From sport to building control

A trainee surveyor explains how he returned to his family's profession of building control after a career in sport and fitness


  • Chris Pratt

15 June 2019

With both parents working in building control, I grew up hearing discussions about it around the dinner table. The talk of statistics and legislation day in day out almost put me to sleep. and I couldn't think of much worse a fate than joining my parents in the profession.

While my brother chose architecture as a career, close enough to our parents' work to contribute to the conversations while still doing his own thing, I jumped as far from that particular ship as I could when I left school. Instead, I chose to study sport in college before going on to take a degree in exercise, health and fitness at university.

Throughout my studies I worked in the leisure sector as a lifeguard, immersing myself in sport as a hobby and a career. I have a lot to thank sport for, not least helping me overcome some personal issues. But I didn't start to consider a career change until my brother introduced me to Tough Mudder – a series of events designed to challenge you physically and mentally – as a way of overcoming those issues.

Tough Mudder quickly became my passion. I not only compete nationally at weekends but have also been appointed as an ambassador by the organisation.

Employed in the health and fitness sector I had very little opportunity myself for sport or competing – working weekends are the norm – added to which even though I was only 23 I had quickly hit the progression ceiling. But I had my degree as well as management experience, so I started to give serious thought to a change in career.

The family dinner-table conversations must have infiltrated my consciousness because I now started to consider building control. Hearing about my dad's work as a building control manager made me realise that a career in the profession was not only a credible but attractive option, and with the clear route for progression that I craved. It offered everything Id been looking for – work–life balance, earning potential,. employment opportunities, variety, teamworking and ongoing training.

"Building control offered work–life balance, earning potential, employment opportunites, variety, and ongoing training"

I applied for and secured the role of trainee building control surveyor with Derbyshire Building Control Partnership (DBCP), a service combining the knowledge of six established local authority services. Although I was taking an initial step back in terms of salary and having to begin learning again, the opportunities far outweighed any short-term drawbacks.

I now combine my time in the office and on site shadowing DBCP's surveyors with attendance at the local college one day a week studying a Level 4 HNC in Construction and the Built Environment.

The amount of knowledge required in building control has been a surprise: as well as existing legislation there are regular updates and new building techniques and products, all of which have to be learnt and understood. It's daunting but I'm enjoying it and it's certainly never dull. I feel part of a supportive team at DBCP. Just being in the office helps as I absorb a lot from the conversations the building control managers are having, all of which contributes to building my personal knowledge and learning.

I've gone from saving people as a lifeguard to preventing disaster for building users. It's a different type of job satisfaction, but one that I am glad to have.

Chris Pratt is a trainee building control surveyor at DBCP info@dbcp.co.uk

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