When you dreams become reality Please tell us about your background and the history of RA Shaw designs RA Shaw Designs Ltd commenced business in the Turks & Caicos Islands in 1998. Our niche, (and my passion) in the market is single family homes. I have been designing homes in the TCI ever since. I am a product of the Ontario College system, graduated from Niagara in 1980. I am a certified Quantity Surveyor, and although I studied architecture, I have no architectural accreditation, and yet my entire career has been design. I came to the islands from the commercial/industrial design and construction market in southern Ontario Canada in 1996. We emigrated to the islands to accept a position in project management and design on a residential condominium project on Providenciales. Since completion of that project I have been designing (and building) single family homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands and other tropical locations including the Mauritius, British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, and west coast of Africa. The majority of our projects are off-island owners building their dream vacation home in paradise. Over the past 10 years, 54% of our clients are from North America, 29% UK and Europe and balance are local. We take pride in thinking outside the box and creating homes that truly leave visitors with a tropical living experience that you will not find in northern climates. Our average home is in the 3,000 to 6,000 ft2 range. Our largest is the Emerald Cay project at 30,000 ft2. Early in our days here in TCI, I discovered that maintaining a reasonable level of quality construction is very difficult on a small island so I created Design Build Associates ltd, a general contracting firm that builds the majority of the projects we design here in the Turks & Caicos. We have a staff of 15 managers that are very active not only the design but continue through to construction. Aside from the benefits of continuity, this instils a tremendous amount of pride and dedication to the project. I am passionate about single family residential design and consider myself very fortunate to have been able to establish a successful design practise located in the tropics. We have designed and built some pretty incredible residences. It is more about client relationships and building their dream than it is about making money. I find this to be a stark contrast to the commercial industrial design work that filled the earlier days of my career. What particular challenges and opportunities exist in the Caribbean? Our focus is single family residential and the majority of our clients look for a return on their investment thru short term vacation rentals. Based on this, our designs focus on creating architecture that leave a lifelong impression on their vacation purely due to the unusual and unique tropical living experience that our homes deliver. Also, need to keep in mind the client’s interest at protecting personal belongings that they store in the house. All our homes are different and unique, each designed around the panorama, wind directions, topography, ease of access, and making indoor and outdoor living spaces seamlessly connected. Our climate is perfect, rarely goes below 70 degrees F or over 90. A residence properly designed to take advantage of cooling breezes does not require air conditioning. One of my biggest challenges is convincing North Americans of this fact. Utilities are very expensive here, power can be 3 to 4 times greater than in North America. We do not have any fresh water resources in the TCI. Our water is either collected from rainwater, or desalinated ocean water. Costs of potable drinking water here are roughly 25 times higher than average rates in North America. Proper design can/should reduce consumption and focus on recycling. All our homes are equipped with sewage treatment plants that use the effluent for direct discharge to plant irrigation on the property. How does the process work with a client? We are design/builders. All work is negotiated through five well defined phases of the process which includes: Concept Development Budget Pricing of the Concept Preparation of Construction drawings and schedules Repricing of the project based on final details Construction Our service includes full design including: Structural design Electrical, plumbing, and air-conditioning Interior design and decorating Landscaping Permit applications We offer turnkey packages to our clients starting with conceptual development and often continue right thru to full provisioning of furniture, artwork, small appliance, dishes and cutlery, and even linens. Being on an island, it is not easy to source household items at reasonable cost. We therefore often provide this ‘icing-on-the-cake’ provisioning in addition to our design and construction services based on expansive roster of North American suppliers and our refined procedures including delivery in North America, consolidation of goods, ocean freight, clearing of product through Customs once it arrives here, and finally, on-island delivery and set up on site Please describe a typical project A typical project is a single family home, usually ocean front or located on a canal. End use of the home is used for owner’s vacations and short term vacation rental. Most residence have their own website and marketing plan for rental. Average home is 3,000 to 5,000 square feet with 4 to 6 bedrooms. As mentioned earlier, our design delivers very unusual layouts that bring lasting memories to vacationers, particularly when it comes to connecting indoor spaces to the preferred outdoor space. Please tell us about your team and their expertise The majority of my staff are AutoCAD literate and delve into a broad spectrum of responsibility ranging from detailing of construction documents right through to field management of the actual construction. Aside from business management, I personally focus on conceptual development and am the only Quantity Surveyor on staff, so I do the vast majority of material take-off and pricing. My Construction Manager Ian van Walleghem is responsible for all construction activity. Ian possesses an uncanny ability to identify the critical path of the project. Very virtuous ability particularly when involved in the procurement of construction materials in a remote market. Equipped with communication skills that equal (or surpass) his management skills, Ian quickly wins total respect from our Suppliers and Clients. As a result, our reputation of unique designs followed with quality construction and an ability to deliver quickly, has generated an enviable reputation in the islands. Case in point… our latest project is 4,900 square foot, 5 bedroom, $2.2 million house went from concept to completion in just 10 months. We (and our clients) are fortunate to have Ian on our team. How do you see the market developing? The Turks and Caicos Islands, particularly Providenciales, was voted the #1 Tourism Island in the World, April 2015 by Trip Advisor. I think the Grace Bay Beach is unequalled in the world. The Caicos Bank emanates the most beautiful turquoise water for as far as the eye can see. Fish and marine life are enjoyed by divers in our crystal clear waters. Lowest crime rate in the Caribbean, British Dependent Territory, English speaking, US currency, absence of income or property taxes, all have contributed to our popularity as a destination island. But more than a destination, once you have visited the TCI, one cannot wait for the return. As a result we are seeing private investment in the single family villa development with handsome returns through short term rental. This attraction is of even higher benefit as we see the trend being lower density development in comparison to other islands, keeping our population and related ecology in check as a result. What advice would you give to a client searching for an architect with luxury experience? The most important element in developing new is to involve local knowledge early in the process. Prior to land purchase is not too early. Local designers know and understand the local annual weather patterns, topography, neighbourhood, and can point out differences and advantages of alternate sites based on experience and knowledge. Highly recommend local designers. I insist you need to live in the environment to fully understand it and take advantage and capitalize on everything our location and climate has to offer. Traditional northern designers often miss the target by a long shot.
Since 1998 RA Shaw Designs has mastered the art of building dreams and bringing imaginations to life. World Commerce Review spoke with Ron Shaw about building your tropical paradise The majority of our projects are off-island owners building their dream vacation home in paradise