Kisiel Group’s Treebank Gardens development in Hanwell, West London received a Gold Award for security in the Secured by Design scheme. PHPD chats to the company’s Director Annie Summun to find out more.
Tucked behind a residential street in West London, a small road which used to lead to a row of garages has been transformed into a two sets of two four-bedroomed semi-detached houses. One of the more notable features of the homes is their basements, which have been turned into spacious master bedrooms – a real luxury in an area where space is at a premium.
Kisiel Group has undertaken a variety of projects featuring basements, so the company already had experience in ensuring that the job was carried out effectively. “We do quite a bit of basement work, we’ve excavated a 1400 sq ft basement and then put a garden back on top, so we know what we’re doing with the basements,” commented Annie.
For this project, a small courtyard at basement level created an additional outdoor space which allowed light to flood into the bedroom. Annie continued: “Rather than just having a light well, you’re creating a whole area which you could put plants in and sit outside within the basement, direct from the master bedroom or the office. By putting in a glass barrier, it’s allowing more light to come down. And it’s quite private because you have to walk right up to the barrier before you actually see down and into the basement area.”
Secured by design
Kisiel Group worked with the Metropolitan Police to enable them to achieve a Gold Award in the Secured by Design scheme. There are three levels of award that can be given to a development: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Whilst Bronze and Silver are predominantly awarded for the buildings themselves, the Gold standard also takes into account the surrounding area. It recognises projects where the design has helped to significantly reduce the opportunity for crime and anti-social behaviour.
Annie commented: “The idea is that you have to meet quite strict standards for locks on doors, windows and front doors. In the surrounding area it’s locks on gates, lighting, where bins are positioned, and that people can’t clamber over fences from the other side.
“We worked quite collaboratively with the Metropolitan Police. They would advise us and we would check with them on certain specifications. For example, if we found a product that we thought would be suitable, they would advise on whether it would meet the specification. With that collaboration we were able to achieve the Gold Award.”
Kisiel Group’s standard approach to beginning a development is to post a letter to all nearby residents, informing them of the project that is about to begin. This is followed by regular newsletters to keep residents updated on the progress of the development. However, in this case, Treebank Gardens had a number of objections from residents of nearby Grove Avenue.
In order to deal with this, Annie Summun set up a meeting at the nearby golf club to discuss concerns directly with residents. She also ensured that the residents were kept up to date with every stage of the project via newsletters. The regular contact with residents helped to foster good relations.
Annie told us: “Because we dealt promptly and effectively with every complaint we got, we haven’t had complaints in the last nine months. We were looking after our client because our client didn’t want to have neighbours emailing them all the time about it, so we took the brunt away from them. We became the contact in-between and we dealt with all the problems and just kept them informed.”
Residents were also concerned about the protection of the local environment, so Kisiel Group had to ensure that this was dealt with professionally.
“The client is absolutely at the heart of everything we do.”
“We put special matting down on the earth to protect the bases of the yew trees around the development. We placed it above the roots and we had a cordoned off area where people couldn’t put heavy deliveries of materials because that would damage the roots,” said Annie.
“Protecting the trees was part of the construction plan that we made at the beginning. It may have helped us to get the planning permission through because we’d taken into consideration that we weren’t going to do damage to the trees, which are an important ecological and environmental part of the area.”
Protecting the trees was not the only consideration regarding sustainability. As part of the Secured by Design scheme, Kisiel Group needed to ensure that areas surrounding the houses were adequately lit.
Since the development consists of four houses, deciding how to power the lighting was a complex decision – it had to take into account which house to power the lighting to, or whether to have a central power supply which every household had to pay into. In the end, solar paneled lights were specified, avoiding the problem of financing the electricity for the lights and providing a more environmentally-friendly solution.
Although the build was completed only 0.5% over budget, it overran slightly. Annie told us: “Sometimes if we don’t get decisions at quite the right time it can just slow up the whole process of the programme of the build. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one of quality, cost or time. We were late on this one, but we maintained the quality and we kept the costs down.”
Despite initial objections from some in the local community, dealing with the concerns has helped to prepare Kisiel Group for future developments.
“We hadn’t experienced such opposition on any of our other works that we’ve done, so that was a good learning curve for us. We dealt with it well so we’re very pleased with that,” said Annie.
Ensuring the customer is happy with the finished product is essential for Kisiel Group. “The client is absolutely at the heart of everything we do,” commented Annie. This strategy has worked well for the company, for whom almost all of their projects for the first nine years of operation were by recommendation.
The Treebank Gardens project was the second time that Kisiel Group had worked with the developer. Annie says: “I think it shows the quality that we’re doing, and that’s why they used us for the second project.”
“We always do a deep clean at the end of a project, so everything is nice and clean – it’s about looking after the client. If you look after your client and sort all the problems, you’ll get recommended.”