BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

Building skills through study and site visits

A young building control surveyor reflects on how her studies have underpinned her practice in the second of a series on her degree apprenticeship

Author: Charlotte Turner

02 September 2021

young woman writing at desk

My first year as an apprentice building control surveyor, on a degree apprenticeship scheme with Assent Building Control, began last September, and has been extremely rewarding.

My technical knowledge and confidence has developed significantly in this time, and is expanding all the time. Each day is different from the last, which is something that makes the job so enjoyable. I'm involved in site visits, meeting contractors and homeowners and, back in the office, checking plans and managing projects.

Site visits

In this first year I have visited and written reports for large commercial sites accompanied by my workplace mentor, while also inspecting smaller domestic projects.

This variety of experience has developed my confidence in both commercial and domestic construction, in preparation for independent visits to small and large construction sites. I have also had the opportunity to visit sites with several other senior surveyors at Assent.

Working alongside a range of surveyors with different approaches has helped me develop my own style of client communication, taking inspiration from their methods. I have learned this year that building control relies heavily on communication and collaboration to achieve the best outcome.

More recently, I have started carrying out independent site inspections on small domestic construction projects. These included reroofing works, single-storey extensions and internal alterations to dwellings.

Building relationships

As an apprentice, I study one day a week, and the others I spend on site visits, writing reports, preparing fee quotes for clients, and attending sessions run by the training director at Assent. As well as this, I am now project manager on more than 100 projects, building professional relationships with a variety of clients.

I really enjoy using my customer service and communication skills to provide technical knowledge and solutions. I have found interacting not only with clients but also with homeowners and contractors on site an extremely rewarding and positive experience.

Interestingly, a large percentage of the general public are not aware of the building control function, even though it plays a vital part in all construction projects.

Constructive learning

To complete my degree apprenticeship, I enrolled at the University College of Estate Management for my BSc (Hons) in building control. In my first year I took four modules, namely law in the built environment, people and organisational management, digital technology, and construction technology. I have found each module useful for different aspects of my role.

'My favourite module has been construction technology as it links directly to my work, and I can use the material I study in my daily tasks. It covers technical topics such as foundations for buildings, roofs, floors, construction materials and sustainability.'

Charlotte Turner

Because I regularly see structures such as foundations, roofs and floors on site, studying them has helped me to carry out inspections because I have the knowledge to correctly assess the works. I can use the study materials and textbooks when writing my site reports to be sure I include the correct technical knowledge.

Meanwhile, the digital technology module looks at how technology has enhanced the built environment and what kinds are involved in a construction project. For my first assignment, I designed a poster detailing how technology has drastically improved the recording of site inspections and storage of reports, which were previously held in paper files.

This module is applicable to my role as I use technology every day to take photos on site, write reports and upload these to a database. My learning highlights the importance of technology in the industry, and how it is constantly evolving to enhance performance.

People and organisational management was another beneficial module, as it helped me understand how not only my organisation operates but also how those of our built environment clients work. It allowed me to determine positive ways to communicate, and showed how I can achieve my goals through appropriate management, setting goals with my manager with regular reviews and engagement with others.

Finally, law in the built environment involved topics such as contract law, occupiers' liability and the origins of building control. This module was interesting as it provided some background on how building control was developed, relevant legal matters, and why the profession plays such a vital part in society in terms of health and safety.

Working during the pandemic

Fortunately, construction work continued throughout the pandemic and associated lockdowns. Although the lockdowns limited my time in the office, site visits continued which ensured my development was not disrupted. Thankfully, I was still able to meet with my workplace mentor on site to not only assess the building work, but also discuss any queries or areas I needed some extra help with.

While working from home, I had regular meetings with my area manager who checked in on my tasks for the week, that I was spending time out on-site and talking through any questions I had. This was extremely beneficial as it maintained a regular point of contact, and ensured I felt well-supported in my role. I am now working in the office full time which enables me to communicate with all senior surveyors on any concerns or further support I need.

I am looking forward to progressing into the second year of my degree, beginning two new modules, regulatory frameworks and property law. I am confident the next year in my role will be just as rewarding, using the foundations I have already built – no pun intended.

Charlotte Turner is an assistant building control surveyor at Assent Building Control
Contact Charlotte: Email

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