The ColladoCollins COVID-19 story
07 May 2020
The CC Covid-19 story so far…
Chapter 3 – Over and above
How lucky we are.
We work in an industry where our main activities basically require a brain, a desk, and a computer. If it weren’t for the benefits, and perhaps the habit, of having a group of people together in a single space, we wouldn’t really need an office at all, would we? We are able to carry on with our jobs comfortably and safely in our homes when many others are looking at the loss of one, or both, of those things.
At ColladoCollins we try to recognise such moments of our own good fortune and to share some of the fruits of our labours somehow with those in less comfortable and fortunate positions than ourselves. This week we are focusing on two of our team who have driven initiatives to spread the benefits of our continued existence as a business beyond the confines of the company.
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Roy Collado, self-described ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ of ColladoCollins, says he was imbued with a very strong moral compass by his mother, though she still sent child Roy to the market to gather food from the floors around the stalls in return for the promise of a pet rabbit which never materialised. Roy’s father would constantly remind him that it was ‘a fast ride from the penthouse to the sh*thouse’.
As a result, Roy has a great sense of the precariousness of life, and feels strongly that the company should give back as much as possible to causes for the more vulnerable in society that are close to his heart and the heart of the team. We make annual contributions to Coram, the children’s charity, and are members of The House of St Barnabas, a charity which operates a not-for-profit members club in Soho and offers training, mentoring, and structured support for people affected by homelessness. The programme, focused around the jobs involved in staffing the Club, enables them to get back into work and supports them to stay in work. Sited in a Grade 1 listed Georgian townhouse on the corner of Greek Street and Soho Square. Roy describes the House as ‘compassionate but in no way flaky, doing the non-glamourous simple stuff’ to help homeless people.
‘I was aware that they already run a lean balance sheet’, says Roy, ‘and they are facing a really difficult time ahead. There was a feeling that making a modest donation which would be entirely spent on people or things that we valued and needed to support would be a good way to make a difference.
‘There is a bit of an atmosphere of a family with the staff and members you see regularly, and a bit like our business it is right in the heart of things in central London but also discreet, personal, a slightly hidden gem.
‘So there’s this kind of personal connection, an obligation to give something when you can afford to and you know there is an immediate need. The House of St Barnabas are a small charity and perhaps more vulnerable to collapse when compared to some of the larger national charities. I want to live in a world which does that sort of thing, which supports where it can, in whatever small way it can. ‘Being so close to them, then seeing the packages of simple, practical items that went out with a personal note to lift people’s spirits, was uplifting, in a way. I love to see how some of the others in our group are taking on things that benefit in some small way too – it gives me a confidence that we are built of the right sort of people, I suppose. That these are the sort of people you want to be working with, however remotely now.’
Another of our team has taken on the job of running our two Ultimaker 2+ 3D printers around the clock producing frames for face shields to distribute to hospitals, GP practices, and social care organisations.
There is a nationwide production line in operation, coordinated via the 3DCrowd UK network, a volunteer supply chain of more than 6000 amateur 3D print enthusiasts producing standardised face shield frames. During the week commencing 13th April over 39,000 face shields were delivered, and an estimated 80,000 further shields are in production as the next ‘batch’ to be collected and distributed during the week these interviews took place. The task is massive, and over 600,000 requests have been made to 3DCrowd UK from over 2,300 different organisations.
One of our architects, Carlota Boyer is running our print effort, one the basis that ‘Even if we are a metaphorical grain of sand then it’s good to know we are contributing to a wider beach.’
Carlota, who wryly describes her two years with ColladoCollins as a ‘busy, but good’, spoke about what she was doing over and above keeping on working, beginning with what led to the point of getting a small-scale production line into operation. ‘It’s a series of events really,’ Carlota begins, ‘which all started with someone sending a link, then seeing an office interest and people getting excited about the possibility that we could do something. There are a lot of us sitting at home feeling quite useless, not being able to do much about what is happening. There was a real team push and we were discussing with Jon and Rich, the people in the office who were familiar with the 3D printing, about whether we could produce the parts and if the material we used was up to spec.
At first the idea was to have a rolling production line in the office, with a rotating shift to keep the printers spooling.
‘I didn’t want people having to go into the office every day and put themselves at risk and wanted to make sure that one infected person didn’t accidentally contaminate a batch, or the rest of the team. It made more sense to bring the printers home and run them there with all the other materials to hand.
‘The 3DCrowd UK volunteers collect the components we make and assemble them to deliver to various hospitals and keyworker groups. We’ve also got our own connections to hospitals that have not got their own PPE at the moment and they are happy to receive anything that’s sent.’
‘We can produce four prints per day, so realistically 25-30 per week now that everything is up and running. There are a few simple steps we have to take between prints to maintain the hygiene standards so we can have [the printers] running in the corner of our living room without it really interrupting us.’
Carlota’s attitude on combining lockdown and a production facility in the one-bedroom ground floor flat she shares with her partner is refreshing as always.
‘If it has to be done it has to be done. It’s not enough to see a problem or have a good idea and not take it to a conclusion, you have to start something, then keep up a momentum to see it through. Especially at the moment for us as architects, we’re not physically in the office and having physical meetings where a physical model makes sense, we’re doing everything digitally, so these 3D printers are just sitting in the office waiting for us to return.
Despite the masks not being certified by any medical testing body, Carlota is keenly aware, thanks to family working in healthcare both in London and abroad, how great the need is for any protective equipment at all, and how every single item delivered will be put to the best use possible.
‘Most of the questions [from potential recipients] are “How quickly can you get them to us?” because they currently have nothing. The regulated PPE equipment is still not with them so anything that could be a physical shield even without having any CE mark or testing certificate is better than nothing. We are producing something external to the body and someone can choose whether or not to use it.’
The practice is sending a proportion of the print run to the staff at the Landsby, the recently opened apartment building for the over 65s operated by Elysian Residences. Having been involved in the handover procedures and watching residents move in even up to the last days before lockdown it was another of those direct and personal connections that seemed a natural thing to do.
Roy sums up his thoughts on our current position.
‘To be honest I feel a bit guilty because we are so lucky to be in this position of being able to work safely comfortably in isolation. We have friends who are specialists working for the NHS and are at work every day and risking their lives. A friend in the NHS told me she felt that her own safety was not guaranteed because of the lack of PPE available. That really brought home how lucky we are, and why we needed to do something, however we could, to help the people that still have to live and work out in the world.
‘I think we are fortunate this is happening in April and not November in the dark and rain. Weather, music, and nature – I am finding an enormous appreciation of those things. I have also seen how different people behave and cope and for me that has been really helpful in thinking about the future. I think we are blessed with a great team.’