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Ian Williams finishing off Barclay Bank's new headquarters at Canary Wharf
Ian Williams finishing off Barclay Bank's new headquarters at Canary Wharf

Ian williams
Ian Williams is an oldish firm – it was established back in 1946 in Cardiff – and during its 60 years it has spread throughout the south of England, South Wales and the Midlands, and now employs 1000 people. During that time it has evolved into the best new-build painting firm in Britain, at least according to our academy of people who know. Are they right? Well consider one of the firm’s recent projects, the 38-storey Barclays Bank tower in Canary Wharf. This began as a £400,000 shell-and-core internal painting project, then grew to include the fit-out of several floors. The real highlights, however were the trompe l’oeil effect on the 8200 m2 roof, visible from the surrounding buildings and the jets heading into London City airport, and the painting and sealing of an enclosed air riser that was 350 mm wide and 38 storeys’ high, with access to the shaft once every six storeys. If you want to work out how it was done yourself, look away now … if not, the answer was to lower an oscillating spraying head down the shaft on pulleys. Let’s hope some clients give them something a bit tougher before next year’s awards.

Runners up

Alexander james
This bijou firm of five full-time designers has built its reputation on highly targeted, highly valuable work, such as show home design and installation for many of the UK’s leading housebuilders and property developers and private client commissions. This places it somewhere between painter as in painter and decorator, and painter as in chap with beret and tube of burnt umber. It is also business-savvy, as the 25% rise in turnover in the past year indicates. The firm offers furniture and accessories on a rental basis, and has developed specialist funding packages for rental investors.

Collins Contractors have been established for more than 75 years, and is presently experiencing a burst of growth – turnover has risen 35% in the past year to £6.4m. It carries out all forms of interior and exterior refurbishment in south-east London and has established itself as a firm at the leading edge of industry developments.

Over the past 15 years it has built up a position in construction management projects such as British Airways Waterside and The Royal Opera House, and has all the scout badges that the very best firms have, such as ISO 9001:2000.

No wonder it was one of ICI’s original trade partners.

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It speaks volumes about this outfit that it has become well enough known to the academy to win a place on the shortlist of these awards despite coming into being a mere four years ago. The firm puts its success down to the original business plan, which included such solid gold advice, such as to work only for clients that pay you, and be nice to people in the rest of the supply chain – and train your staff. It may sound obvious, but how many firms actually follow those rules? The upshot has been partnering agreements with Mace, Styles & Wood, Concorde Interiors, Modular Systems, Emcor, David McLean … and so on …

This firm has just completed the contract of a lifetime: the exhausting, intensive 15 month job of helping to restore the Royal Albert Hall. This project bought out the strengths of this small firm: of working in close partnership with the rest of the project team – Taylor Woodrow, architect Atis Real Weatheralls and the Royal Albert Hall’s own in-house building team. This seems to have been a happy experience for all concerned – Robinson’s turnover rose from £900,000 to £1.5m and its was retained by the Royal Albert Hall. What’s next? It is pulling out all the stops in its bid to restore the hall’s grand organ.