Introduction and Background

1. You are an Architect by training. But soon after the establishment of Meridian Homes Pte Ltd in 2003, you decided to break away from Architectural consultancy. What's been happening since?

I'm happy to say that we've been busy creating beautiful homes for people. When we launched the Meridian Homes® 2005 brochure for our design-build concepts, we were looking only at a range of projects for Singapore; we've since expanded our portfolio, and gone into Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. In fact, we're now developing several overseas resort complexes.

The Resort Homes® concept, with the distinct look and feel of a holiday abode, is really popular. That's why we've decided to re-name our brochure Resort Homes® 2006.

Design-and-Build: Business Model

2. You belong to a volatile industry where numerous companies go bankrupt every year. How viable is your business?

Discerning home-owners will always seek out reliable, responsible builders. In this respect, we've been very successful in carving a niche for ourselves with our commitment, attention to detail and strong emphasis on quality.

3. How confident are you of your products? And your pricing strategies?

At Meridian Homes® , quality is the axiom for everything we do from design to construction to delivery. We established this brand to distinguish ourselves, and we campaign for work under this banner. I believe we've come this far because of our consistent high standards.

As for strategy, we identify a workable budget based on the client's brief. It should be a budget which can ensure the capacity for certain design criteria, meet the Meridian Homes® workmanship and material standards, and also provide fair remuneration to those working along the project value chain.

Design-and-Build: Flexibility within Boundaries

4. Can a template design-and-build concept work? If I were a home-owner, I wouldn't want my house to be identical to someone else's!

Template design doesn't mean everything is duplicated from house to house. It provides a systematic framework within which there is ample room for individual taste and style. In a nutshell, it's flexibility within boundaries.

A typical template includes a list of detailed, itemised costings - from structural steel to concrete and even the anti-mould silicon grouting. It's a very transparent way of budget allocation. The home-owner has many options within the standard template, so there is a fair amount of customisation.

In Singapore, where it's a statutory requirement to engage an Architect to build a house, it could mean spending tens of thousands of dollars upfront on professional fees. A template approach addresses this, and because fees are also amortised as a basic yet improvable template, design-and build can be an attractive alternative to the average home-owner.

Design-and-Build: Leveraging Synergies

5. You seem to identify yourself less as an Architect than as a construction industry player. Some people may frown at this move from professional to generalist. Care to explain it?

Going into construction is moving up the value chain, not down. I think a trained Architect adds organisation, credibility and professionalism to the construction industry. We have the knowledge and ability to control the various sub-trades, specifications, schedule, quality and whatever else needed to complete a project well. Going turnkey has certainly made me a better Architect. I can add value to the project at every stage, and the client can get answers to his queries from a single, professional point of contact.

6. Do you take on remodelling projects? How does that appeal to, or challenge, you as an Architect?

As long as we can make a difference to the condition and aesthetics of the existing unit, we will undertake the project. You see, as an Architect, this is where I can exercise creativity with reality. Let me illustrate this.

A home-owner came to us after he had gone through the traditional method of appointing individual consultants; he went all the way to the tender stage. By that time, he discovered that the amount had gone way over the cost estimate he was given. He was understandably upset when he came to us.

We assessed his house and re-designed it using an existing Meridian Homes® template. We built and finished it beautifully, true to our original LOI cost. With careful customisation and a tight hand on the budget, we were able to deliver his home at about 80 per cent of his original design.

Cost savings were realised from eliminating some expensive elements, but the bulk of the savings came from two days of intensive brain-storming between the Architect and Engineer - something which is not the norm for small projects of this nature. Capitalising on our synergies, we were able to reduce costly duplications and wastages.