ePrivacy and GPDR Cookie Consent by Cookie Consent The Resi interview: Alex Depledge

The Resi interview: Alex Depledge

Alex Depledge, Resi's CEO, discusses the architectural tech company's mission and vision to change the UK residential home development market.

7 min read

If you’ve found yourself here, you’re likely familiar with Resi, but you might not know much about the people behind the company. Alex Depledge is one half of the female-led architectural tech company based in Brixton – the other half is co-founder and CTO Jules Coleman. The company is on a mission to change, democratise and sustainably impact the UK residential home development market. Resi’s projects cover all things home improvement throughout the UK, and it aims to demystify a complex process and help people create their dream home faster, cheaper and in a climate-friendly way.

I sat down to a no-nonsense but also brilliantly meandering chat with Alex covering her vision for Resi, the untapped potential of UK homes and what our homes really require to be happy places.

Molly-Sue: It’s well-known among us at Resi that this company isn’t your first entrepreneurial rodeo. Can you tell us what inspired you to embark on a second business?

Alex: Once Jules and I'd sold our first business – a company called Hassle.com – we both said we were never going to start another business ever again. I'd actually had a baby about a few months before, so I thought I better go and see what being a mum was like.

After a few months, I got bored and then I thought I’d put an extension on my kitchen in Streatham Hill. There was nothing wrong with the experience, but I didn't like the asymmetry of information between the people working in the industry and me.

I think that's something that people face a lot – they know about building work and they kind of know they need planning permission. But they don't know where to start or who should be involved. So that's what Resi is trying to solve. It's about guiding the customer through what’s quite a complicated and emotional process, and reducing the amount of work that they have to do to get the ball rolling with the decisions that they're taking.

Molly-Sue: So what would you suggest to someone on the cusp of a renovation about what to expect and how to deal with the process?

Alex: I think for me, one of the best things that people can do is get a high level timeline. Because there are four quadrants to consider: the legal stuff, ‘What can I build?’, ‘Am I going to get planning permission?’. There's the financial stuff, which is, ‘How much is this going to cost?’, ‘ Is it going to add value to my house?’. Then there's the more creative stuff like interior design and what aesthetic you want. And then the final piece is the utility of it all which asks, ‘How much space?’,  ‘How am I going to use it?’.

When you first come to us, working out where your priorities fall is really important but. For example, you don't really get to do the creative bit for the first six or seven weeks. And it really frustrates people because they care where their kitchen island’s going to go. We can only control certain parts of the process and there's nobody I know out there who can control the whole thing. So go into renovations with an open mind that you are probably going to spend more than you allocate because when you take apart something very old like a home, there's all sorts of hidden stuff that you don't know about.

If you prepare yourself for the fact that it’s probably not going to go in a straight line, you’ll probably actually be pleasantly surprised.

I think when people come into this, they expect a holiday-style plan: the flight takes off on time and they get to their destination exactly what they want. Unfortunately, when you’re building things, it’s just not like that.

Molly-Sue: That leads me onto what your vision of housing in the UK is and how you’d like Resi to play a part in that vision.

Alex: I get quite frustrated at the moment and have done for about 10 years that the national conversation is all around how many new houses we’re building. And actually, you know, we build our 100 to 200,000 houses a year which is a very small drop in the ocean.

When you think we have 27 million homes around across the UK that require retrofitting, and 19 million of them don’t meet efficiency standards (which means they don't get EPC ratings of, say, D, or above) it's going to take us a long time to replace every single one of them. We ain't got that time, so existing stock has to be part of the national conversation and it can't just be about building materials.

So the materials first approach basically wants everyone to stick on a heat pump. I'll tell you this for free, if you install a heat pump badly, your bills will go up. It will be colder because the heat will leak out of your walls because we've all got houses predating 1980. You have to have a very well-insulated home that has insulation and ventilation in key places. But this isn’t the sort of conversation that is happening right now in the UK.

And if I broaden it out even further than that, the other thing that I get quite upset about is that we talk about environmental psychology and ‘the death of the High Street’ and ‘how do we build communities’ and ‘what's the balance between public and private space’? And yet, nobody talks about those things in relation to the unit that makes up the high street communities which is the home. And so that's why the Science of a Happy Home Report that we did in 2020 was so important to us because I think design is not just about: ‘Does it look good?’. It should also ask: ‘Does it nourish?’, ‘Does it represent who you are?’ and ‘Is it adaptable?’ .As you go through all those generational changes – from having kids to looking after elderly parents – can your house change with you? Because we build these things and they last 200 years. And so, at Resi we’re always asking ourselves how do we build happier, better performing homes rather than just having designs that look good.

Molly-Sue: And, throughout your time at Resi, have you noticed the things that people want from their homes changing?

Alex:  I don’t think there’s a language about the home and what I mean by that is if I said to you: what do you want in your home? You’d probably tell me you want an open-plan home, right? Because there's been a real movement of the last 10-15 years – open spaces that are great for socialising and multifunctional elements. But actually, when we did our survey, we found that for those with children aged five years and older living at home having an open-plan layout is three times as important to our home satisfaction. Which links to our need for connected spaces that allow for all sorts of interactions, from children playing together to adults hosting friends. So this one-size-fits all-idea around design shouldn't really exist. But the problem with that is because we don't have a language around home, it's hard for us to articulate.

So one of our big priorities at Resi, when you come for a design consultation, is us asking you questions because deep down you know the answer, but we have to extract it. And I think it's these upfront discussions around design choices and making sure that all of the way you live is taken into consideration that makes Resi different. We’re not just going for the latest trends or chasing what Bob's got down the street.

Molly-Sue: Okay, so, putting trends aside, what’s your version of an ideal home?

Alex: Mine. Hmm. It's really not sexy… but I would be looking for whole house insulation.

I think a lot of my advice to everybody is to spend money on the things that have to work the hardest and that are going to last.

When I say whole house insulation, that means insulation that runs from floor, through the walls and into the ceiling without a break. Insulation and ventilation have got to go hand in hand. And making your home airtight means heating and cooling it down is a lot easier and a lot more cost-effective.

So I tell you what is sexy: cheaper bills and a house that's worth more because you've made it cheaper to run.

And the reason I say that is, it may not be the designer kitchen island, but it's the thing that's going to make that home really nice to live in. And so, my ideal home would have really strong foundations.

Molly-Sue: I think that's a very level-headed approach to an ideal home. I'd struggle not to have a hundred Pinterest pages open for inspiration.

Alex: You're the classic client who comes to us and they just think about the end result and they're not thinking about the journey. You know, how everyone's desperate to reach the destination and forget to enjoy the journey. I think I just always enjoy the journey, and that’s what I want Resi to help people do from the start.

So, if you’re anything like me and you could use a voice of reason to steer your renovation plans or a practical approach that could save you money in the long run, book a free advice call with a Resi expert.

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28 days

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