The past six months of my apprenticeship have been filled with new experiences, achievements and learning.
Having passed modules in regulatory frameworks and property law to finish the previous semester, I began the second spring semester of my BSc (Hons) Building Control at the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) in March, starting my second construction technology module along with a new one in economics.
The construction industry has seen a surge in work over the past two years, with demand for housing increasing, and this has caused a rise in applications for building control approvals. So I've found it interesting to study the economics of the industry, to see what external factors influence the demand for new construction.
The most significant increase has been in the domestic sector, with applications for extensions and new-build houses alike rising dramatically. One of the biggest influences on housing demand in recent years has been the pandemic, which saw many people investing in property when they realised they would have to spend several months indoors.
In April, I took a competency test at work to determine my current level of ability in my role and any improvements I could make.
The test was based on simple domestic construction drawings, and I had to recognise and note different contraventions of the Building Regulations when checking plans, based on the information I had been given.
There were also a series of technical questions after the plan checking to assess my level of technical knowledge, covering topics such as foundations, Part B of the Building Regulations and radon gas.
It was extremely helpful to identify areas where I may need more training, and those where my knowledge is strong. I demonstrated good knowledge of domestic construction, so the assessment enhanced my confidence when checking plans and carrying out site inspections.
There have been significant changes to the U-values required on new dwellings, extensions and alterations. Consequently, different construction methods are now being adopted to meet these requirements; for example increased insulation, which may mean buildings need larger cavities.
The cavities can even have an effect on foundations, which need to be wider to accommodate external walls larger than the standard 600mm. The new U-values may be achieved by installing rigid insulation board inside the standard 100mm cavities, or applying insulated plasterboard to the internal faces of walls.
It has been important to familiarise myself with new methods such as these, to ensure I can determine compliance when coming across such features on site.
In the past few months, I have been sharing my experience in building control, in the hope of encouraging more young people into considering an apprenticeship or postgraduate route into surveying.
The younger generation are not well represented in the construction industry. RICS data on the age profiles of its members showing that just 22% were aged 39 or younger, and more than half are aged 50 or more. I have therefore been involved in several projects to raise awareness of the various opportunities for young people in surveying.
One of these is the Building Control Next Generation group, which aims to show how varied and interesting the job can be. I have attended group meetings where we share our ideas and experiences, and identify any new ways to encourage more young people into the profession.
There is also an Instagram page that gives a more personal view of individual surveyors, and allows us to promote building control. I have been featured on this page myself, with a short explanation of how I started my career in building control, while I submit work-related content to be posted on the page as well.
Similarly, I filmed and edited a video showing a day in the life of a building control surveyor for National Apprenticeship Week with UCEM, which gave an insight into my activities and responsibilities as a trainee. The aim was to demonstrate how the apprenticeship offers a diverse, on-site and office-based experience.
Charlotte Turner speaking at the Meet the Building Safety Regulator conference © Steph Ettles, Integral Building Control Solutions
In June I had the privilege of attending the Meet the Building Safety Regulator conference in Manchester, organised by the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors and the Fire Safety Building Regulations Group.
The importance of competency in building control was a key theme of the event. I gave a short speech where, along with my colleagues from Assent Building Control, I shared my experience and the route that led me into building control.
In July, I submitted my final assignments for this academic year, and I’m now preparing to enter the third year of my course in September. I am looking forward to completing another 12 months of my apprenticeship, and feel I have developed both my knowledge and confidence significantly in this time.