A coffee break with AMA Homes

In the first of our coffee break series, we sat down with Mike Afshar of AMA Homes. Their company name, AMA, is the marriage of Mike and his brother Ali’s initials and was brought into being over 40 years ago when the Afshars first launched. Over decades of operating, the two brothers and business partners have brought together builders and designers, and AMA Homes have gone on to create stunning new-build and traditional homes that have won multiple awards across Scotland.

Can you describe AMA in a nutshell?

We set AMA up as a niche development company to bring like-minded professionals and craftsmen together to deliver high-quality, coordinated developments in Edinburgh and around Scotland to fit into the city’s architectural heritage.

What makes AMA Homes different? 

We never produce the same design twice, and we’re creators of really innovative architecture in Edinburgh. We’re not a standard box-ticking mass house builder and look at each site individually, constantly entering design competitions to make sure that what we build is the best solution for the site.

We always use robust materials and clever designs and create developments that add value to surrounding properties to have a lasting impact beyond just the site we build.

Both Ali and I are professionally qualified structural engineers and chartered surveyors, respectively. We have the skills to quickly appraise new projects for their potential, which is so important for the longevity of any site.

How have you changed the industry for the better? 

We were among the first to innovate in Edinburgh by engaging with contemporary architecture at the turn of the millennium, but we also have a reputation for respectfully renovating listed properties. We completed the greatest number of underground parking projects, including the largest subterranean car park in Edinburgh for a residential development. For over 20 years, all our developments have had underfloor heating long, well before it became an expected feature.  

In terms of sustainability, we build heat exchangers into our properties, include double glazing within powder-coated aluminium windows as standard, and our spec is very high quality. We build into our design both the practical and the desirable features at the beginning of our projects, from ambient mood lighting to central ventilation extractor fan and music system. We also make sure we build with a high standard of insulation and air tightness to help reduce running costs. 

We never produce the same design twice, and we’re creators of really innovative architecture in Edinburgh. We’re not a standard box-ticking mass house builder, as we pick the best solution for each site.

What goes into a successful AMA development?

It’s the right mix of design, workmanship and the best components that make a development a successful one. This is how our developments last for the long term, by making sure all the best elements go into them at the beginning. Developments that we built 35–40 years are just as high-quality as our most recent builds. This is because the AMA brand is a selling point and a mark of quality that earns sellers a premium thanks to our reputation.

How important is developing sustainable homes to your initiatives?

Sustainability is hugely important to us, and it’s been important to us right from day one. We build this into all types of projects we work on. Take our work on student accommodation. 

Many developers build pods (smaller style, self-contained units) into their student residences, and once those pods have been used for 15–20 years, they are difficult to replace and repair because they come as a single unit and are fitted at the time of construction. The way that we approach student living is to build everything offsite and create it from components that you take away in sections so that you can repair them. This works well for high-use projects like student accommodation or aparthotels. We think about practical ways of maintaining properties in the future is how you can continue to offer value to customers. 

Sustainability also means using the right materials that will last over time. All our facade systems are robust and use good-quality stone, brick and high-quality polymer-based render, and with this type of render, there is a 20-year guarantee.

What is the impact of your work around Scotland?

We keep our design efforts fresh and exciting and use an external design team for auditing any external designers we would bring on. We don’t use the same architects all the time and pick from a team of eight or nine different architectural design houses that we work with and chose who is best suited to each development. 

There are a lot of people trying to replicate what we do, but they can only do parts of it because they are not as knowledgeable about the costs and implementation projects like ours, whereas we have many decades of experience to draw upon and have a research team in house who are constantly reviewing new products and materials and how we can use these in developments. We are constantly pushing the boundaries in our projects around the country.

What has been the development you have been most proud of over the years and why?

Though we’re proud of all of our developments, there are many for which we’ve been honoured with major design awards, like the Saltire Awards, the Roses Awards and the British Home Awards, where you’re scrutinised hugely.

We’ve done developments within World Heritage sites, and one that particularly stood out was a historic car park site with very difficult ground conditions. We created a 350,000ft² mixed-use development in New Town Edinburgh, which I’m very proud of because it became an identifiable, signature site for us. And in the height of the 2008 recession, when other property projects were halted, we created one of our best. 

AMA Homes show that modern property developers can balance high-quality new designs while honouring historic buildings and cities. For information on how we can support your next real estate project, check out our property loans. And you hear our customer’s success stories in their own words as they chat through the support they’ve had from an OakNorth loan.