Award-winning ARGO Development Studio is a leading-edge architectural design practice that has transformed the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) industry in the Caribbean with its highly successful implementation of the BIM approach to design, construction and project management. BIM, an anacronym for Building Information Modelling, is a disruptive technology that enables ARGO to design and construct a building in a virtual world before going to site. This digital twin of the building can be systematically scrutinised to identify and eliminate any potential ﬂaws before construction begins, thereby guaranteeing a more eﬃcient delivery, minimising time delays and saving up to 20% of the project budget compared to traditional construction.
Headquartered in Barbados, with oﬃces in Dominica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Ireland, ARGO boasts a long list of successful projects, including commercial buildings, oﬃces, hotels and airports. While the company focuses on delivering eﬃcient expertise and cost certainty through intelligent 3D Digital Modelling, ARGO can also provide a consultancy service to safeguard a project from concept to completion.
In the short 7-years since ARGO was established by Irish-born Managing Director David Campion, the practice has grown from one employee to thirty-six, opened three new oﬃces and worked in twenty-two diﬀerent countries.
We are currently working on live projects in eight countries, as far aﬁeld as Ireland and Bermuda, where we are working on a new international airport.
It’s been quite a ride since I ﬁrst arrived in Barbados in 2010 with my wife Edel and 3 young kids. Back then I was working for an Irish architectural firm, but when the oﬃce closed down I had to decide between accepting an opportunity in Kuala Lumpur or staying here. Well, by then we had our fourth child, so uprooting the family was not a good idea. And we all liked living in Barbados, so that wasn’t a big decision either. The real crossroads was that I had always wanted to start my own practice, but felt reluctant to step off the edge. In the end it was my father who gave me the push I needed, simply by believing in me. It turned out to be the best thing I could possibly have done.
What helped ARGO grow quickly was our commitment to BIM and investing heavily in the latest software and hardware, plus regular training for our team. We use the most advanced technology available to supply next level intelligence at the concept stage, including climate resilience, environmental risk and sea-level change analysis, which are particularly relevant in the Caribbean. Not many design or construction companies in the region have embraced BIM, despite the fact it is compulsory in countries like the UK, so we have to play our part in helping the industry to upskill to be able to operate on a digital platform. The upside is that we are now seen by many to be the industry leader.
Our biggest challenge while expanding was having different teams of people in four different offices, all working on different projects, in different locations, with different building codes, different environments and different challenges. It could have been completely mind-boggling but we managed to turn it into a strength. Twice per week, we coordinate a 20-minute group ‘huddle’ by connecting all four countries via a big TV screen in each office. The teams give an update on their projects, including any major challenges, which allows the others to suggest possible solutions based on their experience. As well as the obvious advantage of solving problems with a vast amount of collective knowledge, it’s a fantastic way for all our employees to stay connected and have a better understanding of the bigger ARGO picture. It also encourages ambition and keeps people excited. Including me! We recently had all four offices simultaneously working on the same presentation for a project in Guyana, all collaborating in real time via the TV link-up. It was incredible to be part of that process. Another competitive advantage we gain is that, between the four offices, we can offer clients a minimum 13-hour working day by taking advantage of the 5-hour time difference with Europe.
In our tech-driven business we have to stay 10-years ahead of the game, which means we need employees who are ambitious for themselves and ambitious for ARGO. So whenever somebody with talent exhibits a strong work ethic and a dogged determination to succeed, then I want to help them improve their qualifications. To facilitate that possibility, we have set up the ARGO Development Studio’s Scholarship Programme. One of the team, Daneisha Pile, is currently pursuing a BSc. in Architecture at Dublin Institute of Technology. Thanks to the weekly huddles, she already knows the folks at the Dublin office, which makes relocating easier, and she can work there during her vacations. It’s a great experience for her in many ways. I want to help our employees expand their horizons and ﬁre up their ambition.
As a young lad of seventeen, doing an internship at an architectural practice in Dublin, I stumbled upon a collection of Architectural Digest magazines. Instantly hooked, I spent every lunch break admiring amazing photos of wonderful buildings. I can vividly remember thinking to myself that if I applied myself properly and worked really hard, then the day might come when I could work on a design that ended up in one of those magazines. That idea really inspired me. So, imagine how I felt when I recently got a call from a client encouraging me to read the latest edition of Architectural Digest. And, lo and behold, there was a lovely feature about one of our projects, the Zing Zing Restaurant at Secret Bay in Dominica. As I’m always telling our team at ARGO, dare to dream and dream big, because dreams can come true!