APC progress

Detailed research on fire safety and independent work on a range of sites are helping a trainee building control surveyor to progress through his APC, as he explains in the third of a series of articles

Author: Jake Green

13 June 2019

Since writing my last article, the biggest personal change I have experienced is that I am now able to work proficiently without the guidance of a senior surveyor.

I can now quote for, plan-check and inspect a much larger range of jobs, although my work still needs to be signed off by a qualified colleague. The feeling of being trusted with more kinds of work has accelerated my development and given me great confidence.

I have always strongly believed that the best way to learn is to do. Even though mistakes may be made, these can serve as lesson so we don't repeat them. This system also provides a safe way to learn: all trainees have their work checked by a qualified member of staff, so any mistakes on a job will have no serious implications.

My confidence in my studies has also been bolstered. One of the main topics that we've been studying is fire safety; I have recently completed the assessment, and I have been assigned to look at fire safety in nightclubs. Having researched this in great depth, I have been deeply shocked by some of the tragedies that have occurred over the years, and this is in just one particular building type.

Lessons should have been learnt from experience but have not been; regulations suggest buildings should be constructed to meet minimum standards instead of the safest ones, and in my eyes the latter should always take precedence.

After researching various case studies, such as the 2013 Kiss nightclub fire in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island, USA, I have been reminded of why our job is so very important. Although both fires may not have been avoided had the buildings been covered by the present-day UK regulations, the death tolls would certainly not have been as high. In studying this topic, I have been able to use my expanding knowledge of Building Regulations while also being reminded that there is a human cost in not doing a good job.

Back at the start of my APC training, I had to select certain optional competencies in which I would develop my skills and reach a certain level. One of these was Building pathology, which I selected under the guidance of my mentor and fellow journal author John Miles in the knowledge that it was a subject that I would be studying for a year.

It has been taught by our course leader and been a highlight of my university day; studying methods that surveyors use to understand building defects. Learning such subjects from the ground up has given me a great understanding and I believe this is an important part of ensuring building control surveyors of the future are well rounded.

I am also completing my APC diary on a weekly basis, which is a good way to identify areas that require extra focus. On any given day I am likely to be inspecting simple domestic work that covers required competencies such as Building control inspections and Building pathology, while also vetting plans and issuing quotes for client care.

One area that is barely covered by these tasks, however, is fire safety. To ensure I am progressing in this critical competency, I am assisting qualified surveyors with more complex and commercial jobs, and shadowing them on site at high-rise residential and large commercial projects.

This is improving my understanding of why our job is so important. We are not just ensuring buildings comply with regulations for today's occupants – we are ensuring they are safe for generations to come.

Jake Green is an assistant building control surveyor at Assent Building Control jakegreen@assentbc.co.uk

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