Making Her Mark on the New Zealand Property Industry

September 6, 2021

With an impressive array of projects under her belt, it’s no surprise to see Chartered & Registered Building Surveyor and Senior Project Manager Heather Crilly become the first female President of the NZ Institute of Building Surveyors.

Heather, husband Michael and family moved from Ireland to New Zealand in January 2014 and settled in Canterbury, where Heather started working for Prendos’ Christchurch office. At the time, the office was in its infancy, and Director and Southern Manager Rory Crosbie needed experienced Chartered Building Surveyors to assist the company’s Canterbury clients.

“When we got to New Zealand, the Canterbury region was still in recovery mode from the 2011 earthquakes,” Heather explains. “So, when I joined Prendos, Rory got me straight into earthquake related insurance claims. My previous experience as a Senior Chartered Building Surveyor and Project Manager in the UK certainly helped – I’d completed many stock condition surveys, so my knowledge of different building types and associated defects stood me in good stead when assessing Christchurch’s earthquake damaged buildings. My project management skills also helped, as Rory got me straight into managing remediation and earthquake repair projects. I basically hit the ground running!”

Not long after arriving in New Zealand, Heather qualified as a Registered Building Surveyor, which equipped her with the local knowledge she needed to negotiate her way through many of the more complex earthquake assessments. This, together with her building surveying and project management experience, enabled her to not only identify earthquake damage and scope its repair, but – once the claim was settled – project manage the remediation. Some of Heather’s notable insurance projects include the investigation of Lincoln University’s residential portfolio, Wellington’s NZ Post House and Victoria University’s portfolio following the Kaikoura earthquake.

“One particularly interesting earthquake repair job I managed was the remediation of the Buddhist Temple in Christchurch – a landmark stone clad building that had only been built six years prior to the earthquakes. It suffered severe damage to its foundations and required pretty extensive repairs, so seeing it all come together was satisfying. I enjoy working as Engineer to Contract, partnering with consultants and main contractors to fix damage and put things right for building owners. That’s the most rewarding part.”

On top of this, Heather’s strong science background sees her frequently completing forensic analyses – both for weathertightness and general building defects, as well as to identify material damage caused by earthquake, flood or fire. Her impressive level of expertise in these areas also sees her being called upon by local lawyers to act as expert witness.

“Through the relationships I’ve built with insurance loss adjustors and advocates, I’m now involved in fire and flood damage claims for commercial and retail buildings across the South Island, and I’ve been lucky enough to go on to project manage many of the remediations. Acting as expert witness leads to a huge variety of work, with some cases relating to design and construction defects, others to contract disputes. But, regardless of the subject, my duty is to the court. I’m there to prepare detailed reports on the items being disputed and ultimately help bring these cases to a fair resolution.”

Stepping Up to NZIBS President

Over the past seven years, Heather has worked with Rory to grow the Christchurch team, which now comprises six building surveyors, two quantity surveyors and an architect. More recently, she took over from Rory as President of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors (NZIBS) in October 2020, becoming the first female to take up the position.

“It was a real honour to be selected as NZIBS President. It’s certainly a lot of extra work, but it’s a great opportunity to do something different, and it’s always good to challenge yourself! We held our NZIBS training day in March, where building surveyors from across the country come to hear presentations on relevant topics. This year’s event, held in Auckland, looked at carbon and building for climate change. We’re now ramping up for this year’s main conference, which (all going well!) will be held in Nelson in September. It’s a great chance for the Institute’s surveyors to get together, network and hear about what’s happening across the industry. I’ve extended invites to representatives from NZIQS and the PassiveHouse Institute as well as architects – it’s important we all work together to get the effective change required to meet our carbon targets. I’m also working with the Executive to set up a homegrown, Kiwi degree in building surveying, something New Zealand badly needs for the sustainability of the profession in this country.”

Heather was recently named an Associate at Prendos and Rory says she has become an integral part of the South Island team.

“Heather has built a well-founded reputation in the industry. She’s contributed significantly to many complex earthquake insurance claims and has a proven, in-depth knowledge of weathertightness, earthquake damage identification and how buildings perform. Not only that, she consistently gives back to the industry – not only in her role as NZIBS President, but through her involvement with RICS as an assessor of up and coming members and with women in property events. She’s extremely well-respected by her peers.”

And it seems the property and construction industry is in the family. Heather’s husband Michael retrained in structural engineering upon arriving in New Zealand, and now works alongside Heather at Prendos. He’s currently completing his papers to become a building surveyor.

“Having Michael in the office makes our work conversations at home pretty easy! We are loving our time in New Zealand, seeing the kids grow up here. Ireland does seem so much further away at the moment thanks to COVID, but luckily our office feels a bit like home – we’re a pretty multi-cultural bunch! The past seven years have been a real learning curve, both in my role at Prendos and as NZIBS President. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with our clients to further rebuild and strengthen the Canterbury region, and to advance the building surveying industry through my role with NZIBS.”

Heather Crilly, Chartered & Registered Building Surveyor
Heather Crilly – Chartered & Registered Building Surveyor and Senior Project Manager

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