Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Obituary | Design Build Foundation pioneer who died from covid-19

1 June 2020 | By Graham Robinson
Barry Holmes

Barry Holmes

Barry Keith Holmes, as managing director of developer Arlington, led the Design Build Foundation, and introduced more collaborative construction business models

Barry Holmes died on 2 May 2020 aged 80 years from covid-19.

He was a prominent industrialist and a chartered mechanical engineer by profession and member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers – founded in 1847 by railway pioneer George Stephenson and now with 120,000 members in 140 countries.

Barry originally undertook his training and apprenticeship with ICL, a prominent UK main frame computer company which was later acquired by Fujitsu. He was awarded a traveling scholarship with Philips and later became production director in the UK for Kearney and Trecker, a world-class manufacturer of heavy industrial machinery headquartered in Milwaukee in the United States. He then became managing director at compressor manufacturer CompAir in High Wycombe.

Barry’s move into the built environment came with his appointment as managing director at Arlington Securities, a pioneering developer of business parks set up and led by Raymond Mould and Patrick Vaughan, doyens of the property industry.

Aztec Park West

Arlington, which became a part of British Aerospace, quickly grew into the largest business park developer in Europe. Barry was responsible for completing the Aztec West Business Park near Bristol originally conceived as a science park and now home to over 100 blue chip companies and 7,000 employees. The Aztec Centre was opened by the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Barry was also responsible for the successful development of Birmingham Business Park which is now home to some 7,000 employees and some of the world’s best-known brand names such as Rolls Royce. At the time Birmingham Business Park was leading the field in low density and high-quality business parks set in landscaped environments. The Waterside Centre at Birmingham Business Park was opened by HRH The Princess Royal. Barry also became marketing director at Arlington.

Aerial view of Birmingham Business Park during the 2000s (Arlington Securities)
Aerial view of Birmingham Business Park during the 2000s (Arlington Securities)

It was during this time that Barry could not help but make comparisons between construction and the advanced manufacturing sector where he had spent a large part of his successful career.

Design Build Foundation

Because of this unique perspective, Barry then led the Design Build Foundation, a new organisation set up to make improvements to the design and construction industry at The University of Reading with the support of 50 of the UKs most prominent property owners, architects, engineers, surveyors and construction companies.

The School of Construction Management and Engineering at The University of Reading where the Design Build Foundation was based was at the time world-leading and one of the most highly rated academic departments in the world. Arlington was a founder of the Design Build Foundation and remained actively involved in its work for many years. Other founders included John Lewis Partnership, Marks & Spencer and Tesco and architects Foster and Partners as well as leading construction companies such as AMEC, BAM and NG Bailey.

The Design Build Foundation published its seminal report, Designing and Building a World-Class Industry in 1996 and as a part of this report an industry wide action plan was developed and the work of implementing this was led by Barry and the team at the Design Build Foundation.

Henley Management College

One of the early successes was the setting up of a leadership programme at Henley Management College as well as significant improvements to the work of the design and construction industry including developing new collaborative working business models. The Design Build Foundation merged with Reading Construction Forum and is now a part of Constructing Excellence which is a movement for change for the construction industry based at the Building Research Establishment.

Barry was a member of The Savage Club, founded in 1857 and comprising a wide range of members from the arts, music, drama, literature, science and law.

Barry also became a member of Lions Clubs International a network of over 1.4 million members worldwide dedicated to helping those in need. He became President for Lions in Henley-on-Thames.

He also held the position of chairman for Probus in Henley-on-Thames. Probus is a worldwide organisation of business and professional people.

Barry’s dry sense of humour as well as impeccable manners and total professionalism made him a person to whom many looked towards for inspiration and leadership.

In his spare time Barry was also a flying enthusiast and was a member of the Aeronautical Society. He enjoyed learning to fly many different aircraft types.

He leaves behind his much-loved family: his wife, Lesley Holmes, his son Chris and daughter Tessa, as well as five grandchildren, Cameron, Felicity, Emily, Stuart and Jenny.


Sad to hear of Barry’s passing. Good times with him at DBF. I carried on the work with Don Ward after he retired. Rest in peace.

Vaughan Burnand, 1 June 2020

You are not kidding he was a flying enthusiast, I recall him taking a flight on Concorde to mark his retirement from DBF – I doubt he learned to fly it but i would not put it past him. RIP Barry.

Don Ward, 1 June 2020

A true professional and a very good friend. Barry was able to identify how the construction sector could change based on his manufacturing background and applied his experience at the Design Build Foundation. Barry’s dry sense of humour will be missed.

Graham Robinson, 1 June 2020

So sorry to hear of his passing. I enjoyed working with him at Arlington, an inspirational man, who had a passion for everything he turned his mind to.

Iain Ferguson, 2 June 2020

Great man, great shame

Terence Warom, 2 June 2020

A great guy and true professional.My most remarkable memory was the enthusiasm and passion for change in a positive way. RIP BH. A privilege to have known you. John.

John Homer, 3 June 2020