Located in south London, the refurbishment of Mereton Mansions is one of the key projects Kelly Allen has worked on IMAGE @ FAITHORN FARRELL TIMMS
What did you want to be when you grow up? As a child, I was always creative, interested in historic buildings and events. But I also wanted to be barrister, a regulator and protector of the law. Looking back, these key areas support my successful career on the road to becoming a chartered building surveyor as I sit for my APC this year.
I started my career at Faithorn Farrell Timms three years ago as a graduate building surveyor, focusing mainly on party wall disputes before migrating into other areas. I am fortunate to work with a diverse practice that encourages and supports the development and success of its employees. Mehmet Bekir, partner and head of our contract administration team, has supported my progression through the ranks and encouraged me to lead on our planned works and party wall appointments.
My role today varies between party wall surveying, project management, contract administration and design and specification, and I am incredibly proud to have been given the opportunity to take responsibility for a number of our key client projects.
As a young woman in the construction industry, I have questioned my abilities and subjected myself to significant pressure to excel in my career and prove myself capable. I was delighted when I was recognised by my employer and nominated for the RICS Young Building Surveyor of the Year award; I felt truly honoured. To win on the night felt implausible, and I am sincerely blessed and grateful for such an accolade. Circumstances out of my control and some poor early-life decisions resulted in me leaving education with no qualifications at 15. The birth of my first child, Emily, encouraged me to return to education and to achieve my goal, which was simply to attain my GCSEs. That was just the beginning, though, and my journey through education continued alongside the birth of my son.
Now what drives me, professionally, is being a strong, positive role model. Raising my young family and working while studying full for time an RICS-accredited BSc (Hons) in Building Surveying at London South Bank University was challenging to say the least. I dedicated myself to maintaining the equilibrium required to preserve a fulfilling family life while achieving professional goals.
I am transforming these difficult experiences into inspiration for others – particularly the young people I am fortunate to meet through the Bromley-based youth charity JusB, for which I am a grateful ambassador. This platform grants me a voice through presentations and careers events to encourage young people into the profession. Honestly, if I can do it then anyone can, and this is the message that I pass on to young people.
I pride myself in being an inspirational educator, aspiring to promote mental well-being while shaping the future of our profession. I organise fund-raising initiatives for various charities and foster positive work environments, providing stress management techniques for my colleagues and clients alike.
A career as a building surveyor is known for its inherent variety, and it is the diversity of the role that I love the most. One of the most exciting things about building surveying is that I can really make a difference to our world. Above all, I love communicating with people, leading a smaller team while being part of a larger one. As a building surveyor, I have found that there is no typical day, as the clients, properties and day-to-day commitments vary hugely.
I feel part of a movement that can have a positive impact on others, which is important to me because I recognise that buildings are like people, with different characteristics. I analyse not just their monetary value but their position and value to the community around them. I want to ensure that whatever changes we all make to our built environment we continue to enhance lives.
My core work at Faithorn Farrell Timms centres on party wall disputes, licence agreements and neighbourly matters. Early in my career, I recognised that several of our clients, particularly those with significant housing stock, experienced a growing influx of party wall notices and required a system to respond to these within set timescales. I developed a party wall core group at the practice, in addition to practice-specific advertisements setting out the importance of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 and the relevant roles, responsibilities and timescales, I attended our clients’ offices and provided staff with CPD sessions on the Act, reinforcing our relationships with them and improving service efficiency.
When working on design and specification or contract administration, I particularly enjoy the challenges related to projects involving older buildings. I have a passion for history, particularly that of London’s buildings, and am especially intrigued by the effect of human adaptions to old housing stock.
“One of the most exciting things about building surveying is that I can really make a difference to our world”
This year sees the conclusion of several projects at Faithorn Farrell Timms, one of which is the refurbishment of the 1900s workhouse Hopkinson House, where I lead on design and accompanied the client through the feasibility stages and concept completion. Another is the refurbishment of Mereton Mansions, for which I have recently concluded a feasibility assessment for. This pair of imposing buildings are managed by different clients, but they were both designed and built by the Victorian philanthropist Lord Rowton in the 1900s. They each have extremely colourful histories, which I feel privileged to have uncovered during my research. I am now looking forward to discovering what this year brings.
I enjoy working as a young woman in the construction industry, and welcome the growing diversity of the profession. As well as being proud to have won the Young Surveyor of the Year award, I am also grateful for the opportunities that it has brought me, such as being invited to contribute as the inspirational guest speaker at the ‘RICS Welcome to the Profession’ celebrations. As I conclude my APC, I will continue to push myself to learn and develop in areas of life that bring me happiness, freedom, and purpose. I love that I can use my platform to help others find their way into this profession. Maybe we will see one of them aspiring to become a Young Surveyor of the Year in future?