Building Surveying: meeting the new normal with innovation

Lee Scott
Lee Scott outlines the growth of our Yorkshire & Humber building surveying team during the pandemic, and the innovative ways in which we are supporting clients.

An increased building surveying workload was one of the challenges Faithful+Gould faced as the national lockdown began in spring 2020. Protecting clients’ interests and assets was a top priority and, in order to do this effectively, it was critical that we maintained business as usual, finding innovative new ways of working. 

I joined Faithful+Gould in April as Regional Director, to head up our building surveying team for Yorkshire & Humber. At this time, our business swiftly transitioned to remote working, developing safe operational systems and innovative technological solutions for our clients, building surveyors and other colleagues, allowing surveys and site operations to continue under controlled conditions.

In times where large capital project new-builds may falter, we often find that building surveying work moves more centre stage. We see clients seeking a deeper understanding of their portfolio, planning a more informed estates strategy, or investing in bringing their planned maintenance up to date. Where capital investment has to slow down, it’s an excellent time to look at the property you’ve got, and ensure that it’s performing as well as it can and really earning its keep.

With this in mind, and despite the challenges brought by Covid-19, we successfully established adaptive procedures and processes that reflect our best practice approach to seamless delivery of client-focused building surveying services.

Enhancing the expertise

A new improved approach and the steady upturn in our building surveying work meant that our team of 17 was ripe for expansion. I was pleased to be able to redeploy individuals from our other business regions, as well as hiring new recruits. We now number 35 building surveyors in the Yorkshire & Humber region. We remain very busy, with our dedicated team working collaboratively to meet client expectations in frequently changing environments and circumstances.

It’s easy to forget about succession planning when threatened with economic turbulence. But I’ve previously witnessed entry/training gaps in the building surveying profession during downturn, where we’ve failed to bring young people into the profession, and it’s really important to avoid that happening as a result of Covid-19. We also need to be mindful of the need to support the youth economy—so I was very pleased to welcome two apprentices, four graduates, and a year out student into our team during our recent recruitment drive.

Bespoke digital solutions

As the digital built environment gathers pace, emerging technologies have become an essential part of our asset management and data collection toolkit, maximising efficiency and value for our clients. These innovations have been vital during this period of restricted site access and a key priority in our approach to service delivery.

In addition to our Smart Investment Planning software we have also utilised Matterport, a 3D asset management data platform and scanning/surveying tool. Matterport creates minimal intrusion and reliance on the physical environment and, importantly, promotes safety for our clients and staff. Only one surveyor is required on site, and the virtual tours, with spatial data, are then available to all stakeholders.

Quality-driven success

Working life is obviously different in many ways at the moment. For the first few months, during the spring/summer lockdown, I couldn’t meet all my team members, but aligning our ethos through good communication and collaboration has significantly helped and expanded the team. Moreover, despite the challenges of remote working and the difficult market operating conditions, we’ve also had some excellent project wins. These new major programmes of work reinforce the current impetus for improved estates strategy.

ENGIE UK provides facilities management on a variety of PFI assets, including hospitals, government buildings, schools, colleges and fire stations. Our team is delivering 246 condition lifecycle surveys across c.2.7 million square metres of ENGIE’s PFI estate. For Barclays Bank we are carrying out mission-critical site and condition surveys, and we are also appointed to provide fabric condition surveys for Anchor Hanover’s entire estate of care homes.

Our service has demonstrated its adaptability, with processes in place for as much remote working as possible. Site operations are subject to strict health & safety risk assessment procedures, using our groupwide Atkins Operating Safely protocol, for the protection of our clients, employees and fellow professionals. We’ve also become adept at complying with new requirements for site working, such as wearing PPE when working in hospitals and care homes, and programming flexibly to take account of varying local restrictions.

Although a second lockdown is under way, our remote working practices and safe site operations are now seamlessly integrated, and we will continue to provide our clients with an exceptional service.

Written by