News + Ideas

MGAC Impacts: Matt Barrington on Shaping Skylines, Coffee on Cold Mornings, and Counting Bricks


Matt at his boxing gym after a workout.

The Impact Blog is a spotlight series that highlights and celebrates the diverse employees that make MGAC tick. Beyond their day-to-day schedules, we want to know how they have a greater impact on their colleagues, their company, and the communities in which they live and work. We want to know what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what led them to their current role, and what they hope their lasting impact will be. 

Today, we get to know Matt Barrington, Director at MGAC.

MGAC: Hello and welcome to the Impact Blog, Matt!

Matt Barrington (MB): Thank you!

MGAC: What is your role here at MGAC?

MB: I’m a Director, based in the London office. I focus on the commercial sector throughout the UK and lead the London Cost Management team. I wear quite a few different hats at different times, but that’s something that I quite like about working at MGAC! I have the opportunity to speak to lots of different people. This is a people industry—we build buildings, and we deliver projects—but it takes people to do it, and we work with some great ones.

MGAC: When did you join the team?

MB: I joined the business in December of last year.

MGAC: Congratulations on one year! What led you to this role?

MB: I started my construction career with a major contractor where I worked on a road between the M11 into Essex called the A120. When you’ve measured several kilometers of white line finish on a road with a trundle wheel, you soon realise that there must be more to life, and I genuinely did question if construction was for me!

MGAC: No kidding!

MB: I ultimately decided to go back to university and finish my Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying degree. After graduating I joined a large consultancy based in London, and for 13 years, worked across sectors and in several regions around the UK. Eventually, I went to a smaller consultancy and, later, even tried my hand at starting my own business. Then the pandemic started, which presenting a lot of challenges, but also lots of learning experiences. I joined another large consultancy as their London head of residential for cost consulting before realising that large consultancies weren’t for me anymore. I wanted to join a dynamic, forward-thinking consultancy that does good work and allows for new experiences at the same time. That’s what brought me to MGAC, and, one year in, it’s ticking all those boxes!

MGAC: Quite the journey! What would your younger self think about where you’ve ended up?

MB: Well, it’s hard to know what quantity surveying is unless you know—so, chartered surveyor would be a new one for younger me! That said, I think I would be impressed by what I have done in the last 15 or so years! I think I’d appreciate the complexity of it all—it starts with the cliché of “counting bricks,” but really, it’s knowing how many bricks, where the bricks go, how long it takes to get them there, the cost involved, the labour, materials and the timeline. Then throw in all the digital tools, AI and modern construction practices we use, there is a lot to cover. And, of course, I get to work on some really interesting projects and engage with people from all walks of life. I think child-me would love that!

MGAC: What does a favourite day on the job look like for you? 

MB: The best days start with a hot coffee early in the morning, particularly on a cold morning. Ideally, I’ll get a call from a client to talk about a new opportunity – I love to talk about new projects. Then, I might go to a site to see the progress of a project or spend time in the office hearing how things are going with everyone. I always enjoy connecting with other teams across the company. Today, I was able to chat about business development, marketing, and discuss a few issues with our technical teams, all after a good coffee. Today’s a good example of a pretty perfect day actually!

MGAC: What projects are you working on these days?

MB: We are working on a really interesting project on Oxford Street, which is a deep retrofit. It is an iconic building, and we are very close to getting into contract. The team has been working really hard, and it’s an incredible project with so many different and challenging parts. We’re stripping it back internally, moving part of the structure and extending the building by a couple of storeys. We have implemented some great sustainability processes and have gone above-and-beyond in different areas like urban-mining the old steel structure to be reused on another project. The quality is incredible, and it’s certainly going to be a project to celebrate once it is complete!

MGAC: How exciting! What else is keeping you busy? 

MB: I’m also involved in the development of a retirement community in Surrey, in a village called West Byfleet. Theproject is on-site at the minute, and has some ambitious sustainability goals—which is a unique and, of course, rewarding cost consideration. And then, there are always lots of other projects and conversations about new projects happening all the time, and I’ll step in to support different members of the team when they need it.

MGAC: Looking ahead, what kind of impact do you hope to have through your work?

MB: I’m at a point in my career where I think about what my legacy is going to be in 20 years’ time. I want to be able to look back and reflect on all the physical assets and construction projects I’ve worked on—buildings that will be long-lasting, like 50-storey towers on the banks of the Thames that you can show your kids and grandkids—and bore them to death with the details! Then I think about the people aspect. In construction, you meet so many people, and when you lead teams, you have the unique opportunity to impact careers. It would be brilliant to look back and know I was able to help people achieve what they want out of their careers. At an industry level, we are at a real point of change, and I hope to play a role in that as well to keep moving construction forward with fresh attitudes, innovative approaches, and creative ways of working.

MGAC: Well said!

MB: I often joke with friends that I can’t believe we’re still building with bricks because they did that in Victorian times! It’s an old industry, but at the same time, we have a real opportunity to make seismic change.

MGAC: What at MGAC has made an impact on you?

MB: The quality of the people. I’ve worked in some very successful consultancies, and I think the people here, without exception, are some of the best in the industry. What we’ve achieved, and the potential that is in front of us is unbelievable. I wake up excited and keen to come into work. The environment here is contagious. It’s dynamic, and I am energised by that on a daily basis.

MGAC: Speaking of finding energy, what else motivates you? 

MB: I’m quite competitive, and I always say my second favourite thing in the world, from a professional perspective, is winning work. Bringing new opportunities to the business drives me like you wouldn’t believe. For a client to choose us as their consultant and to have an opportunity to demonstrate that we can do what we do better than anyone else? Absolutely! Bring it on.

MGAC: If that’s your second favourite thing, what’s the first?

MB: My number one favourite thing is seeing people progress in their careers. First, supporting and mentoring them, watching them succeed, and ultimately giving them the news that they’ve been promoted—that experience is unlike anything else. You see how much it means to people, and, of course, I remember being on the other side of those conversations. You remember the person who delivers that kind of news, and it sticks with you throughout your career.

MGAC: Great answer! On the flip side, how do you wind down at the end of the day?

MB: I usually get about 20 minutes of Candy Crush on the train home and I’m usually in the boxing gym two or three times a week.

MGAC: Candy Crush—that’s a throwback!

MB: My wife says that’s an old-school game for an old-school person!

MGAC: Is there a book that’s made an impact on your life?

MB: One of the best books I’ve ever read is The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It’s a brilliant story of a young bloke’s determination in the face of adversity. I remember I was reading it on a plane, and I was hoping the landing would be delayed because I couldn’t stop turning the pages! It was a powerful story, and I would recommend everybody read it.

MGAC: Thanks for the recommendation! Now, are you ready for some rapid-fire questions?

MB: Let’s do it!

MGAC: You’re starting the workday. What’s the first thing you do?

MB: Turn on the coffee machine!

MGAC: What’s the first thing on your to-do list right now?

MB: Follow-up with a client about a potential opportunity.

MGAC: What can’t you get through the workday without?

MB: Coffee again, always!

MGAC: What’s your go-to workday lunch?

MB: There’s a street market around the corner from the office, and the falafel box there will feed a village. It’s not expensive, and it’s a massive portion, so it delivers the most bang for your buck.

MGAC: What’s the most-used app on your phone? 

MB: Spotify. I listen to music whenever I can. I like heavy rock, anything with a guitar and a drum kit!

MGAC: Describe your job in five words or less.

MB: Great people and great projects.

MGAC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

MB: Movement is medicine.

MGAC: What’s your biggest work goal right now?

MB: Take time as we close out the year to look at all the amazing work we’ve done and everything we’ve accomplished.

MGAC: What do you predict will be a big industry trend 10 years from now? 

MB: I believe AI will help resolve some of the more mundane work to support the automation of certain processes that don’t necessarily need as much human intervention. That would free us up to focus more on being proactive and intelligent about what we do, how we do it, where we do it, and when we do it.

MGAC: What are you known for in the office?

MB: Drinking a lot of coffee and always getting falafel for lunch.

MGAC: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

MB: I have two cats at home. The eldest one is called Gemma, and the youngest one is called Jess.

MGAC: Where would we find you if you’re not at work?

MB: In the gym or at home. I love cooking, particularly barbecue in the summer when the weather gets a bit better. Low and slow overnight brisket, ribs, and all that good stuff. It’s a real passion, and probably why I need to get to the gym quite a bit!

MGAC: If you were to work on your dream project, what would it look like?

MB: A skyscraper in New York City. I’ve almost moved there twice. I’ve got a romanticism about it. It’s also the home of the skyscraper and to do that, in that city, would be phenomenal! You’d be able to point to the skyline in TV and movies and say, “I changed that.”

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