When Richard began in the industry over 10 years ago the, er, landscape (and his hands) looked a lot different. Hackney was not a desirable place to live and it was unusual to meet landscapers as young as he was then. Much has changed in that time; Richard set up his own company in 2011, mastered 3D design and project management and built tens of bespoke gardens across the capital. Hackney became hipster central and there seemed to be a lot of good looking, bearded builder, landscaper types around.
One thing that has remained is Londoners appetite for space, we've seen applications for basement excavations increase ten fold in West London since 2001 before 'everyone' complained that houses were constantly under construction and the borough of Kensington and Chelsea invoked a ban in 2014. The next space-making trend we witnessed was installing garden studios and offices (examples can be seen in the gallery). As people capitalise on this relatively affordable way to create an extra room, the structures have got bigger and so inevitably have the complaints against them. This is the ongoing rhythm of progress.
Another change we've had to work around, was the introduction of legislation which prevented homeowners from installing driveways which we’re non-permeable or free draining without planning permission.
It’s a responsible adjustment and foregrounds the impact of building works on the environment and specifically the water table so GLW welcome the change. ‘The only downside is the cowboys who aren’t upfront about the legal requirements, who cut corners and costs to beat the competition.’ Finding a price point in a market saturated by have-a-go Harrys has been tricky for Ground Level Works. ‘I don’t want to just compete on price’ he says ‘that’s just a race to the bottom.’ Instead Ground Level Works offer a comprehensive quality service from design to build for a fair price ‘I pay my guys appropriately because they are talented and it’s a hard slog in an expensive city.’
As an innovator, Richard loves solving his customers problems and finding bespoke solutions to what other might seem as trivial matters. For instance, installing under-decking storage (a trap door with hydraulics) to house a sand pit and toys and installing green roofs to pretty up bin stores. I could go on (and I will in my next posts). Another such example is the introduction of cell-paving as a domestic material, which is an ideal alternative to traditional driveways. Completely free draining and able to take the weight of a HGV, cell paving also allows for green to grow where it wouldn't usually be able to.
'People stop us outside, or we see them taking pictures. We even had someone knock on the door to ask us about it.' said Mersedeh, a customer who was so impressed with our efforts last year that they had us to do the front almost straight after we had finished the back.
'It really is a revolutionary product.' It is quick to install (labour is a big cost factor for anyone contemplating major works) and each 'paver' weighs considerably less than any concrete alternatives. Similar to grass-crete, the cells can be filled with gravel or seeded for a grass finish but it has a considerably reduced impact to the environment as it is made of 100% recycled materials and can be reused.
We are going back this week as it has all grown in, so expect an updated photo very soon!
If you are interested in this green solution to the grey, you know where we are. #gotoguys #groundlevellers info @groundlevelworks.com