HAD & Co: The female-led architecture business building a better Manchester

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Construction is a man’s world. Or so the old cliche says.

The arena of hard hats, hi-vis and heavy lifting has historically been recognised as a no-fly zone for females – with men accounting for over 89% of people working in the industry today. 

But as it turns out, Mancs don’t have to look far to find an example of a firm that’s bucking the trend. 

HAD & Co Property Consultants is a proud member of the 11%; a female-led construction industry business sat right on the doorstep of the city centre.

Launched by school friends Saira Hussain and Nixie Edwards, originally from Burnley, HAD & Co has morphed into one of Britain’s most successful women-steered consultancies – opening up in Manchester in 2018 after an enormously successful first decade of experience which saw the duo scoop 40 + award nominations.  

Manchester certainly likes its innovators – and HAD & Co fits that description in more ways than one.

“Things move so much faster here,” Saira tells us. 

“In a small town like Burnley, the work is very different. In Manchester there’s more projects, more development, more investment, more funding and more support from councils.

“It’s been an incredible experience for us.”

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It didn’t take long for HAD & Co to became a sought-after name in the local scene for advice and guidance surrounding interior design, planning and architecture.

But just 18 months after they’d settled in, the doors to the office were hastily locked due to the onset of the pandemic.

The world of construction has, in many people’s eyes, been ‘one of the lucky ones’ during the pandemic.

For the most part, the maze of towering cranes that permanently populate Manchester have largely stayed put as work continued through lockdown.

But even in this industry, the constantly-changing rules have proven troublesome. 

The closure of local restaurants and cafes under Tier 3 has kicked off a domino effect that’s rippled through to the building sector – pausing development work and leading to cancelled deals with suppliers. 

The damage to hospitality has penetrated so deep it has hurt the wider economy – and HAD has felt the impact. 

“We’d just got things moving, then COVID hits,” Saira tells us. 

“It’s been an enormous challenge for us and we’ve faced some difficulties – but we’ve found a way to navigate it.”

According to Saira, the secret to HAD’s survival has been cementing strong relationships in the city and securing lengthy contracts.  

In the two years since moving to Manchester, HAD & Co has commenced work on heritage projects for historic venues like the Royal Exchange and signed long-term deals that have given the company the necessary robustness to stand firm in the face of COVID. 

HAD & Co has also enjoyed huge success in HMO planning applications – securing as many as seven during the pandemic alone. 

But whilst 70% of HAD & Co’s work is commercial, the rest is focused on residential development and interior design – one of the few markets that enjoyed high spending in COVID. 

2020 was a year where most of us spent more time indoors than ever before – making us intimately familiar with every single surface, corner, nook and cranny in the building – and it proved to be a waking realisation. 

After weeks looking at the same four walls for 24 hours a day, homeowners came to the conclusion that there was a lot about their properties and workplaces they wanted to change. 

Demand for loft conversions and extensions went through the roof. Literally in some instances.

“We’ve had such high demand for designing people’s houses,” Saira explains. 

“One side of being a female-led practice is that clients are more comfortable with you when it comes to interior design work. 

“They feel like you have a better understanding and are open to dealing with you.

“On the residential side of things, that’s definitely a benefit.”

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In their spare time, Saira and Nixies are ambassadors for women in construction, encouraging young women to follow in the footsteps of firms like HAD & Co whilst endorsing sustainable design and clean technology.

But her day job is all about keeping the momentum of the business going .  

“We’ve got around 30 projects on the go right now,” Saira tells us. 

“Some of them are long-term, others are faster turnarounds.

“It’s a real mix and it’s all really exciting.” 

It’s true that the future remains uncertain for businesses for as long as coronavirus is around.

But if we can rely on one thing, it’s that the city skyline will continue to change. 

There’s simply no stopping construction in Manchester. And HAD & Co’s fingerprints will be all over it. Right the way through 2021.

Learn more about the great work HAD & Co are doing in Manchester by visiting the company website.

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