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Design and technology drive new Strata HQ

Architect at drawing board in Strata Homes' refurbished headquarters
Architect at drawing board in Strata Homes' refurbished headquarters
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The most striking thing about walking into Strata Homes’ headquarters is the absence of any branding.

In fact, its recognisable red and white logo is nowhere to be seen on any of the three floors following the homebuilder’s £1.8m refurbishment.

Instead, the decor is modern and neutral in whites, greys and browns and the structure of the building is ‘live, learn and dream’.

“It’s not just about colour-coding and design cues, it’s about how people move around a space and use it”, says chief executive Andrew Weaver as we sit in one of the new communal areas on the middle floor. The space has a kitchen, large boardroom table and smaller tables next to huge floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake. On one of the walls is a large screen.

The huge refurbishment of its offices at Lakeside in Doncaster came about after Weaver realised the space no longer worked for its workforce.

Strata, which celebrates its 100th birthday next year, originally moved to the site on a design and build basis in 2003 when the company was both a housebuilder and contractor.

It sold the building to an investment company and entered into a leaseback arrangement to enable future growth.

“What the company was and what it is now in the space of 15 years has changed beyond compare,” Weaver says. “It had been designed with two businesses in mind.”

Weaver started again with a blank canvas and set about designing a new open-plan space for the technology-driven business it was becoming.

“We’ve gone through two key transitions. We’re not a contractor any more - we sold that business in 2009. We’re a housebuilder, but more than that, we’re a house builder who wants to differentiate through design and technology. We’d invested heavily in digital technology but it wasn’t running through the veins of the building. We had to make the information trail flow better.”

Strata has invested in technologies that will speed up information flow and empower employees to make decisions and control the progress at site level.

The company employs 178 people, including 100 in the head office.

Its employees are an important part of the way the business works. Almost half of its staff are under 40 and fit within Strata’s customer profile. The business builds three and four bedroom homes and has 18 developments across Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

One of the catalysts for recent changes at Strata was the appointment of Paul Stone, GHD’s head of IT, in 2013. “To get someone out of an IT background in Leeds to Doncaster at that time was a coup, but he came because it was about business change rather than just IT.”

Strata, which has a £165m turnover, completed 672 homes in the financial year to the end of June 2018.

But Weaver insists Strata is ‘not just another housebuilder’. “It’s not just about bricks and mortar, we are a digital retailer,” he says. “We are design-led without being flaky and our customers speak for themselves. We’re almost at five stars on Trustpilot.”

Strata’s new ground floor is devoted to encouraging customer engagement. It has invested in a configurator which allows customers to choose the fixtures and fittings and view them in context using digital technologies.

The middle floor is an open-plan office space, while the top floor is dedicated to design for its architects and creatives.

Looking ahead, Weaver says: “There’s not enough Stratas. There needs to be more colour and variety in the market. At the moment, we’re a great point of difference.”