The future of the profession – Talking heads

Starter for 10
Jobs at risk, pressure on fee levels, cash flow problems… with the business downturn occupying almost our every thought,
we took 10 professionals and asked them an open question: What is the future of the building surveying profession?

T

he feeling is that the credit crunch may actually help the profession
become leaner and wiser, and that the flexible building surveyor can
seize the initiative and grasp opportunities, especially globally.
Some views are as you would expect, but there are warnings: despite
tight finances, competing on price alone will only damage the profession’s
image. And not only does the profession need to continually review its
service offerings – with other professions potentially filling the gap – but
BSs risk losing their identity if they don’t differentiate from other disciplines.
What do you think are the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead?
These might relate to technology, regulations, education, industry
consolidation, the long-term impact of the credit crunch, etc.
What’s your view of the profession’s future?

Les Pickford, Editor, Building Surveying Journal
lpickford@rics.org

service
The building surveyor
Diverse technical skills make building
surveyors highly resilient, and as investors,
occupiers, funders or developers become
more risk averse and financially sensitive,
greater demands on technical specification requirements will arise.
Building a rapport with clients is key. Too many building surveyors
have become complacent and need to show an increased hunger,
passion and drive to weather the current storm.
Price competition is an act of desperation. The profession is a gold
standard of technical competence and, as such, should be rewarded
appropriately. An organisation’s approach, service, relationship and
liability are major factors, but seamless interdisciplinary teams and
value-added solutions are prerequisites to the globalisation of our role.
Despite the ever-changing market, the commercially aware and
competent professional remains in short supply and all practices
have a duty to attract, train and retain the best graduates.
Regulation, legislation, insurance, insolvency and litigation create
opportunities but should not eclipse the primary objective of
commercial awareness.
Sustainability is firmly on the agenda, driven by a circle of ethical,
legislative and technological advances. The energy efficiency and
performance of any building requires more intelligent upgrades,
enhanced aftercare services and increased brown and green diligence
requirements.
Above all else, rapidly developing green specialisms will be vital
in the future’s bright real estate landscape.
Steve Timbs, Executive Director – Head of Building Surveying,
CB Richard Ellis
steve.timbs@cbre.com

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Building Surveying Journal

January-February 09

The client
The future for building surveyors is good
but, as this economic slowdown continues,
a review and rationalisation of services will
be required.
The existing broad scope of services should stand them in good
stead. However, practices are now looking to streamline resources
and, as a client, this is a good thing; we want the best people on
our jobs.
A client will pay substantial fees if advice and service is from a
professional who is an expert in his field. But we expect high quality
content and communication too – more questions than answers
means wasted time and money.
Leaner and meaner practices need to raise the bar quickly – those
who don’t will fall by the wayside. The client is no longer a layman and
will often have as much technical knowledge and experience as his
consultants – and we’re not afraid to change non-performing advisors.
The challenge for building surveyors is to lead their practices from
the front – be this diversification into other areas such as asset and
project management, or
specialisation of a service, thus
becoming a recognised leader
in that particular field. They
are also ideally placed to
head business development
by using their negotiation
skills with other disciplines
and clients alike.
Better still, they could even
move across the divide and represent
a client…

What is the
Building Su

Mark Taylor, Development Manager, South Central Management
mark@scmanagement.co.uk

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added
va
1

The lawyer

expansion
4

I know you are a conservative crowd, but
open your minds to new ideas and fees
will follow.
Landlords have realised tenants are
customers. If customers cannot obtain what they want from their
normal suppliers, they go elsewhere. Many tenants want, for instance,
certainty of outgoings. Hence, some landlords are offering short-term
leases on fixed rentals with no tenants’ covenants to repair. They don’t
require schedules of dilapidations, but they do need to know the
extent of the risk they are undertaking with planned maintenance
programmes. This is where building surveyors have a role.
Exaggerated dilapidations claims and defences are history. There
is still scope to negotiate about the standard of repair required by
a lease, but the old arguments of ‘replacement v no loss’ are often
misconceived. Bring your advice and negotiation skills into the middle
ground of the dispute and your clients will appreciate you more.
It is time, too, for you to better understand what is meant by a
tenant’s covenant to comply with statute – many duties attach to
an occupier, not to an empty building.
Finally, energy performance, green leases and sustainability require
new building materials. The industry requires advice upon what is
available, how it might be maintained and its lifespan. If you don’t
grasp this opportunity, then somebody else will.

future of
urveying?

Vivien King, Founder of Hatherleigh
Training and Consultant to Bond Pearce
vivien@hatherleightraining.com

The building surveyor

The credit crunch will be good for us. It will
sharpen our focus on developing business
and ensure everyone understands their role
in generating income. For too long, there
has been a reliance on a few to bring in the work but I want everyone
– from the tea lady to the IT manager – to automatically be thinking
about how Gleeds can help.
We all embrace technology but people are what we offer to our
clients and, when there are financial pressures, we must ensure we
don’t lose the skills base that gives them confidence in us. To do this,
we must continue to invest in training, prioritise marketing ourselves
and investigate our clients’ needs.
In the current market, it is necessary to consider global options.
Granted, the present situation is impacting worldwide but there are
growing economies, for example India. Building surveyors need to
appreciate that we operate in a truly global economy and they must
be equipped accordingly.
When we demonstrate our skills and show what we can bring to the
table, great respect is placed on our judgement. We have always been
one of the most flexible and forward-thinking professions and these
strengths should be the key to our expansion in a time when others’
market places are shrinking.

3
sustainable
5
alue

Phil Southgate, Managing Director, Gleeds Building Surveying Services
phil.southgate@gleeds.co.uk

The building surveyor

The great thing about building surveying is that each day presents new challenges or
issues. When the issue becomes a talking point, it’s often the time to admit that there
is a gap to fill in people’s knowledge.
For me, there are two major, connected challenges to meet. One is to more fully
understand the desire to design and build sustainable, low carbon buildings in all sectors,
and the other is to understand how the world of design and manufacture meets this challenge.
Building surveyors are often in the middle. We observe changes in legislation, read about new eco-towns being
developed and are swept along with the latest jargon. Likewise, when we inspect buildings, we see the latest
developments in cladding, flat roof technology, off-site construction, pods, modules and cassettes et al.
Documenting and taking an interest now, will prove invaluable in 10, 15, 20 years’ time, when these buildings
are back on the market, leases have expired or they need refurbishing.
We normally focus heavily on looking back in time and understanding how we used to build but, to make
sense of it all, we have to look at tomorrow today.
Chris Mahony, Director of Church Lukas and

Chairman of the RICS Building Pathology Working Group
chrism@churchlukas.com

The future of the profession – Talking heads

The lawyer

6

losing identi

Building surveyors have a unique combination of skills to serve both the property
and construction industries. As major players within the profession, they have an
important role to play, particularly regarding sustainability.
I think building surveyors appreciate that in times of recession, one of the best
ways of ensuring that clients can take best advantage of the upturn is to embed sustainable construction
into contractual frameworks.
Building surveying has an advantage of being perceived as a relatively young profession, and clients
appear more receptive to innovation when proposed by those who can also demonstrate the traditional
technical knowledge base and the ability to offer advice through the full lifecycle of a building or asset.
Sustainability is an important aspect of advice that building surveyors should be giving and they are
well placed to work with lawyers on embedding, for example, sustainability KPIs within procurement
processes and contractual frameworks.
However, there is a danger of building surveyors losing their identity within the wider industry or being
perceived as only operating in the residential sector. I often deal with multi-disciplinary practices and the
distinct skills of building surveyors are often not separately identified. The profession needs to fight its
corner to maintain its profile in the property world and with clients.

APC

Jessica Taylor, Partner, Trowers & Hamlins LLP
jtaylor@trowers.com

The APC student
As recession looms, the future is not entirely
bleak for building surveyors. Freeholders
must maximise the value of their properties
to survive and this demand, together with
projects such as the 2012 Olympics, provides us with opportunities.
However, in this competitive climate it is essential for aspiring
building surveyors to be highly trained. My own training has
been diverse with an emphasis on a high-quality service to
meet clients’ needs.
However, to provide this service, employers must impart knowledge
to APC students in a planned way. Supervisors must ensure the
student’s day is structured, with the required competencies attained
and recorded. My diary is managed to ensure that each hour is
registered against a client and competency. This is a must for
all APC students.
Kingston University provides an excellent learning environment with
an emphasis on sustainability. I combined my degree with a one-year
placement with William Martin & Partners that helped me consolidate
and accumulate practical learning points, e.g. landlord and tenant
issues such as dilapidations (which are only touched upon during the
degree). Making the placement year compulsory as part of the RICS
degree accreditation process would raise the standard of graduates
entering the profession.
In a recession, graduates may find that practical skills attained
during that placement year could be the differentiator between
being a successful candidate or not.
Jonathan François, APC student, William Martin & Partners
jfrancois@william-martin.co.uk

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Building Surveying Journal

January-February 09

What is the
Building Su

7
the
global
scen

The future of the profession – Talking heads

ity 8
The building surveyor

The challenge is winning work in a shrinking
market. Ironically, recruitment and retention
of high-quality staff, which has been so
difficult recently, may become easier. In any
recession, there is a degree of consolidation and inevitably some
practices will suffer. However, people have short memories and for
those who survive, I suspect it will be business as usual in a year
or two for a leaner, and perhaps wiser, industry.
Economics aside, the profession has two major opportunities for
the future: sustainability (driven by UK government regulation and
self-governance) and emerging markets.
The next phase of the sustainability agenda will focus on existing
build. Our links with the existing building stock primes us to take a
leading role. Our technical expertise will be key. We must sharpen our
understanding of building technology and energy efficiency, to provide
our clients with innovative solutions that meet both environmental and
CSR objectives.
In the emerging economies of Europe and further afield, using our
extensive range of technical and softer skills, we are well placed to
maximise clients’ opportunities.
If we are to secure the future for our profession, we must pay
more attention to education and training, embrace new technology
and ensure we are well prepared to rise to the challenges we face.
Jo Stocks, Chief Executive,

future of
urveying?

ne

Watts Group
jo.stocks@watts-int.com

The professor

9

If previous recessions are anything to go by,
we’ll shortly have an over-supply of qualified
staff. Students will be discouraged from
studying building surveying and we’ll have
several years where the industry cannot find graduates. This is
likely to be compounded by the fact that student recruitment lags
two or three years behind what is happening in the real world.
Recruitment onto undergraduate and postgraduate building
surveying courses is strong, but if we suffer a deep recession
this will worsen. Fast-track postgraduate conversion courses are a
relatively new innovation in building surveying and I suspect the lag
period will be much shorter than for the traditional undergraduate
route. Non-cognate graduates are unlikely to part with their fees if
they cannot see a job at the end of their studies. Maybe, therefore,
such courses are the future of the profession?
Certainly, all the employer feedback I receive is that the greater
maturity and wider range of experience of such graduates is
appreciated. If we are to move to mainly postgraduate entry, I would
ask that we don’t forget to ensure graduates of such courses receive
a sound technical grounding. I believe this is far more important than
requiring these students to undertake (in most cases) a second
dissertation. However, I fear I am in the minority in taking this view.
Mike Hoxley, Professor of Building Surveying,
Nottingham Trent University
mike.hoxley@ntu.ac.uk

10

The building surveyor

We are in an ideal position to develop our skills to meet market needs, and lead
the way particularly in sustainability, green issues, asset management planning,
conservation and law-related subjects. As soon as a new subject hits the market,
there are surveyors who are prepared to seize the opportunity. However, there is
no room for complacency as other non-RICS professionals can also take a lead.
It is extremely important that we keep up to date with new technology and the latest developments,
particularly relating to environmental issues and carbon footprinting. Our faculty should continue to respond
to national and international themes to ensure we remain up to date.
The level of rigour around the APC process should also continue to ensure that only those with appropriate
levels of skill become qualified. Although an increase in the number of technical grade surveyors would be
useful.
The future of our profession is very bright as surveyors are an extremely adaptable bunch and I am sure
we will ride out the current economic storm. Although there is sufficient work in the UK, building surveyors
need to keep an eye on the global scene and see what skills we can offer to emerging markets. It is
important that the faculty facilitates this and that our worldwide potential clients understand the services
we can offer. Let us go forth and multiply.
Chris Barker, Senior Partner, Barker Associates
cbarker@barker-associates.co.uk