Karyn Williams: Senior Associate Technologist

The building is a bit like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin.

30th November 2020

Karyn is a Senior Associate Technologist in our Cardiff office. She’s worked with us for just over 20 years and led the interior fit-out of Treglown Court.

Let’s start at the beginning. It must’ve been quite exciting to be involved in the delivery of an office you would eventually work in?

It was an exciting time for everyone. Paul Summers, who designed the building, was incredibly passionate about great design and he was somebody who would sweep you along on the journey. He encouraged everyone to get involved and care about the new office – how it would look, how it would work for people. And it was great for me personally to have the opportunity to join the project.

How did it feel to work on a project with your own directors as clients?

It was quite a challenge – but a good one. With the board of directors as clients, it felt as though everybody’s eyes were on you. But I actually found consulting with people across the business was the biggest challenge. Everybody seemed to have a different view on how it should look, work and cost. I was quite green at that point, I suppose. Treglown Court was one of the first projects I’d taken forward on my own. It was definitely a transitional period for me and a huge part of my growth in terms of my technical abilities.

Can you tell us a bit about the vision for Treglown Court?

Well, the aim was to deliver a really sustainable building. We were racing towards that title of BREEAM Outstanding and were definitely challenging sustainable aspirations at the time. I don’t think we have a choice but to do anything other than sustainable design now, but a decade ago – the technologies and standards that are so commonplace now weren’t so familiar. I was always incredibly impressed with what we were trying to achieve with a small budget.

How would you describe the building?

The building is a bit like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin. It’s open plan, flexible, you can see the quality and what drives us by the building: sustainability, creativity, thought leadership, a great culture of people – that’s exactly us. And it’s always struck me, that we’re an architectural business in the middle of an industrial estate but nobody struggles to find us because we stand out like a beacon.

Ronseal, amazing! Do you have a favourite part of the building?

I think the kitchen is the aspect that I value most. It’s the heart of the building. It’s where people congregate to relax, have a private conversation or catch up at lunchtime. When we’ve got a full kitchen – people making lunch together on one side and somebody cracking a joke on the other – it’s just magic, you can’t beat it. We once managed to make a three course Christmas meal in there with just two microwaves and a hotplate – everybody helped, everybody cooked, everybody washed up. That space really binds everybody together. And when people are stressed or need a break, the ability to have a moment with somebody there is invaluable.

So would you say the building has helped to create a strong work culture?

For me, it’s the building and the people. The people are a huge part of this office. You can feel it as soon as you walk in the door. There’s just a buzz – people laughing and people having serious conversations all at the same time. It’s always welcoming. I think we all admit that we’re very lucky to work in a building of this quality. And it allows us to do so much: expand, contract, adapt, socialise. It’s just brilliant.

Have you missed the building during lockdown?

The day that we took our computers home was a bit like leaving home to go to university. If you think about how long I have spent in this building over the last 10 years, it’s probably not far off what I spend at home. To have that taken away was quite a moment. Some might think it’s unusual for me to say that about a place of work but it is really important to me. I can’t wait to be back and open, and have it full of people again, as it should be.

What have you missed specifically?

The way the building is designed makes working together so easy. It’s open plan and the spaces are fluid. You could be sat next to a landscape architect, a planner, a technologist, an architect or a surveyor – it’s such a dynamic way of working. And working in such close quarters allows a level of subliminal communication and support. It’s why the culture is so strong here because you’re almost like a village community inside a building. You’re not portioned off or segregated, you’re in it together and mixed up based on whatever you are working on. You always feel connected.

What’s the future for Treglown Court, given the current circumstances?

Covid-19 has brought about a more transient way of working. I think the building’s role will likely change in the future, I see it becoming more of a hub or a meeting point. So you may come to the office for a meeting or a deadline rather than work here 9-5. I’m a massive advocate of flexible working so I’m really interested to see how the next phase will go.

Looking back, what lessons have you learnt from Treglown Court?

I think the most important thing is it gave us an appreciation of what it actually means to be using the sustainable technology that we were pushing so hard for on other projects at that time. So that’s the biomass boiler, the PVs, even down to the electric car. We’ve learnt that it’s about educating people. It’s about getting them to understand how the building works. You can’t just design a building and then leave. It’s the little mundane things, like remembering to open windows for the natural ventilation or clearing carpark space for the biomass pellet deliveries, that take time to iron out. Through Treglown Court, we’ve learnt how our designs affect the people that will be using them.

Finally, can you sum up what Treglown Court means to you?

Stride Treglown means everything to me, the building, the people – particularly the people in Cardiff. It’s been 20 years of my life and it feels like a family. The Cardiff office is an extension of my home, it’s where I feel happy. I feel very lucky to be here.