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In Conversation with Rod Palmer

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Rod. Let’s start with some questions about you and your role at Paye.

Absolutely. I’m an Associate Director at Paye and oversee various teams responsible for restoring London’s heritage buildings. I have always enjoyed coming to work and love what I do. I’m an outgoing person and my role is fulfilling in that respect as I get to meet and work with many people, from our team and subcontractors to clients and peers.

Can you tell us about your career before joining Paye?

Before joining Paye, I studied for a BSc honours degree in Construction Management at Southbank University. During my time there, I had the opportunity to participate in an industrial placement on the Isle of Dogs, where I worked on rebuilding the South Key Plaza and office building. This project was particularly remarkable as it had been destroyed by the IRA in 1996. It was an amazing experience to be part of and contributed to my dissertation on “Building to Combat Terrorism.”

After graduating, I worked for Mansell Construction (part of Balfour Beatty) until 2014, where I was involved in various government, education, and heritage projects. However, it was always the heritage projects that I enjoyed the most and provided me with a sense of purpose.

I have had the opportunity to work on numerous Grade 1 and 2 Listed buildings, including the Making of the Modern World in the Science Museum, where we refurbished the whole gallery – the highlight for me was hanging the aeroplanes and cars at the end! Other notable projects I’ve worked on include Houses of Parliament Committee Rooms, British Museum Gallery 41 – Sutton Hoo, Secure Embassy in Palace Green, St Jude’s Church in Kensington, and Hadlow Tower – a Grade 1 Listed folly in Tonbridge.

What led you to join Paye?

I knew a lot about Paye and was familiar with some of the directors, having worked closely with them on the Hadlow Tower project. Hence, it was a natural choice for me to follow that pathway into heritage restoration at Paye.

Can you tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on and their challenges?

Coming from a background in main contracting, I have developed a specialism for handling complex schemes with intricate programmes and temporary works.

One of the most complex projects I have been involved with at Paye is the renovation of Smithfield Market. It was an incredible heritage project that involved renovating the Victorian market designed by Sir Horace Jones. The project’s complexity arises from the logistics of coordinating with other contractors working adjacent to and below the Paye site. Sir Horace Jones is renowned for his work on Tower Bridge, which adds historical significance to the project.

Have you ever encountered a problem on a project that seemed insurmountable? How did you overcome it, and what did you learn from the experience?

In the construction industry, there are always challenges that appear insurmountable. But with hard work and determination, there is always a viable solution. In this field, you continuously face and solve problems, ideally without losing your enthusiasm. Each success builds resilience and strength. Personally, I find inspiration in some of Churchill’s quotes on success, which remind me to remain motivated and tackle challenges head-on.

What are some of your career highlights while working at Paye?

I genuinely enjoy all the projects I work on at Paye because they provide me with opportunities to contribute to the restoration of London’s heritage.

I’m currently working on restoring the National Gallery’s façade, which is particularly fantastic with it being an iconic building in Trafalgar Square. We’re working with a highly collaborative client who values a hands-on and meticulous approach. I have also had the pleasure of working again at the Palace of Westminster and on projects for the Royal Household, including Windsor Castle, Marlborough, and Clarence House.

What aspects of construction and heritage restoration are you particularly passionate about, and how do you stay up to date on industry developments and trends?

I am passionate about making progress and achieving tangible results. I have always had the drive to get things done and see the finished result. I’m happy when the building looks great and meets the client’s expectations in terms of quality, cost, and timeframe.

At Paye, I am fortunate to work with conservation experts who are a valuable source of knowledge. I particularly enjoy collaborating with experts like Spencer Hall ACR and architects such as David Hills at Roger Mears. Working alongside them allows me to learn a great deal. I also learn from our core tradespeople who are passionate about stone restoration, historic rendering, pointing techniques, and other skills.

What are some of the key skills you believe are necessary for success in this industry, and how have you developed these skills throughout your career?

Understanding the project and its ultimate goals is essential for delivering a successful project. Building strong relationships at all levels is also vital. Successful projects require collaborative working, from the client and designers to managers and tradespeople. Communication and professionalism have always been key skills for me, and I have honed them through my experiences and interactions with various stakeholders in the industry.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the construction and heritage industries today, and how do you think Paye is positioned to tackle these challenges?

One of the significant challenges in the industry is the shortage of trade apprentices. Making the construction industry attractive to younger generations is a tough task, but Paye has been working alongside the CIOB and other contractors to collectively combat this problem. However, there is still work to be done to address this issue.

Another challenge is finding project and site managers who possess the necessary skills and are genuinely passionate about their work. Paye has always prioritised hiring skilled professionals who are dedicated to their roles, and by maintaining this focus and fostering a culture of excellence, we are well-positioned to tackle these challenges head-on.

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