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Manuel Atkinson is one of the Directors at BTP Architects, a market-leading architectural practice in the social housing sector, and shares with Inclusive Design Magazine a typically busy week...

As an award-winning specialist, Manuel has an extensive knowledge of all types of housing, including new build, refurbishment, supported living and retirement schemes, and has developed a particular specialism in inclusive design and creating homes and spaces that work for everyone whilst promoting health, well-being and social integration.

He is passionate about sustainability and has gained accreditation as an Energy Assessor for new build and existing dwellings (OCDEA/DEA) and as a 'Home Quality Mark' Assessor.

Manuel regularly develops strategies to achieve clients' ambitions working towards zero-carbon targets and meeting the Future Homes Standard as well as meeting statutory requirements imposed by Planning and the Building Regulations. He is an ISO 19650 accredited BIM specialist with the BRE and works with clients to manage the BIM process and workflows.

You can also read this story on p42 of our digital magazine or download the pdf below the images on this page.


5.45am. The day starts with an early alarm – a new week at work.

My first priority is to take Daisy, my nearly two-year labrador for a quick run out, then get her and me ready for work. Daisy is one of our two office dogs and comes to work with me every day.

7am. I get to work and catch some 'quiet time' before everyone arrives to plan out the workload for the week – there is certainly a lot going on at the minute. It is also the last week of the month so it's time to round up any project fees to be invoiced.

9am. Our weekly Monday morning 'work huddle.' An opportunity to say good morning to all the staff and get everyone together in one room to have a quick chat about the weekend adventures and then discuss the workload that needs to be completed in the week. We work fluently across all teams in the office and allocate resources where they are required to complete any particular commissions and meet any deadlines.

10am. It's time for our monthly management meeting to discuss business objectives, fees, forecasts, marketing and staffing needs. These meetings are really important to keep my finger on the pulse and keep the company running.

11.30am. Meeting done and where has the time gone? It's halfway through the day and I haven't drawn a single line yet on any project. Why anyone thinks that Architects just draw fancy pictures is beyond me!

It's a busy time of the year; three planning applications need to be submitted by the end of the month and we are in the last week of it (67 dwelling apartment block, 48 dwelling care home and 32 dwelling housing scheme). The Architectural work is pretty much complete but it's the task of pulling all the information together from other consultants that takes time. Time to get on the phone and chase some reports!

12.30pm. Time to take Daisy for a run-out. There is a local park less than ten minutes walk away so this has turned into a great little social thing at work. Today, two members of staff from the office are joining us for a bit of fresh air.

2pm. A pre-contract meeting for two new sites. These will deliver 13 affordable dwellings in Manchester. We started working on the project in 2020, so it's great to finally see this project moving forward.

4pm. Time to go home and relax; it can be challenging to get the work-life balance right, so I generally try to leave the office at a reasonable hour. A whole day at work '...In the Life of an Architect' and we haven't actually put pen to paper!

7pm. Some general reading and research. There is a new qualification that has been released for members of Elmhurst Energy who carry multiple energy accreditations. This one is wrapped under the title of 'Better Building Consultant,' something to discuss with the team tomorrow.

9.30pm. Lights out, another busy day tomorrow.


Same early start, same time into the office and determined to do some drawing work today to get the planning applications submitted.

7.30am. Email from a developer and already a spanner is in the works for the day! A request to rework a feasibility study to include an additional eight dwellings (the project was only 32 dwellings to start with, so this is a huge increase) is required today. I'd best get drafting this...

Daily brief catch-up with the team as they arrive to ensure everyone knows what they are doing and can work productively. I speak to the team regarding the 'Better Building Consultant' Accreditation which I sign up for; this will be a good marketing tool to underline our sustainability credentials.

10am. A site meeting is looming, but the project has only just started on site however and there isn't much to see for now, so I decide against a site visit today. It is always important to weigh up where my time will be best spent. The decision is made quickly, and an email update is given on the discharge of planning conditions and progress on the building regulations drawings alongside my apologies. A Part-3 colleague volunteers to go to the meeting instead to represent the company – a great experience for them so this suggestion is gladly accepted.

Poor Daisy today, only a five-minute walk out across the road! It sure is a busy day.

2.45pm. I've reworked a feasibility study for the developer and sent it on. Brief complied with and density increased; this should hopefully help with the viability of the site and get the project moving. It is a shame that sometimes we have to dull down the architectural design to ensure projects are financially viable; we are always the first ones to be criticised when something doesn't look like the next award winner, however, often our hands are tied, and density is required to make the figures stack up.

Time for an exam! The Better Building Consultant Accreditation requires a multiple-choice exam to be completed and three attempts at the exam are allowed in total. I have to admit that my nerves are now kicking in a little bit. Having been a new-build energy assessor for 14 years with a specialism in sustainability and domestic energy assessments, home quality mark assessments and retrofit assessments, surely I should be able to master this without too much preparation! After a quick read of the documents and processes, I dive head first into the test...

4.30pm. Exam complete – 92%. Phew! Let's get onto the accreditation list.

Another day completed. The 'to-do' list hasn't seen a single item ticked off but at least we managed to keep the developer happy with the rework of the feasibility layout.

It's a glorious day today so time to stop off at the River Bollin to let Daisy have a good run-out! She has been a good and patient girl all day. The fields along the Bollin are flooded as there has been a lot of rain recently, but it's great to see some good weather. Daisy loves the water and is straight in. A perfect opportunity to take some snaps to keep her Instagram following happy! Somehow within a year, she has built up a following of just shy of 40,000 followers @labrador_daisy_2023 if anyone wants to follow her adventures.

7pm. A bit more reading to be done. Tonight, it's the BSI Flex 8670 – Built Environment Core Criteria for building safety in competence frameworks, Code of Practice. Well, this should send me to sleep in about ten minutes! I have recently applied to join the RIBA Principal Designer Register so there is a bunch of reading and coursework to be done... never a dull moment in the life of an Architect! It's really important that we keep up with continual changes in the industry, but this also means that personal development never stops.


5.45am. Same old same old. Early start, sort out Daisy and into the office we go.

Time to tackle that 'to-do' list that has been sitting there untouched since last week. Having had a quick read through the two A4 page list, only one word springs to mind...'crumbs'! Time to look for some easy gains to kick off.

11am and the morning has so far been spent doing paperwork. Minutes of meeting, done. Fee proposal for two new jobs, done. Fee proposal for new Building Regulations Principal Designer Role, done. Landscape Architect commissioned for a project, done. Fee enquiries sent out for acoustic survey for the new project (pre-contract meeting from Monday), done.

12 noon. A lunchtime Design Team Meeting. Who sets up meetings at lunchtime!? At least it's on Teams.

1pm. Now on to a substantial piece of work; to develop an Energy Strategy for a project in Burnley to inform a board report by the client. The brief is to present different options to achieve Building Regulations compliance using different technologies (Gas Boiler, Air Source Heat Pumps, Solar PV Panels, Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery etc.) and evaluate the Energy Rating and predicted Energy Costs to the end user, all set against the likely capital expenditure of the client upfront.

4pm. I have just about managed to compile the report. Six different energy calculations (SAP) produced with ranging technologies from B-rated SAP to A-rated and all the way to a Zero-Carbon Option.

A quick look at the diary to glance at the day ahead and oh dear, a CPD presentation tomorrow lunchtime at a Registered Provider's Offices on the topic of the Building Safety Act and Building Regulations Principal Designer. Phew, a colleague has put together a draft presentation, one to look at and sort out in the morning.

5pm. Arrived back at home. Weekly catch up with friends tonight to have a Chinese takeaway and play cards. This rotates to be at someone else's house every week, and this week it's my turn. Quick tidy up and hoover, feed the dog and let her out, then it's time to relax and enjoy the evening with friends.

11pm. Lights out.


5.30am. Earlier start this morning. The extra 15 minutes will make all the difference!

6.40am. I've arrived at the office and am ready to get the day rolling.

7am. Planning condition discharge application submitted, so a great start to the day. Time to do some preparation for the CPD session at lunchtime.

I'm very mindful that it is nearly the weekend again and looking back over the week, I have only done some drawing work on one project. The rest of the time has been spent on actually running and co-ordinating the projects. Not what someone fresh out of university would expect for sure. Some weeks can be like this with only a very small amount of time to do what we really enjoy – designing, being creative and transforming a written brief into a vision.

8.30am. Two hours to finally do some drawing work before heading over to the CPD presentation (a 50 minute drive from the office). Two hours and two feasibility studies sketched out, putting dwellings and roads in roughly the right place. Time to hand this over to one of our assistants to tidy up, so that I can check this later when I return.

12.15pm. Arrived at the client's office. Time to put the 'game face' on and get ready for the presentation alongside my co-director and follow-on discussion with the RP. The time in the car was spent on the phone with a developer, who is looking to redesign a project which is supposed to be submitted for planning tomorrow. The brief, to redesign the top floor and roof to omit the zinc element and replace this with an alternative roof finish. Time to push this to the back of my mind for later.

1.30pm. The presentation went really well and it turned out to be a really interesting, informative discussion for all parties. Time to head back to the office.

2.15pm. Back at the office and the team has done a cracking job with the two feasibility studies; just a couple of minor corrections before sending them out.

Quick check of the emails. 24 received (after deleting any spam) since leaving the office... including air tightness results. These are always produced just before the handover of a scheme and only mean one thing; it's time to fire up the SAP programme and produce some Energy Performance Certificates (EPC). These need to be completed straight away as they are urgently required to obtain Building Control sign-off.

4pm. 16 EPCs produced and sent. Time to clock off for the day and go home.

5.30pm. Packing up the campervan ready for tomorrow. Weekends are for adventures and Daisy and I will be spending the weekend hiking in Shropshire. We'll be driving down after work tomorrow so I'm taking the campervan to work in the morning.


Same old same old for the morning routine, don't change something that runs like clockwork!

7am. It's great to get into the office knowing that there are no meetings – a good day to catch-up and get projects across the line and deadlines met. Fantastic to see two drawing packages for planning printed out and on my desk for checking, that will be two of today's deadlines met after minor or no tweaks.

8.30am. Time to target today's main task – a redesign of the elevations of a 67-dwelling apartment block which is about to be submitted for planning. After a productive email exchange with the Local Authority's urban designer, we have a really good steer on what the LPA are looking for in terms of the design. It is a painstaking task that is not quickly completed. We work with Revit as a design programme where everything is fully modelled in 3D.

12.30pm. Time to take Daisy for a quick run-out to the park then chippy lunch Friday – YES! Great to get in a nice portion of chips from the local chippy, especially as the next three hours after work will be spent in the campervan driving in the Friday evening traffic!

1.15pm. Back to the design task – elevations are looking good and I'm planning to get these completed and issued by the end of the day.

3.45pm. The latest draft elevations have now been completed and issued, ready for the developer and client team to review.

Just about enough time to wrap up, answer a couple of emails and tidy up my desk after yet another busy week.

4pm. Time to clock off and it's on to the weekend's adventures!


My weekends are mostly spent hiking and exploring.

I have set a goal to explore the whole of the UK with Daisy during her lifetime, so we use the weekends to go somewhere new whenever we can. I use a hiking app to plan and navigate routes; after a certain amount of contributions and hikes, the app awards an Expert Hiking Medal, this is what we are after and we are attempting to obtain all the Hiking Medals over the next 8-10 years.

This weekend we head to Shropshire, including the Shropshire Sculpture Park, a hike around Church Stretton, a visit and sleepover in Ludlow and then looping around to Ironbridge and Telford before returning back home on Sunday night, ready for another week. Daisy loves her hikes, swimming, and playing in streams and lakes. Her Instagram following is always kept updated about the latest adventures or mishaps!

This is how we spend our life, aiming for a good and healthy balance between the busy work life and the pressures of managing 30+ jobs at any given time and the joys of the outdoors, exploring and adventuring to new places.

Find out more about Manuel's work with BTP Architects here.

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