Robert Somerville  Building Projects

About Us

High quality work, done on time and on budget

Building Projects was set up in 1984. Since then over 50 projects have been completed, a sample of which are included in the “Projects” pages. The business started as a partnership providing a Design and Build service for projects that demanded a high degree of craftsmanship. The aim was to provide a straightforward service that created high quality work, done on time and on budget. This is achieved through close teamwork, drawing on everyone’s strengths and integrity, and by working with our clients to fully understand their brief and accurately identify all costs and likely project duration.

The main contractor and specialists are selected early in the process, and costs worked out on the basis of labour day-rates, materials and plant hire. This direct-tender approach allows everyone to sit around the same table to discuss all the aspects of the project in a spirit of openness. It reduces the likelihood of unexpected problems, or at least allows us to deal with them in advance.

Lead designer Robert Somerville has 30 years experience of successfully negotiating with local authority planners, including national parks and historic building departments, to secure the best possible results for his clients.

Project management, backed by many years experience, is a vital and often unrecognised part of a successful building project. This means bringing the right people together to ensure the best design, the most suitable materials and the smooth running of activities on site. In this respect, Robert has worked for many years with the highly respected contractor Joe Bellows & Associates.

Every major project has an experienced site manager who is on the site full time.  The site manager liaises with the owners, building control inspectors, and with the craftsmen on site, and solves snags and problems as soon as they occur.

Robert brings with him a team of great craftsmen.  Good craftsmen are rarely short of work: they choose to work with Robert because they know and trust him. Each team has a balance of craftspeople, tradesmen and young local labourers.  This helps preserve and pass on the local craft traditions.

Projects usually involve the use of local materials to reduce transport dependence and ecological destruction that often results from imported, heavily processed products. Each project also uses as much wood-based and plant based materials as possible, so that carbon dioxide is effectively captured and stored in these organic materials for the lifetime of the building.

Robert’s background and experience

Robert graduated from Cambridge University in 1984 with a degree in Architecture. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and the “Wandering Architects”, he spent the first ten years of his career working on-site to learn the trades first hand. His projects form part of the revival of the traditional crafts particularly the use of stone, lime, cob, and timber framing. From this base of deep material and craft knowledge, Robert is able to adapt these traditions to the contemporary world. He has worked on projects in Devon and Hertfordshire.

Next steps

If you are looking for a unique, low-carbon and crafts-based design with a start-to-finish service, then please do contact us.   If the project sounds viable we are happy to meet for a longer discussion to talk things through in detail.

Enjoy your building project

The enthusiasm that the build team generates for the project is infectious, and helps us deliver high levels of customer satisfaction, for both the finished building and the process itself. We help our clients enjoy their projects.

You can be involved exactly as much as you want to be.  Some clients want to be very hands-on, and other prefer to step back.  Both approaches are fine with us.  We will make sure you are always informed of our progress through weekly or monthly reviews.

Don’t worry about making changes

We accept that owners are likely to want to diverge from the original plans during the course of a project.   We understand that things that look good on paper might not feel right as the work proceeds.

If this happens we’ll work with you to find the best way forward: we won’t use changes as an opportunity to inflate your costs, but we will review all the implications with you.

Building with the environment in mind

Respect for nature is central to everything we do.  Our designs are energy-efficient, so you can reduce your carbon footprint. They also preserve the vernacular character of existing buildings, or provide new structures that fit into the local landscape, whilst always enhancing habitats for wildlife.

We use traditional local materials, including timber from local woods.  We can identify suitable trees, and arranged for them to be felled then sawn on-site or at a local sawmill. This is by far the most sustainable way to build and even results in negative carbon footprints because the carbon in the cellulose of tree’s timber has been previously extracted from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
Robert Somerville