What is a building control surveyor?
The boring answer would simply be someone who makes sure building works comply with the building regulations and while this is the core of what a building control surveyor does, the role is so much more interesting and fulfilling.
As a competent building control surveyor, you typically get to manage an area of the borough or district you work in. You could be dealing with anything from the removal of a load-bearing wall in a domestic property or a loft conversion to an extension or a new high rise building.
As part of your role of ensuring compliance, you’ll deal with a range of people from householders undertaking building works for the very first time right through to developers and contractors who operate nationally specialising in a wide range of schemes from supermarkets, industrial units and housing to nursing homes and retail fit outs.
You will be making sure the fabric of buildings is acceptable in terms of structural stability and fire resistance, as well as making sure elements such as drainage, ventilation, access and sound resistance requirements are reasonable for the specific project, which may require review of technical details supplied by manufacturers or mathematical checks to ensure glazed or unprotected areas are not excessive. You’ll liaise with the architect, agent or owner to explain why the design may require amending, so you will need to be good at Maths and English and have great communication skills.
If a scheme is submitted to your authority that you do not have the right experience and/or validated competence to deal you would still work on this, undertaking the plan appraisal and site inspections, however this would be under the guidance of a more experienced colleague – this way you still get to work on the full range of schemes and learn and develop in a safe and supportive working environment.
Most local authority building control teams also have responsibility for responding to dangerous structures call outs: again, your involvement will be subject to your level of experience and competence. You could be called out, day or night, to deal with a chimney stack which is about to collapse due to poor maintenance or bad weather, or to assess the structural stability of a building where there has been an explosion.
You may even be part of the local authority team who responds to a major incident, where your council’s emergency plan is actioned - building control are the professionals who deal with these sorts of incidents, working alongside the emergency services to safeguard the health and safety of people living, working and visiting your district or borough.
These incidents can be challenging, and you will need excellent decision-making skills, drawing on your knowledge and experience to determine the most appropriate way to make the situation safe. You’ll develop these as you progress. It can be a little scary at times but helping to resolve these incidents and issues can be so rewarding - you’ll really be making a difference.
We all know that not everyone follows the rules, whether that is by parking on double yellow lines while quickly dropping a letter in at the post office or travelling at over 70mph on the motorway. The same applies when it comes to building work: some may genuinely not realise consent is required for the works they are doing, while others undertake work for themselves or clients, fully aware that they need consent to do so.
Local authority building control surveyors have responsibility for dealing with unauthorised works. This can involve the submission of a retrospective application, uncovering or even demolishing elements of construction as well as formal prosecution through the Magistrates court. Many aspects of the job are challenging and will require you to be determined and have a strong character. Enforcement action is usually taken as a last resort., but ultimately you are looking to protect the health and safety of future owners or occupants of a building.
Most of the people undertaking building work try to do their very best and as a building control surveyor your role also includes supporting the compliance process by providing help and guidance. There will be some who go the extra mile to design and construct excellent buildings, often overcoming difficult site conditions.
As a local authority building control surveyor, you’ll be able to acknowledge their efforts and nominate them for one of the LABC Building Excellence awards. This allows you to formally appreciate their efforts and gives them an opportunity to receive recognition from their peers and other building control professionals at both regional and national level, which fosters great working relationships by rewarding and encouraging excellence in construction.
You now have some idea of what a building control surveyor is and what they do. You can see that their time is spent in the office checking design details and specifications and liaising with the person who submitted the application as well as visiting sites, discussing details with owners, builders and contractors, to verify that the works are in accordance with the approved plans or where deviations are noted, compliance is still achieved with all relevant building regulations; there can’t be many other jobs that have such a great mix!
You can look forward to a long and fulfilling career within local authority building control, with opportunities to develop, grow and be rewarded accordingly, if you work hard, apply yourself and always look to safeguard people’s health and safety.
If you want to earn while you learn, make a real difference, and have your effort recognised, this could be the career for you.