A coffee with… Richard Harries
Article posted on: 15th December 2020
In the latest instalment of our A coffee with… series we catch up with Richard Harries who is celebrating six months in the role of Divisional Director in the Altrincham office.
Take it away Richard…
How have your first six months as Divisional Director been?
It has been a significant challenge, and not one I had anticipated. Obviously COVID-19 has been prevalent from the moment my promotion took effect and dealing with that has dominated. Our work in the Structural Surveying department tends to be quite reactive, as the majority of the jobs we deal with are short lived. So, when the first national lockdown was announced new instructions virtually ceased and some very difficult decisions had to be taken over staffing levels, including for example how the furlough scheme would be implemented. Very quickly we went from a team of five to me being the last one standing and working in the isolation of a spare bedroom. From that moment on, the focus shifted firmly towards juggling those jobs we had left, with the need to balance workload and staff numbers, and the ultimate goal of getting everyone back into work as quickly as possible. Fortunately, and aided by the enormous moral support I received from my team, we achieved that, with workload now having recovered to pre-COVID levels.
One of the strengths of the Structural Surveying department has always been the camaraderie and cooperation that we share between us, and this is something I have been very conscious of during this period, and enormously keen to preserve. However, with all of us remaining homebased throughout this has created an unexpected challenge, made no easier by the particular pressures the pandemic has exerted upon everyone.
Can you tell us more about what you and the Structural Surveying team are currently working on?
Currently, myself and the team are working on a range of projects including a several listed building repair schemes, one of which is in Manchester Piccadilly involving the repair of stone façade and another over in Hull where we are working on a fire damaged roof to a crematorium. We are doing a lot of work on social housing, including for Kirklees Council, where we have recently been successful in being awarded a place on their framework. I have also been working with a couple of large logistics and home shopping companies for whom we have been advising in connection with a range of potential development opportunities. We also act as expert witness on a number of claims, including for a leading motor insurance provider who we assist in defending claims arising from damage caused to 3rd party property. In addition to a number of very good clients in the industrial sector, who come to us with all manner of problems ranging from deteriorating buildings or the framework required to support process equipment to helping them develop new extensions or sites. One particular problem that was presented to us recently was the development over the summer period of increased ground water discharge, we are working closely on this with our GeoEnvironmental team to resolve. Finally, we are working with a major manufacturer of quarry products, for whom we conduct a nationwide programme of rolling inspections, which is now entering its second year.
You joined the business back in 2000, what’s been your biggest highlight whilst working at Clancy, and also the biggest project challenge you’ve come across?
20 years is a long time, and a lot has changed, not least in myself and the types of work I tend to get involved with. I joined Clancy with a background dealing mostly with domestic surveys but having only very limited design experience, this was quite quickly addressed and allowed me to progress to becoming Chartered with the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2005. Since then more opportunities have developed. I have always had an interest in the built environment that went beyond Civil and Structural Engineering, this has lead to me taking on a project management role on a number of significant projects including warehouse development for a number of on-line retailers. I have enjoyed the intensity of this, as well as the challenge of leading large multi-disciplined teams. At the same time, I have also remained involved with surveying type work. This, and my experience in project management, led to my involvement with a number of complex investigations into the presence of defects on large residential developments for a leading provider of insurance for New Build Homes, for whom I have also managed a number of major repair contracts.
Describe your perfect Saturday
A day spent with my family or friends, engaging in one of my many passions, or preferably a combination of the two. In days gone by that would have involved climbing on one of UK’s more esoteric crags, ideally overlooking the sea, but more recently have tended to indulge my interest in anything on wheels, motorised or pedal powered.
Any hidden talents you want to share?
Jack of all trades, master of none I’m afraid. Friends and family would probably tell you I’m handy on a bike, especially one that’s pointed downhill, and a non-too shabby skier – is there a theme developing there?