Claire Turnbull: So Nichola, why did you want to become a mechanical and electrical (M&E) quantity surveyor?
Nichola Fawcett: When I graduated, the country was in the middle of a huge recession and jobs were not easy to come by, so I took a job as an estimator at Colt International, a company specialising in HVAC/Smoke Extract Systems. I eventually persuaded them that my quantity surveying skills would be more beneficial to them than the role I was employed to fulfil, and my career as a mechanical and electrical quantity surveyor started. I then moved between contracting and professional quantity surveying, enhancing my mechanical and electrical knowledge and skills.
CT: What was the first project that you worked on upon joining Faithful+Gould?
NF: I joined Faithful+Gould to help on the ITER project, a €20 billion prototype nuclear fusion generation plant in the South of France, working on the M&E estimating for the whole project worth over €1 billion.
CT: What projects are you involved in currently?
NF: I am involved in large projects like the £20 billion Hinkley Point C – the first new nuclear project in a generation and the Science Hub – an international centre of excellence for research. My involvement in Hinkley is within the estimating team measuring and assisting on £1 billion of electrical works. For the Science Hub I am involved in £100 million of M&E works.
Working on smaller projects like school and hospital redevelopments, my role as a mental health first aider and working with local businesses to champion Construction in Careers, take up the rest of my time.
CT: How has the role of a mechanical and electrical quantity surveyor changed?
NF: When I started, maybe 20% of a project makeup would be mechanical and electrical – most buildings didn’t have data or Building Management Systems (BMS) and Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning systems were very basic. Now on average 30%-40% of a project is mechanical and electrical, and for some projects that may go as high as 60%. Items like data, BMS, rainwater harvesting and photovoltaics are now standard.
CT: Why are there so few mechanical and electrical quantity surveyors?
NF: Mechanical and electrical is a specialist area that many overlook but is an area that can add value to a project. However, it is also the first area that clients look to make a saving on when they want to reduce budgets, even though this can undermine the functionality of the building by doing so.
If you compare a building to the body, the structure is like the skeleton, but it needs the mechanical, electrical and public health systems to make it come alive and function.
CT: What do you see changing in the mechanical and electrical world in the future?
NF: The M&E world is constantly changing and progressing as quickly as technology is developing.
Systems are constantly evolving, and sustainability is becoming more important - some examples are:
- Air quality in all buildings is coming to the fore as users are wanting high quality air with a high O2 content, rather than a small percentage of fresh air mixed with recycled air.
- Lighting is evolving as systems become more user friendly and users are trying to encourage the use of natural lighting in conjunction with artificial lighting.
- Water is an essential finite resource and so needs to be controlled, monitored and reused wherever possible.
CT: What if someone is interested in becoming a mechanical and electrical quantity surveyor, but doesn’t have any experience?
NF: If you have an interest in M&E, then you can be trained – once you embark down this route, you will be constantly learning as systems are always changing and advancing. Systems that used to be specialist areas such as BMS, Data, photovoltaics and greywater/rainwater harvesting are now the norm.
M&E can be learnt, but an interest in how the systems work and integrate with the building and other services is essential.
If you want more details, feel free to give me a call!