Prendos Building Surveyor Jan Connell describes her job as something like a ‘building doctor’. Armed with a broad knowledge of all aspects of a building’s health, her aim is to offer clients the best, most cost-effective solution to ensure their property performs over the long term.
“Put very simply, a Building Surveyor’s job is to go in and see whether a building is sick and what medicine is required,” says Jan. “But more than this, we work to understand what our clients need from their property and make sure their building delivers on it. We offer independent, expert advice and technical expertise across all aspects of the property, looking at its entire lifespan. So rather than thinking short term, we put the right things in place up front to protect their investment over time.”
A building surveyor is typically brought in to assess a certain aspect or issue in a building and advise on the best way forward. Sometimes this means involving other disciplines – something made easy for Jan thanks to Prendos’ multi-disciplinary capability.
“As a building surveyor I’m often appointed to look at some failure in the building: water ingress or failure of cladding for example. I can assess the issue, engage whoever is needed to do the job, get all the costs together and give the client the full picture of what fixing the problem might look like. The great thing about Prendos is that we have most required disciplines in-house, so I have access to a huge amount of knowledge and experience.”
While most people only look at the material touch ups required in a building, a surveyor takes into account everything from whether the property meets current fire or seismic regulations, to issues around structure or design. This ‘big picture’ view allows them to give clients a realistic view of costs (both short and long term) and help them make informed decisions: essential when looking at purchase a new building or deciding what to do with an existing one.
“We have a client who owns a portfolio of properties – one of which she rents out. When her tenants complained that the building was leaking, she came to us to get an understanding of her options. I advised her that the building’s roof was failing as a result of poor design, and presented her with two initial options: repair and keep the building, or sell it and use the money to maintain the other buildings in her portfolio.”
Armed with the right information, Jan’s client decided to keep the building, as the rent was so valuable to her. However, this led to two further choices: to repair or replace the roof.
“We could either set up a programme to repair the roof, taking into account that this costly repair may need to happen every few years, or get one of our designers to design a whole new roof, which would have a lifespan of 25 years with no repair or maintenance costs over that time. So, while the latter option was more expensive up front, we were able to show her how it would save her a great deal of money in the long run.”
Building surveyors also work in dispute resolution, insurance or legal cases. Jan was recently involved in a claim by a client against a product that had failed, where the original builder had also acted as project manager.
“The client wanted an impartial, expert view on whether the builder was being upfront about why the product had failed: was it due to poor quality or was there an issue with how it was installed? I looked at the literature provided by the manufacturer and checked whether the team appointed to do the work had followed these installation instructions. As it turned out, the product had been incorrectly installed, so the builder’s team were at fault rather than the manufacturer.”
The fact that a building surveyor can provide impartial knowledge and advice is essential. Sometimes, Jan says, this may mean offering advice on other issues outside their original scope.
“When I’m brought in to just look at one aspect of a building, I believe it’s my professional duty to alert the client if I see something else that’s an issue. As building surveyors we’re qualified to look at every aspect of a building’s health, and we’re committed to making sure our clients get the best advice over a property’s entire lifespan.”