the environmental impact of design and the sustainability of materials in construction, whilst my earlier interest in technology was showing me how technology could be used in the home to reduce our energy needs through better control equipment and energy systems. Take a look at the Bree Day website at www.architech.co.uk
Buildings by Bree Day Partnership
In 1996, along with other consultants, contractors and research bodies, we became founding members of a research programme called Integer, whose remit was to seek ways to improve the way we build, both environmentally and in a sustainable way, to improve construction through modern methods of construction, and use technology to reduce energy usage. We got the support of the Building Research Establishment (BRE) who hosted our seminars and offered facilities and speakers.
The UK government at this time was keen to show the UK's expertise abroad and invited us to display a model of our ideas. The BBC saw the model and were at the time looking for a vehicle to feature in a 6 part series on a modern 'Dream' house. Although the BBC could give us no money, they said that if we could build it they would base their programme around its construction. With no funds, no design (apart from a 1:50 model) and no site we started seeking support from the industry, which thankfully rose to the challenge. The BRE gave us a site and within 4 months we were on site and 12 weeks later were finished. The publicity the project and the programme gave us, along with the ongoing seminars, brought clients to us interested in sustainable design.'
What kind of work do I do?
'In short, my role is wide ranging and falls into several categories. On the Project side I am running jobs, attending site and client meetings, administrating building contracts etc. Occasionally I like to keep my hand in producing working drawings if resources are stretched. On the Practice side I am generally the office administrator, as my business partner will avoid administration if at all possible. I deal with the accounts, VAT, salaries, IT requirements and building facilities.'
Computer models and renderings by Bree Day Partnership
'And on the Research side I attend about 1 seminar a month on average, usually focusing on sustainability in the construction industry, and will have 1 CPD (Continuous Professional Development) event in-house each month. I am also occasionally invited to speak at conferences and seminars, and do about 3-4 a year.'
What career opportunities exist for a technologist?
'I believe the opportunities are boundless.'
Anything else which you might have found useful to know when you were 18 years old and making a choice on possible careers?
'If I was asked to give one piece of advice to a 1st year student in architectural technology, it would be to find yourself a summer job in a small practice where you can find yourself doing as wide a range of roles as possible.'