PB interviews the Master Builder of the Year!

PB interviews the Master Builder of the Year!
Image caption: (LtoR) Stephen Rankin, Managing Director, Vantage and Co, and Dan Baylis the Project Manager on the Old Heaton House project with the brand new Isuzu D-Max the company won as a prize for being named Master Builder of the Year

Vantage and Co is the 2023 Master Builder of the Year. PB’s Lee Jones talks to the company’s MD, Stephen Rankin about his firm and the project that secured this most coveted of industry accolades.

“It genuinely hasn’t really sunk in that we’re the Master Builder winners even now,” confesses Stephen Rankin, as he shows us around the large renovation job that secured the FMB’s top prize. “It’s invaluable recognition for the hard work the whole team has put in. We didn’t actually realise at first that we’d also won the new Isuzu D-Max either.”

Since its inception as a business in 2017, Vantage and Co has carved a niche in high end new build and renovation work of which Old Heaton House is an imposing example. First constructed for a wealthy Birmingham merchant in 1823, it is the 2nd oldest free standing villa in the city. Throughout its long and varied existence it has also been put to use as a factory, before falling into a state of near irrevocable ruin. Now nestling amongst modern town houses and apartments in the historic Jewellery Quarter – an area which is subject to a major urban regeneration drive – the Master Builder winning property stands as a beacon of brownfield renewal.

Incredibly, this imposing late Georgian structure wasn’t even a listed building but, rather than just demolish it, the developer, Elevate Property Group, recognised its potential, and a building that has stood for two centuries has now been saved for posterity.

Craft skills

Once the developer had stabilised the structure, the Vantage and Co team were brought into fit out a building that was no more than bare brick and would dedicate nine months of painstaking craft work to transform it into a palatial 5-bedroom home. It’s a job that required meticulous attention to detail and the finish in every room exudes luxury, whilst at the same time utilising relatively cost effective materials. “We had to work to a relatively tight budget where every penny has an impact on the developer’s profit margin,” Stephen explains. “As a result, the specification demanded a degree of creativity to achieve the desired look and I think we’ve achieved that very well without compromising on the detail or quality of finish.”

Internal wall insulation has been installed to the solid wall construction, and the roof has been heavily lined. Damp proof membranes were introduced, whilst Vantage and Co plastered, painted and decorated every room. “We’ve stayed true to the original building wherever possible and there’s some very nice curved details on ceilings that are as much as 5.1m in height in two of the upstairs bedrooms, for instance. Cast iron rads feature throughout with tall skirtings that complement those high ceilings. The original staircase has been stone clad, with each of the steps cut to size on site, and the joinery is bespoke, including the fire rated doors.”

Winning work

Vantage and Co are no stranger to award wins, having secured two regional Master Builder trophies for Best Kitchen and Best Commercial project in 2021. The Old Heaton House job was successful in the regional 2023 Bathroom Project and Large Renovation categories, as well as the overall Master Builder win. Stephen prides himself on a collaborative approach that will deliver on a shared vision, and champions communication as the key to any successful project. “Just something as simple as having a WhatsApp group that keeps the client in the loop with every decision can make all the difference,” he continues. “If you do what you say you’re going to, when you say you’re going to do it, that will earn a lot of trust. We’re working with clients that have high expectations, but to produce the quality that we do is also very rewarding for us.”

Having initially pursued an academic path, Stephen turned his back on university to work as a bricklayer’s labourer on site, which would subsequently evolve into a career as a skilled carpenter. Having also previously worked as an assistant site manager, he can point to experience of the building industry at multiple levels, not to mention a journey from hod carrier to the FMB Master Builder of the Year crown.

Today, Vantage and Co employs a regular team of around 14 tradespeople, undertaking projects around the midlands and the south, generating work through word of mouth, and a trusted network of architects and property developers. “We’re often working with clients that have significant budgets and are increasingly working at the industry’s cutting edge, installing heat pumps, PV, very high levels of insulation and making use of recycled materials, for example.

Stephen joined the Federation of Master Builders in 2018, has been a regional board member for the past year, and is an enthusiastic advocate of the trade association. “We were still a relatively new firm when we became members,” he explains. “We knew what we were about, and what our values were, and the FMB is a badge of recognition. It communicates our own ethos very effectively whilst it’s also invaluable as a community. When attending the quarterly meetings – although all the contractors around the table are technically rivals – it makes you realise that the issues you encounter on site are also other people’s, and that we’re much stronger together.”

It is that commitment to teamwork that is exemplified in the glowing words of endorsement of Elevate Property Group’s James Costello: “When working on a unique project you need unique people with a unique set of skills. Stephen and the Vantage and Co team understood our mission and worked with us every step of the way to make sure that we got the product we wanted.”

For further information on the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Master Builder Awards visit 2023 Master Builder Awards | FMB, Federation of Master Builders

To find out more about the work of Vantage and Co visit Vantage & Co. (vantageandcogroup.com).

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