Building Control Surveyor

The Job and What's Involved

Building control surveyors make sure that building regulations and other legislation are followed when houses, offices and other buildings are designed and constructed. They also check that property alterations, such as extensions and conversions, meet regulations. They may have different job titles, such as district surveyor or building inspector.

Building regulations are national standards for constructing buildings and are intended to make sure people in or around the building are safe. They also cover energy conservation and access for disabled people.

Before construction gets under way, building control surveyors check applicants' plans, drawings and specifications to make sure they meet the regulations. Surveyors employed by local authorities can reject plans that fail to meet the building regulations. They also advise applicants on changes that will ensure the legal requirements are met.

Once the work begins, building control surveyors visit the site at different stages to ensure that the construction work is being properly carried out.

Their work includes:

  • Carrying out regular inspections of the building and building methods.
  • Inspecting and testing foundations and drainage works.
  • Taking samples of new building materials and assessing their suitability.
  • Keeping records of the visits they make to the site.
  • Issuing completion certificates when the work has been carried out satisfactorily.

If the building control surveyor believes a building no longer conforms to the regulations, they will ask for changes to be made. If changes are not made, they may have to take the owner or builder to court.

The work involves liaising with members of the public, councillors, planning officers, construction professionals and organisations such as the fire service, environmental health departments and the Environment Agency. They may also liaise with historic building conservation officers and special interest groups such as the national heritage organisations (the National Trust, English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw).

Other areas of work may involve licensing, safety at sports grounds, control of demolition and street naming and numbering.

Occasionally, building control surveyors may be called out in emergencies to check the safety of buildings that have been damaged by fire or accidents.

In local authorities, building control surveyors normally work 35 to 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some are on call 24 hours a day in case the emergency services need their expertise to inspect a dangerous building. Flexitime, part-time work and job sharing may be available.

Building control surveyors split their time between the office and site visits. They could be on site in all weather conditions. They may also need to wear safety equipment such as waterproofs, safety boots and hard hats, and sometimes need to climb scaffolding and ladders.

The work involves local travel so a driving licence may be useful.

Starting salaries may be around £16,000 to £20,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Overall, there are around 4,500 building control surveyors in England and Wales. There is a shortage of qualified staff.

Local authorities are the main employers of building control surveyors, who tend to work in building control departments or in departments providing a range of property-related services.

A small number of building control surveyors are approved building inspectors. They need to be registered on the Construction Industry Council's Approved Inspectors' Register. There are 61 approved inspectors on the register - 22 individuals and 39 businesses.

Jobs are advertised in Building Control Journal and Building Engineer. Trainee posts may be advertised in local Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and local newspapers.

Education and Training

Most direct entrants into building control surveying have at least two A levels/H grades or a degree. The minimum entry requirements are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, a science subject and a subject that demonstrates the use of written English.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Relevant qualifications include the BTEC/SQA Higher National Diploma (HND) in Building Studies or Civil Engineering, or a degree in a subject such as building control surveying, building surveying or civil engineering.

For an HND, the minimum entry requirements are normally one A level/two H grades and four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). For a degree, they are usually two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths.

Some entrants combine on-the-job training with day or block release study towards a BTEC/SQA National Certificate/Diploma or an HNC/HND in Building Studies over three to five years. They may also work towards NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Built Environment Development and Control.

Graduates with relevant degrees usually receive on-the-job training to top up their academic experience.

Many local authorities recruit staff as assistant building control surveyors and support them through part-time study until they become fully qualified.

Employers may require building control surveyors to be members of a professional body, such as the:

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) - membership is with an appropriate RICS-approved degree, postgraduate qualification or diploma.

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) - for surveyors who specialise in architectural surveying.

The Association of Building Engineers (ABE) - members are professionals who specialise in building technology.

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) - for surveyors specialising in the conservation of the historic environment.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Building control surveyors should:

  • Have a broad knowledge of the technical and legal aspects of building.
  • Understand technical drawings.
  • Have good IT skills.
  • Be able to communicate confidently with people at all levels.
  • Be tactful and persuasive, yet firm when they have to explain why work must be redone.
  • Be organised and able to keep up to date with paperwork.
  • Work well unsupervised and as part of a team.
  • Have a head for heights.

Your Long Term Prospects

The larger local authorities with large building control departments usually have well-established promotion routes to team leader, senior building control officer and head of department.

Building control surveyors may diversify into other branches of surveying, including home inspection surveys for home information packs (HIPs).

It is also possible to become self-employed, work as a consultant or specialise in an area such as fire protection.

Get Further Information

The Association of Building Engineers (ABE),
Lutyens House, Billing Brook Road, Weston Favell, Northampton NN3 8NW
Tel: 0845 126 1058
Website: www.abe.org.uk

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700
Website: www.ciob.org.uk

ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.cskills.org/curriculumcareers and www.bconstructive.co.uk

Construction Industry Council,
The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London WC1E 7BT
Tel: 020 7399 7400
Website: www.cic.org.uk

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC),
Jubilee House, High Street, Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6HA
Tel: 01747 873133
Website: www.ihbc.org.uk

Local Authority Building Control (LABC),
137 Lupus Street, London SW1V 3HE
Tel: 020 7641 8737
Website: www.labc.org.uk

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),
Surveyor Court, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JE
Tel: 0870 333 1600
Website: www.rics.org

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