‘I look forward to keeping alive the connections we have made with Gleeds Shanghai.’

Steven is an Assistant Quantity Surveyor based in London, who had the chance to work in our Shanghai office for a week as part of his Gleeds Travel Scholarship, 5,711 miles away from home. Here he writes about his experience in his 5-day blog.

Monday 9th May 2016

And it’s begun! I have officially landed in Shanghai, with my colleague from the London office, Matthew Sumpter. My scholarship kicked off in style with a Chinese buffet breakfast, including my favourite – pork dumplings! Next up, was the 10 minute walk to the Gleeds office, located within the Cross Tower on the 21st storey (out of 22!). The views from the office are amazing but slightly spoilt by the perpetual fog that has covered the sky since our arrival yesterday.

We opened with introductions from our new team, who primarily speak in English, though conversations between the staff oscillate between English and Chinese. Our first meeting was with Ray Chisnall, who oversees Gleeds’ China offices. The first we talked about was the sheer size of the Chinese market and how it’s hard to characterise one ‘Chinese market’, as we usually hear discussed in the UK media. In reality, each province is vastly different. Cities range in ‘tiers’ of development. High tier cities have very well developed retail sectors (something Gleeds Shanghai has extensive experience in), whilst in contrast lower tier cities have better developed e-commerce sectors.

Surprise of the day: Cars in China drive on the right hand side of the road, but there doesn’t seem to be any rules for mopeds or motorbikes.


Tuesday 10th May 2016

Leaving for the office this morning, I found that the fog had finally lifted and I had the pleasant surprise of seeing the top of the Shanghai Tower (the world’s second tallest building) for the first time since arriving. It’s a colossal 2,073ft! Word is that its unusual tapering shape is meant to represent the tail of a dragon, but its shape also has a practical benefit: it helps the tower to withstand the winds Shanghai can experience during typhoons.

Today I learnt about a hospital project that is in early stages of cost estimating, and prepared for a presentation Matthew and I are delivering tomorrow. The day was broken up with a delicious lunch with 2 of my Chinese colleagues, Becky and Ying, who introduced the traditional side of Shanghai to us. After tucking into duck, bean curd and crab noodles, it was time to return to the office and research other projects, including a large retail scheme nearing completion that Gleeds carried out a feasibility study on.

Surprise of the day: Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in the city, towering twice as tall as the Shard at 2,073 ft.


Wednesday 11th May 2016

Today we shared our experience of working on the One Nine Elms project in the UK - a hotel and residential development where our client is one of the largest property developers in China. The Shanghai staff were particularly interested in learning about London’s booming property market and how our client is looking to cater to the Chinese market visiting London. For instance, the hotel will contain Karaoke TV Rooms, something very typical in China but a first in the UK.

During the discussion we also learnt about the LEED® sustainability standards that are used in China. Typically, LEED® standards are less prescriptive and offer designers more discretion to meet environmental standards, whereas BREEAM® standards tend to be linked to specific technologies and solutions. The effectiveness of each standard could be an interesting topic to explore in future.

Surprise of the day: The correct way to eat a dumpling is to suck out the juice before eating it. It might sound a bit gross, but it really does taste great!


Thursday 12th May 2016

Today we visited a huge 1 billion RNB retail development, located about an hour outside of Shanghai. The client is a British high-end outlet firm, Value Retail International (VRI), the same company behind Bicester Village in Oxfordshire and La Valle Village, France.

The project is part of a much larger 7km2 site, which includes the new Disneyland theme park. Under construction since 2013, the development is nearing completion and comprises of 200 shops and 12 major anchor retailers; all of which will be housed on a 540,000m2 site. Each building on the site has a unique design, with its own façade, something which presents unique cost control challenges. The architectural style of each park is localised, in this instance the style of the development is art deco, a movement which has strong influence on the historic buildings of Shanghai.

Developments such as this demonstrate how China is shifting from an export driven economy towards one more focussed on domestic consumption. High-end consumption is being driven by a new cultural concern for quality and authentic brands as opposed to past popularity of counterfeit goods.

Surprise of the day: It is mandatory as a condition of planning for buildings in China to have civil defence bunkers built into their basements.


Friday, 13th May 2016

I’ve just finished my last day at Gleeds Shanghai. It’s been a short visit, but with a tightly packed schedule, I have achieved everything I’d hoped!

Today’s highlight was presenting to the office on the similarities I had seen between London and Shanghai. The main difference I identified was the differences in size and pace of growth. Though London’s population is now over 8 million, it’s only as large as it was in the 1950s. Shanghai is now 4 times more populated than in the 1950s, growing from 6 million to 24 million, making it denser and full of more contemporary buildings.

Surprise of the day: Shanghai means 'on top of the sea' 



Steven Begley

Steven Begley

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Julian Barlow

Julian Barlow
PR Consultant