by Jessica Walker, Trainee Building Surveyor
Building projects are being undertaken all over the world that will create legacy, and in some cases fundamentally change the way we live. At the most extreme end, the Neom city in Saudi Arabia (image above) is reportedly a $500B giga-project, that will “incorporate business districts, residential areas, leisure complexes…. up to 9 million people will live powered by green energy, making it carbon neutral” (International construction – Tyler, 2023). The ambition, scale and creativity to create a city in the desert of this nature is nothing short of inspirational. Creation of a city of this scale in such an inhospitable landscape, the desert, is ground-breaking in construction and could set the scene for future developments in areas we have never seen development before. So where does the role of the chartered surveyor come in and at what point in such a project do surveyors get involved?
In this article I consider aspects of my own journey and thinking as I embark on my path to becoming a surveyor with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). How do you become an RICS professional, what is being a chartered surveyor about, the increasing trend for women within the profession and the professional status of a surveyor.
As a young woman with a passion for visual arts and creativity (and my love of buildings!) there were some other options open to me but the opportunity to become a professional in an area that is both interesting and with the capacity to be involved in the change in our cities and countryside was too much to ignore. There was also the sheer variety and diversity in the role which appealed to me – from being on a massive building site in a professional capacity to working in an office environment in the city.
So, what is a Chartered Surveyor?
The definition of ‘chartered surveyor’ is a surveyor who has gained, and consistently demonstrates, a high level of skill or competence in their field of work, recognised by the award of formal accreditation from the RICS. RICS is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which is a globally recognised professional body, where everything they do is designed to have a positive effect and change in both the built and natural environment. With over 134,000 highly qualified trainees and professionals, they promote the highest standards in the development and management of land, real estate, construction and infrastructure (RICS, 2023).
Chartered surveyors are involved in a range of projects, from planning high-tech housing and creating vibrant workplaces to playing a key role in sustainable developments and improving public health through new transport systems. Surveyors also help in developing new high-tech, sustainable cites such as the Neom project in Saudi Arabia, tackling climate change and helping to find solutions to global issues such as urbanization.
As restoration projects go it doesn’t get much grander than the Palace of Westminster. The Palace was built in 1016, demolished in 1834 as a result of a fire and then rebuilt completely between 1840 and 1876 (Wikipedia, 2023). The budget of the project has risen from £4 billion to now greater than £27 billion. The restoration is estimated to last for up to 76 years and surveyors play a key-role in the beginning of any project as well as throughout. This is a massive restoration project and surveyors will be used throughout in order to maintain a safe working environment (ECL engineering – 2023).
Hinkley Point C Power Plant is another great example of the huge and impactful role which chartered surveyors play in a building/plant which will transform the shape of the United Kingdom by providing power from our own shores meaning the UK will become less reliant on overseas’ sources. This power plant, costing a whopping £22 billion, is vital in the fight against climate change and helping the UK reach net zero emissions by 2050. Surveyors have a key role by providing planning advice and working to manage the safety of on-site workers. Projects like Hinkley C provide jobs for 30,000 people, including 1,131 apprentices (EDF Energy, 2023).
What do surveyors do on a day-to-day basis?
The role of a surveyor is to guide construction and development projects, and to provide professional advice on matters such as the structural integrity of a property or its value. But no two days are the same and generally surveyors work from a variety of locations.
As a chartered surveyor, you will work closely with a range of other qualified professionals such as architects and engineers, bankers and ecologists, town planners and property developers, to name a few. You’ll also have access to the latest technologies in your chosen field: for example, you could be involved in flying drones to map land and measure buildings, creating virtual reality models of buildings, or using big data to tackle global issues.
As an apprentice chartered surveyor, I have recently been working behind the scenes in one of the 28,500 new jobs created as part of the HS2 high speed rail network. The new line will run 140 miles from London to the West Midlands. The high-speed rail line will act as a catalyst for growth, boosting industries in the Midlands and North. Better connections will also be a huge boost to the tourism industry, worth over £200 billion to the economy every year and responsible for supporting millions of jobs nationwide (HS2, 2023). I have been working closely with highly trained chartered surveyors where I have learned new skills, such as drawing scale plans and drawing elevations of surrounding buildings of the HS2 train-line. Working with the chartered surveyors I have witnessed the true professionalism of the job and how exciting projects such as the HS2 can be.
Women in the surveying industry
Typically, the surveying industry Is perceived as male dominated focusing on building sites and heavy-duty work. However, based on an article published in November 2019 by the RICS, the percentage of women entering the surveying profession was 31%, with a 93% increase in the number of women enrolling since 2014. Additionally, statistics provided by the RICS, show that the total percentage of female Chartered Surveyors was 16% in August 2020, having increased from 12% in July 2012 (RICS 2019)
Laura Collins began her surveying apprentice at 18, after leaving college originally having no sense of a career path. After graduating, a few years later at 27, Laura’s career very quickly developed as she became the youngest person ever to be promoted to associate director at the company Mace. Finally in 2018, she was named RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year. (RICS – 2018) Laura’s inspirational story demonstrates professionalism, not only for young women but for all students.
You’ve probably seen the current news regarding RAAC, and the danger it opposes to many buildings across the UK. The cheap lightweight alternative to traditional concrete mixes was used in thousands of UK public buildings from the 1950s to 1990s. However, the materials life span has quickly come to an end threatening thousands of buildings and the people in them. The Health and Safety Executive announced in August of 2023: “RAAC is now life expired. It is liable to collapse with little or no notice.” (The guardian 2023)
Professional surveyors across the country are now required to survey all buildings containing RAAC, therefore ensuring the health and safety of school children. It is certainly an interesting and exciting time for me becoming a Chartered Surveyor and there are some great opportunities to get involved in some projects where I would love to be able to create a building legacy of my very own.