Silver anniversary for city based design firm, CAD associates

Dining Out

Featured in:
May 2011

Ken Allen cannot technically claim to be a ‘Yellow Belly’, having been born in Tripoli while his father was serving with the Royal Signals, but Lincolnshire has been his home since he was eight years old, and he would not choose to base either his family or his business anywhere else.
Now celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of his architectural and town planning consultancy, CAD Associates, Ken cannot believe how rapidly that time has passed and how the business has grown since he first established the company in 1986, along with his then co-director, Richard Costall, based in small offices in Eastgate. “I can’t believe we’ve reached this milestone already,” Ken said. “When you’re enjoying your work and building a business, time flies without actually counting the years.”
Costall Allen Design specialised primarily in small projects and residential developments, but after Ken took over the practice, work blossomed and, under Ken’s guidance, CAD Associates grew steadily, as did the scale of the projects undertaken. The business has been based at offices in Newland, Lincoln since 1989.

Looking back, Ken acknowledges important, landmark projects that have influenced the company’s contracts for the years ahead. “Our first big break into football stadia came about after the 1990 ‘Taylor Report’ following the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, which recommended the removal of standing terraces at grounds,” he explained. “We were commissioned to design the Co-op Stand at Sincil Bank, working with Linpave in a design and build partnership. This was followed by a new stand at Peterborough’s London Road ground, a new stand for Wycombe Wanderers and two new stands for Burnley. Premiership work followed through the network of contacts Ken had made with Mowlem, Taylor Woodrow and McAlpine. The first was an £8.6m development at Tottenham Hotspur, followed by a £22m project with Taylor Woodrow to build the west stand at West Ham United, complete with hotel where guest bedrooms overlook the pitch and convert to corporate boxes on match days.

Ken takes great pride in these developments and that a Lincoln-based business has been able to deliver projects on this scale. “We have always been a good technical practice, listening to our clients and designing within budgets,” he continued, “and that has secured a loyal client base who have recommended us to colleagues within their professions. People look at our buildings and see how they could benefit their business.”

Local authority work and education are two other important sectors CAD Associates serve. Work for Lincolnshire County Council ultimately led to them winning a competition, along with Linpave, to build a thirty bed accommodation block at Riseholme College and, subsequently, CAD has become very well known for designing for land-based Colleges, with work for Hartpury College in Gloucester and Myerscough College in Preston. “We have completed in excess of £50m worth of work at Hartpury College over the last twenty years,” Ken said, “and over £25m for Myerscough College, where we are currently building a new restaurant.”

For Bishop Burton College, near Beverley, CAD Associates have designed and built a new Learning Resource Centre, a Sports Academy, two blocks of Student Accommodation, an Indoor Equine Arena, and even a Zoo! A problem with access and traffic flow has led to CAD working with the College on their ‘Master Plan’, not only to provide appropriate buildings, but also to re-design the infrastructure with a completely new access and internal ring road, a pedestrianised campus centre and landscaping.

CAD Associates now employs sixteen people, including three senior architectural assistants, and Ken believes that having an excellent team of staff is the real secret behind the company’s success. “I like to get involved with Master Planning with a client, where I can get an idea of budget and the ways they would like to use their buildings and grounds. I then bring this information back to our team here so that we can think about the solutions. One of the big changes that has taken place over these twenty-odd years has been the need to look at flexible and multi-functional solutions.”

A good example of this was at Bishop Burton College which had a problem with flooding. CAD recommended a balancing lake which now not only prevents flooding but also serves as one of the water jumps on the cross country eventing course.

One thing Ken does acknowledge is that he would not like to go back to the days of the drawing board, as computers have allowed for amazing flexibility and speed when designing for clients. “I remember that the learning curve was steep, and there is the need for continual investment in software, but the benefits are overwhelming,” Ken concluded.

Sustainability is now a high priority for educational projects. ‘Green’ buildings include the use of solar panels, grey water usage, heat sensitive glazing and even the orientation of the building in relation to the sun and surrounding landscape, and the Skills Funding Agency oversee the eco-credentials of the buildings they help to finance.

While some of CAD’s clients initially have to look at a map to find Lincoln, Ken relishes his City base and the home he shares with Sandra and their family in Scampton. Ken finds he can travel easily around the country and yet come back to enjoy his favourite game of tennis and the tranquility of Lincolnshire.

Recently CAD Associates have been asked to design a 340 acre eco-village in the Dominican Republic. Could this be the start of travel further afield and work in another specialised area of design? Only the next twenty-five years will tell.

CAD Associates have a long association with Lincoln College and have worked on their campuses in Lincoln, Newark and Gainsborough. One of CAD’s most recent projects has been the design for the £7.5m refurbishment and extension of the Dean’s Building in Lincoln which commenced in April. Working in partnership with Lindum Construction, CAD have produced a dynamic specification for the building which will include not only an external facelift, but internally a gym, fitness studio, climbing wall, hydrotherapy pool, and cyber café area.

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