Acting on climate change
Getting to know Rob Bohm and how he provides independent advice to designers, architects and home-owners on sustainable heating solutions.
Our May Brunch guest speaker was the lovely Rob Bohm from CLPM, who are a leading independent construction consultancy and project management business based in Rickmansworth. As part of his remit, Rob advises homeowners and commercial clients on how they can improve the energy efficiencies of their properties and in a sustainable way. Rob is an expert on renewable technologies and is passionate about conserving our planet.
Getting to know CLPM as a business….
How did CLPM come about and how long ago? How did you, Rob Bohm, get started with CLPM?
CLPM was formed in 2014 by the merger of Charlie Laing Ltd and the award-winning ClearPlan Project Management. We are still privately owned and run by James Bryden (Managing Director) and Nicky Bryden (Business Development Director) and Charlie Laing (Operations Director), who were the directors of the original organisations. We’re a very dynamic company: over the last 7 years we’ve grown the range of services we offer to clients and our geographical reach, now covering London, the Home Counties, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
I joined CLPM as a Building Project Manager and Heating Consultant in 2014, having successfully run my own heating and plumbing business for many years. When you’ve worked on construction sites for as long as I have you’ve seen everything — good and bad — and I felt it was time to help others by passing on my knowledge to help our clients make the best, most informed heating decisions!
How big is the CLPM team?
Our team has doubled in size over the last 7 years — to 24 — and we are still growing! It’s a great company to work for and many of us have worked for CLPM for several years.
We have eight field-based Construction Project Managers, who between them cover London and the Home Counties. Our Quantity Surveying team of six are overseen by our Commercial Director, Alison Maddison, are RICS regulated and based in our head office. There are three Heating and Energy Consultants and we are all supported by our Sales, Marketing and Admin team.
With all your knowledge on sustainable heating solutions, what top 3 tips would you offer for a designer just starting out in the Interior Design industry, who knows absolutely nothing about M&E at all, however has their very first design project and is keen to get involved with specifying it for the first time?
- Make sure you understand from the outset what your client needs and wants — and their priorities. If they seem at all unsure, then take steps to help them appreciate their options.
- Don’t assume that the contractor will have the technical knowledge to advise you, nor will he necessarily have your clients’ best interests at heart.
- Heating is an increasingly complex business. If you want to ensure your client gets the best result, it’s always a good idea to get independent advice.
What is the biggest challenge for CLPM as a business?
Delivering our mission to ‘Build in a Smarter and More Sustainable Way’ to as many people as we can! Building doesn’t have to be stressful. If you invest enough time and money getting the right advice and support — from the initial design stage until completion — you’ll get a significantly better result. CLPM aim to support our clients so they are able to make the best, most informed decisions.
What has been CLPM’s most successful milestone to date?
Something that we’re really proud of at CLPM is having gained our Corporate Social Responsibility Accreditation in 2020. Gaining this prestigious accreditation was so meaningful because it was a reflection both of the very hard work that many team members put in to help achieve it but also a really strong re-affirming of our company values and commitment to our clients, professional partners as well as everyone working within the business.
CLPM Project – a self-build near Wokingham and involved a complete transformation. Before (left) and after. For more info on how CLPM helped these homeowners – see here.
Do you work globally? If so, how do you achieve this?
We’ve always worked with clients and their architects who are based overseas and have supported a large number of new build and renovation projects for them. We’re used to delivering advice via email, phonecall and videocall and our clients also have their own access to our online project management system where we upload images and videos, so even if they can’t visit their project, they can see for themselves what’s happening onsite. Most recently we’ve managed a remote heating project in Poland.
What has been your/CLPM’s most tricky and satisfying heating problem and resolution?
We work with a lot of charities as well as religious and community groups. They tend to have large, poorly-maintained buildings, with complicated usage patterns — and often have large utility bills to match! We recently worked with the Camphill Community in Milton Keynes, which is an organisation helping people with learning difficulties. Their large site had several buildings which had been adapted over the years with no consideration to energy usage. Alongside our advice on where best to make structural improvements, there were many immediate quick wins, especially regarding their heating control systems. It was a very satisfying project to work on as by helping them to reduce the energy usage and bills, they will then have more funds to help their residents.
Have you been able to continue providing your consulting services through the Covid pandemic? If yes, how have you had to adapt working on-site protocols?
One of the benefits of working for a larger company like CLPM is that we have all the advice and tools we need to support and protect our team and clients. Initially it was difficult, as it was for us all, until we all got used to working within the Covid protocols. Our head office-based teams have always worked flexibly but since March last year have been working mostly from home. We have all been meeting virtually using Microsoft Teams and Zoom and use WhatsApp for video surveying. Our Project Managers and Heating Consultancy team have been carrying out some site surveys with PPE, all the while observing social distancing and making sure we ventilate the properties.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Never assume — always ask and check for yourself.
Did you enjoy your guest speaker appearance at Metier Rendezvous recently? What did you bring away with you from that?
I certainly did. It was good to speak with likeminded people. I hadn’t come across a group such as Metier Rendezvous before and it was good to witness the assistance and advice you gave each other. I came away thinking that it would be great to set up a way to ensure CLPM can get involved and collaborate with the group members on a regular basis.
Sneaky peek at Rob’s very interesting presentation on sustainable energy solutions.
What are the key benefits for Interior Designers to be working with a heating specialist such as yourself?
I think the advice we can give will help you deliver a better home to your clients. By getting an expert to review the heating arrangements you can be assured that your client’s new home will be more comfortable. As you will have specified the right heating solution it will be more future-proof too. CLPM can help you create a property which is more environmentally friendly and less expensive to heat.
What other services does CLPM specialise in or cover?
CLPM is an independent construction project consultancy with expertise in building project management. We work flexibly and tailor our services to our clients’ needs. Our wide variety of project management support services include trade-by-trade project management, contract administration, and site support. We can also act as Principal Designer.
Our RICS regulated Quantity Surveying team work in partnership with our project managers to deliver our Contract Administration services. With services that include estimating, budgeting, bank monitoring, tendering and build team appointment, they help our clients plan, organise and complete their building projects on time and within budget.
What is next for CLPM?
Our core business is continuing to grow. But we are also about to launch an exciting new service called Construction Guru. This offers a range of virtual support services for people who wish to spearhead their own project (including the self-build community) which are delivered via videocall.
Getting to know Rob and what makes him tick…
Tell us about your own home… what type of property do you live in?
I live in the Cotswolds, in a pretty stone cottage. The cottage has been extended over the years and as you would expect, I’ve taken steps to improve its energy efficiency! I also recently updated my heating system — so I now heat my home via an air source heat pump.
How would you describe your own interior style?
My wife and I have decorated our home in a fairly traditional style, but we have picked up some modern artworks over the years.
Tell us about your favourite room in your home.
I enjoy watching rugby with my wife and two sons — preferably live but also on TV. Our living room is very cosy and is my favourite room — especially when there’s a match on.
What is your favourite thing about your home or garden in the summer?
Living in a rural location means our garden is a place of peace and tranquillity. We both enjoy gardening so during the summer it’s lovely to find a sunny spot to relax and enjoy the wildlife. But if it gets too hot our cottage has very thick stone walls so it’s nice and cool inside too!
If you were to build your own home, what would it look like?
I’d love to build a very high-performance home. Would be great to have a go at a Passiv Haus self-build. It’d be built of natural, and where possible, locally sourced materials — local stone, wood, slate, natural wool insulation etc with triple-glazed windows and doors. It would be interesting to blend some of the more traditional skills – thatching, lime plastering into the scheme too. The design would depend very much on the location of the site. I really like the idea of living in a house that blends into the countryside.
What has been your biggest home extravagance?
I wouldn’t call it an extravagance, as it will pay for itself over time, but probably the renewable technologies that I have recently installed. Although green technologies are coming down in price, they are still unfortunately quite expensive.
And what is on your coffee table?
Currently, a book on photography which I would dearly love to do more of.
Who, if anyone, inspires you on the design front?
Friedensreich Hundertwasser who was an artist and way ahead of his time in terms of eco-design, and believed that a straight line was an anathema to art.
Lastly, if you had a blank cheque, what would you be splashing out on for your own home?
Lots and lots of lovely art.
Rob’s presentation was so informative and timely for many of us and Rob is clearly very expert in his field. Thank you so much, Rob, for your time and your generosity with knowledge – some of it was an absolute revelation! We could have talked for hours and your passion shone through. None of us have any excuses now for inefficient heating systems or chilly houses and there are many exciting opportunities for introducing renewable solutions to our projects.
If you need clear impartial advice on what possibilities are open to you or your project, don’t hesitate to contact Rob and his colleagues at CLPM via their website. And don’t forget their virtual advisory service where you can get advice and help on an ad hoc basis.
You can find CLPM here:
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