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The role of building surveyors

Surveying, and its related disciplines, have been in existence for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used the methods of surveying to create the geometrically perfect Pyramids Of Giza, Stonehenge was created using peg and rope geometry, and surveying was even incorporated into the ideas of the Doomsday book (which recorded land use and ownership throughout the UK). A subsidiary of surveying is the role of the building surveyor (a profession little understood outside of the United Kingdom).

Fall [2002] commentated that ‘In the 1970’s the specialise of building surveying didn’t really exist’, instead this has been a slowly developing role since the establishment of the Building Surveying Faculty in 1973 allowed building surveying to become a distinctly separate discipline in the UK. Building owners generally are not familiar with the various ins and outs of the planning process – this is where the building surveyor comes in. Responsible for ensuring that the building design complies with the relevant Acts and Regulations, there is a requirement to be able to both investigate and analyse all aspects of a buildings design and development – a sort of ‘Jack of all trades’. Integral to the work of the building surveyor, is the responsibility of ensuring that building control regulations are adhered to in the planning stages of both new developments and conversions. Making judgement calls on applications the building surveyor assesses proposals in relation to the regulations and either; gives permission for the work to commence, asks for more details, or issues conditional approval subject to certain other steps being taken. In other words, building surveyors are ‘responsible for making sure that buildings, old or new, are safe, energy efficient, and suitable for living’ [Salford University Website].

Overall the building surveyor can be involved in new build project monitoring or the conservation of historic stock and possesses the technical knowledge and expertise about buildings, along with legal and economic knowledge about property and construction [Kibblewhite 2004].

The RICS Construction Market Survey in 2002 concluded that building surveyors work in private housing, public housing, private commercial, private industrial and public non-housing.

Jones and Kirby, 2002, made the following assessment of the building surveyor, which seems to outline the fluidity required in the role:

‘As members of the Building Surveying Faculty, we are constantly faced with change. The market for our services is not static. The client base for our services is not static. The services those clients require of us are moving.’ Building surveyors need to be able to react to changing economic situations, which of course we have all seen over the past two years, and redirect their services as appropriate.

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