Paul McAlister Architects



Who are you and where are you located?

My name is Paul McAlister working at Paul McAlister Architects.  We are a small architectural practice dedicated to good design and designing sustainable ultra low energy dwellings and commercial buildings. We have a passion for good design and believe that any building should be inherently sustainable by being energy efficient.  We are located in the Barn Studio on the outskirts of Portadown, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland. The office is a converted agricultural barn. It has been renovated with the original character of the barn retained on the outside but with a modern interior.


Where do you work from and do you have employees?

Our work involves us travelling throughout Northern Ireland and Ireland to visit our client and see the site for which we are designing and building new homes. Over the years we have built houses throughout Northern Ireland and would not say that any site is too far away due to the nature of our work.  We have three full time and one part time employee and all are based within the Barn Studio.


What is your biggest business challenge?


Our biggest business challenge has been adapting to the new market reality that we found ourselves in since the economic collapse of 2007. We now offer new products and services to our clients. There is a greater focus on expert advice on how to achieve low energy and passive house design for domestic dwellings. It has been a challenge to convince our clients that the additional cost of added insulation, good quality windows and ventilations systems are a necessary expenditure. However we now find that most new clients want at least a low energy house due to the comfort levels and running costs this affords.


How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

As regards the new skills for the business, we were the first architecture practice in Northern Ireland to become qualified as European Certified Passive House Designers, and have been able to bring this expertise to our projects. We also became certified energy assessors, which has allowed our business to offer this service ‘in house’ and has made us more able to calculate the energy consumption of our proposed designs. We continue to research the latest trends and technological innovations that would benefit our clients.


What inspires you / do you have creative role models?

We are inspired by quality design and architecture in general. When we watch ‘Grand Designs’ and see someone doing something really new or innovative we are inspired to bring that idea or thinking to our own projects and clients. The Passive House low energy movement has also been inspiring and we are now building our first certified Passive House. This is exciting as it is three years since we first did the training and we are finally putting the theory into reality! Our role models are other architects, designers or buildings where something ‘great’ is happening and the person has created a building with real intrinsic value.


If you had to do it over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

This is a really loaded question!  The honest answer is probably not – we do the best we can at any given time and hope to follow our passion and the path it leads us down. My path has tended toward architecture and sustainable design. However we are also involved in a variety of projects and ideas. On the whole we are very content with the current workload and results from the business and regret nothing!