BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

How site experience supports academic effort

Joining colleagues on site has helped an apprentice building control surveyor gain confidence in the technical understanding developed on her degree, she explains in the third article of a series

Author:

  • Charlotte Turner

27 January 2022

Young woman on site with drawings

September marked the end of my first year as a building control apprentice. I also successfully completed the first year of my BSc in building control at the University College of Estate Management.

Now in the second year of my degree, I am taking modules in property law and regulatory frameworks.

The former covers topics such as mortgages, tenancies and landownership. Although it does not directly relate to building control, it helps to have a wider knowledge so I am prepared for situations such as determining a boundary.

The regulatory frameworks module, meanwhile, covers planning, health and safety and Building Regulations. Studying the regulations in depth has been particularly useful in my job as an assistant building control surveyor, because I refer to them every day when checking plans and visiting sites.

Valuable experience with inspections and plans

I have spent the past four months of my apprenticeship developing my knowledge and confidence. I have joined senior surveyors for a few days a week on site, some of them with more than 30 years' experience in building control. Most inspections have involved domestic construction, and will mean I can make independent visits to new-build sites in the near future.

'I have also been carrying out excavation inspections. Assessing ground types and determining suitable foundation depths was something I have found challenging. However, with each inspection I feel more able. 

'As foundations play a vital part in building stability, there are many factors to consider during such an inspection; for example, nearby trees or drains. I am continuing to prepare detailed inspection reports on sites, demonstrating my technical knowledge and writing skills.'

Charlotte Turner

Charlotte Turner © Assent Building Control

Plan-checking has been another focus of the past few months. I have been carrying out more complex checks on new build houses. This involves assessing plans provided by clients to confirm they comply with the Building Regulations, usually before works start on site. I have been completing these independently for senior surveyors, and receiving feedback so I pick up all relevant details.

Safety paramount on site and in study

One interesting aspect of plan checking is fire safety. Ensuring compliance with Part B of the Building Regulations involves checking the fire resistance of structural elements, means of escape and unprotected areas. This area of building control is vital to ensure the safety of people in or around a building.

As I progress further in my degree, I am taking more time for academic study, and preparing for assignments and exams. I completed my first computer-marked assessment for the regulatory frameworks module in November, scoring 88%.

This particular exam focused on the National Planning Policy Framework, building control, and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It is essential to understand regulations such as these that apply on construction sites, to ensure your own safety when carrying out inspections.

Recognising future talent

I was also very grateful to be nominated in the apprentice category for the RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year Awards 2021, and I went to the awards evening in London in November – along with colleagues from Assent Building Control, including Jake Green, who had been nominated for the Building Surveying category. 

RICS Awards 2021 ceremony

RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year Awards 2021 © Charlotte Turner

It was a huge privilege to be nominated for such a prestigious award, and I felt extremely lucky to attend the event. The evening highlighted the talent of young people across the country pursuing built environment careers. It's extremely encouraging to see so many young people – especially young women like myself – forming the next generation of surveyors.

In the new year, I hope to complete my current university modules and move on to studying economics in the built environment. This will be an interesting module given the current financial climate of the construction industry and the high demand for materials.

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

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