BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

Winner uses career to showcase value of construction

A career in building surveying has enabled the 2023 Matrics Surveyor of the Year to live out her love of architecture – and share her passion to encourage a new generation into the profession

Author:

  • Carolyn Brady MRICS

26 March 2024

Aerial view of construction site

I often get asked what I do for a job, so I'm used to raised eyebrows when I explain I am a building surveyor and that I manage Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB)'s Northern Ireland business.

Although I have always been interested in buildings, with a passion for architecture from a young age, my journey into the world of construction began in 2010 when I left Northern Ireland to study for a BSc in building surveying at Liverpool John Moores University.

Having researched the subject when choosing my degree, I realised that it offered a more hands-on approach to the built environment than architecture. By studying it, I would get to understand the fundamentals of a building's structure, the engineering behind it and its function, not just its form.

By 2016 I had graduated with a 2:1, having taken a sandwich degree with a year out in industry. Having completed the relevant experience, I was now a chartered building surveyor – a milestone in my career.

Promoting professionalism and public image

In 2017, I started work as a chartered building surveyor in RLB's Manchester office. I joined a team that I felt shared my vision of professionalism, which has always been at the heart of what I believe in.

Indeed, I see one of my roles at RLB as promoting the professionalism of surveying, and dispelling the misconceptions that remain from the construction industry of the past.

My role has seen me lead survey commissions and run numerous projects as lead designer, contract administrator and project manager for new builds, extensions and refurbishments. 

Having worked for clients in local and central government, in healthcare, and in the private sector – such as Mitie and Tesco – I was excited to encourage others like me into the profession.

So, in 2018 I became a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) ambassador, educating and mentoring young people about construction through presentations and engagement days.

With RLB's backing, I volunteered through a nationwide, government-led STEM ambassador initiative, and was invited into primary and secondary schools to talk about my experience and expertise in engineering and construction. 

Initiatives such as this have helped us move the dial slightly for young people and especially women in the industry.

But although the built environment has come a long way in the past decade or so – and there have been many prominent women in the industry, including RLB's former board director Ann Bentley – we know we still have a long way to go.

In 2012, the Office for National Statistics estimated that the proportion of women in construction was less than 11%, and was not much more than 14.7% ten years later.

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Sharing experience with the next generation

I wanted to continue to share my experience and knowledge with others. So in 2019 I became a RICS APC assessor, to ensure that candidates fulfil the organisation's ethical standards and professional competency requirements before becoming chartered.

Alongside this, I became vice-chair of RLB's Future Professional Forum, which was established to support RLB employees through their respective professional bodies' training and becoming chartered, as well as their own personal development. The forum also provides them with peer support and advice and a chance to voice their own ideas.

I am national building surveying lead for professional development at RLB as well, a role in which I encourage young people to consider the built environment as a career.

I was delighted when I was then nominated by colleagues at RLB for the RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year awards in 2020, where I was shortlisted for Mentor of the Year.

'As national building surveying lead for professional development, I encourage young people to consider the built environment as a career'

Returning home to lead new office

By 2021 RLB's growth both in the UK and globally had gathered pace, and although we had worked in Northern Ireland for more than two decades we decided it was time to have a regional footprint. So I went back to Belfast to head our office there.

As part of this move, I was promoted to a partner in the business, becoming one of the youngest ever at RLB to have reached this position. I was responsible for developing a growth strategy and yearly business plans, as well as securing a pipeline of work alongside the team in Belfast.

Since the office was established, we have expanded our service line so it not only includes building surveying but also quantity surveying, project management and health and safety. We have built a multidisciplinary team, and are forging new relationships with clients in sectors including healthcare, education and retail.

Part of this development has been supported by RICS Northern Ireland. I was appointed to the board in 2022 and also became chair of its former Commercial High Street Regeneration Forum, which had been set up to discuss the state of the market in the province and how we could support local businesses through high street regeneration.

I am also involved in the British Council for Offices Northern Ireland committee, although have now handed over some of this responsibility to one of my colleagues to ensure we share the networking events and community collaboration.

Supporting national digital transformation

Working with RICS Northern Ireland and related bodies, I am also promoting digital transformation in the industry here.

Drawing on best practice from across the UK and working with the RLB digital team, we are looking at how we support clients to digitalise their processes so they can manage their assets more effectively, understand the state of their estates through the data collected, and work towards sustainability and productivity goals with real-time insights.

Innovation is critical to success, which is why I developed my own knowledge and skill set to embrace digital change and transformation. But I have also upskilled my team on using technology and introducing new digital ways of working both internally as well as new services to clients.

Award helps me champion profession

So when people ask me about my job, it can take longer than one sentence to explain what I do, why I love my role and how amazing I think the built environment is.

Being acknowledged in October 2023 as both Building Surveyor/Control Surveyor of the Year and RICS Matrics Surveyor of the Year 2023 was the icing on the cake. I am driven by the desire to transform the sector, and I think the judges saw this in me.

One of the judges commented that I was 'someone who inspires others and supports them with passion and commitment to the profession'. I am hopeful that winning this award gives me another opportunity to share how great our profession is and encourage those thinking about the built environment as a career option.

 

Carolyn Brady MRICS is a partner and regional lead at RLB
Contact Carolyn: Email

RICS Building Surveying Conference

07 May | 9:30-17:00 GMT | 133 Houndsditch, London, EC3A 7BX

The conference provides an opportunity to keep abreast of sector updates, the latest regulations, and emerging trends in the building surveying industry.

Expert speakers will provide comprehensive insights into how these changes will affect professionals in the industry by delivering case studies and essential updates from a range of specialisms including building and fire safety, dilapidations, party walls, building conservation, rights of light, retrofitting and sustainability.

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At RICS, we want our SME members to flourish. Our SME Business Support Hub is a great place to start finding out more.

Whether an experienced or start-up SME, you'll find tailored support and resources, such as: 

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We also send a monthly SME newsletter, sharing relevant support, insight and knowledge. You can sign up for this by emailing RICS directly.

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