Building inspector Trevor Clements talks about how he made the shift from builder to building control.
In my first article I mentioned my time on the tools before joining the suited and booted ranks of the building control profession. It got me thinking; if it worked for me then why not others who have a head for figures (that’s the numerical kind), can record accurately what gets seen out on site and apply the building regulations to ensure compliance.
Yes, I can hear the more cynical adding (but probably less politely) to the list: “Able to spend time in a nice cool office when the weather is too hot or a nice warm one when it is too cold and wet”.
Well yes we do spend time in the office but what’s great about the job is that we also get to go out on site too and probably see more buildings and styles of building than any other role within the construction industry. After 35 years I still love my job and I know it is not everyone who is lucky enough to say that.
What makes a good building control surveyor?
The ideal recruit to Local Authority Building Control has a sound practical knowledge of construction plus enough academic savvy to be able to understand and interpret the legal and technical documents on which we base our decisions.
They also need to be good communicators with a genuine desire to work with clients, builders and architects towards a common aim – a safe, durable, energy efficient building.
Just because somebody hasn’t got formal qualifications, it doesn’t mean he or she is any less capable than someone who has, but in these post-Grenfell days it is important that we demonstrate that the people making the decisions are competent.
A surveying degree and membership of a professional institution provides that evidence so a willingness to study is another skill that we have to look for in recruits. That’s an extensive and quite rare combination of skillsets and invariably many of our graduate recruits tick most of the boxes but face a steep learning curve on the practical aspects of the industry.
I suspect this will raise many a wry smile from those who have experienced site inspections by people who don’t seem to have a practical grounding. Go easy on them; the job calls for the accumulation of a tonne of knowledge and that takes time.
Fortunately a large organisation like Hertfordshire Building Control is able to organise regular training sessions to impart some of that knowledge and I make a point of focussing on some of the practical stuff that doesn’t get taught on a university course.
One of our surveyors has a 30-year trade background and is usually on hand to contribute his knowledge and put me straight if necessary (obviously extremely rarely!).
I have to admit that it gives me a lot of satisfaction to be involved with these sessions – a few years ago it would have been unheard of to have such a high number of bright prospects coming into the profession to ensure the future resilience of the Local Authority Building Control service.
Who should apply?
So what sort of people apply for jobs with us? A number come to us as graduates with surveying degrees. Others join directly from school and undertake part-time study leading to a degree and ultimately the professional qualification of a Chartered Surveyor or Engineer.
As I mentioned we also have a couple who have joined us having spent a significant part of their career working in the building industry. In addition to the classroom stuff we put them all through a programme of shadowing more experienced building control surveyors (their buddies) and on various external courses covering relevant subjects.
So could it be that our joiners straight from school and university could do with a bit of really practical experience, maybe working on site for a couple of weeks to really understand the practicalities of building something?
For those joining from industry I think we give them all the training they need and importantly they have that site experience. With them it is much less about the training and more important that we select the right person from the outset.
We do not want someone with a ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ attitude or someone who thinks they know it all but preferably people who are able to apply their practical knowledge to the building regulations and work with builders to come up with compliant solutions.
So two things; if there are any builders out there who would like to give our trainees a week or two work experience and if there are any aspiring building control surveyors out there do give me a shout.
If you work elsewhere other than Hertfordshire why not call your own local authority building control department to see if they have any vacancies – what have you got to lose?