21 Sep, 2021

We caught up with Stuart Hammond six months after joining the company as one of our Principal Building Control Inspectors for our south-east region.

For our career focus feature in CABE, we discussed Stuart’s career in building control and his initial passion for the industry. Stuart gives us an insight into what it’s like working for an Approved Inspector and offers advice to anyone thinking about a career as a surveyor.

When/how did your career in the industry start?

"My dad started his career as a carpenter and later became one of the youngest RICS qualified surveyors in the country back in the ’60s. He worked in building control for his entire life, working for Local Authority and was the former Head of Building Control at Maidstone Borough Council.

Later, he started his own Approved Inspector business, and I’ve been in and around the construction industry since a small child. There were always people in our house, from architects to clients, so it was a natural progression for me.

Initially, I went to university and studied for a degree and master's in history. I later diverted to do a master’s in building surveying to become a surveyor. There was no pressure from my family. It’s probably the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had - It’s definitely a career for young people to consider!"

Tell us about your region and the areas you cover

“The south-east region is one of the largest construction areas in the country, including central London. My work covers Kent, Essex, Surrey, and London, which makes the job really varied and exciting in terms of the types of projects and the range of clients we’re working with.

As a national company, it gives us opportunities to collaborate with teams across different regions, making it a great company to work for. As surveyors, we’re also supported by our regional admin teams who help to combine our teams to ensure we complete work for our clients as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Describe a typical day as a building control surveyor

“A typical day for me is first to wake up and get ready for the day. Then, I turn my phone and laptop on and check emails for any urgent enquiries or actions. From there, I jump in the car and off to site, ready for my first site inspection.

Upon arriving, I’ll introduce myself to the site manager and make them aware of why I’m on-site – we usually have a sit down to have a quick run over the project. For example, if it’s a steel-framed building, I’ll usually have 5-10 minutes going through the plans to check for progress. I’m then on-site with my camera phone taking site pictures for my records and site notes.

It’s then onto the following site, after stopping for lunch and taking calls from contractors in-between. I usually head back to the office in the afternoon to write up site visit reports using the photos I’ve taken on-site.

It’s pretty much how the day goes. I know surveyors do it differently, but that’s what works for me. Every day is different – there’s pure excitement going onto various sites to see something new each day.”

What are the most important skills, beyond technical qualifications, that a surveyor should have?

“The ability to have a conversation with someone – it’s a really social job. If you’re polite and conscientious and can hold a conversation, whether it’s a contractor, client, developer, electrician, or whoever, you can get a feel about how the site is working.

A relationship is vital to our role as a surveyor. If someone has their guard up when they meet you, it can make it challenging to have an important conversation about the project.”

What do you think is the most challenging part of being a surveyor?

“The ability to speak truth to power. For example, if you’re a trainee surveyor, it can be very daunting to go on-site with a contractor who’s very well respected and to tell them they’ve done something wrong – it’s our job, but it can still be challenging.

We’re there to ensure the minimum standards of the building regulations are met but to also push clients to do better. For me, whether it’s to be more environmentally friendly or push for better fire safety standards, I’m having conversations with my clients to continually build better – it’s not an easy thing to do, especially where costs are concerned.”

What types of projects are you currently working on?

“I’m currently working on a project for the NHS in Tunbridge Wells. The project is a new 6-7 storey student accommodation building, including a learning annex at ground-floor level. The project is due to start in September, but it’s going to be an exciting build as it’s a modular building, so there are lots of elements that are slightly different to a standard build.

We’re also working on about three nursing home projects in the local area – Windsor, Maidstone, and Canterbury. The projects are pretty unique as they have high-levels of fire safety requirements, and other factors such as ensuring the comfort levels for the residents.”

What would be the first 3 questions you'd ask a client when engaging on a new project?

“Do you have a copy of the plans?
Do you have a budget?
When would you like your first inspection?”

How do Approved Inspectors different from Local Authority building control?

“Ultimately, we are the same. The only difference being, as an Approved Inspector, I feel we’re more client orientated. In my experience, we can act quicker than Local Authorities, as they can sometimes be limited with staff. But in the end, we do the same role – it’s just down to choice.

I find that many of my clients, especially developers with multiple national projects, use Stroma as a one-stop-shop for environmental sustainability and compliance services as they prefer to deal with one provider.”

What are the benefits for clients engaging with Stroma Group services?

“As previously mentioned, the benefit of providing an extensive range of safety, sustainability and compliance services. We can undertake building control and warranty services and offer SAP calculations, air tightness and acoustic tests, etc., from Stroma Built Environment.

Suppose a client is also undertaking a refurbishment project of a graded listed building or a skyscraper. In that case, our team at Stroma Specialist Access provides unique inspection services for assets with difficult access.

The Group provides clients with an opportunity to access everything they need under one roof without jeopardising each element. While we’re all one Group, we are individual teams and specialisms.”

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the industry?

“The lack of young talent coming into the industry. We need to invest in trainees and building control careers for young people. The best way Stroma is helping to solve the problem is through our Training Academy. The academy is helping to bring trainees into the business to train them to become qualified with the help from our experienced surveyors.

We’re also seeing significant changes from Government, including fire safety and environmental legislation to tackle climate change. We have a responsibility as surveyors to ensure buildings are built for the future now and not later down the line.”

What do you like about working for Stroma?

“The opportunity for progression. As a group of companies, there are lots of different career opportunities available. It’s important to management that every employee feels comfortable and happy in their role. There are opportunities to try a different position or discuss a change in working style if needed.

The salaries are excellent too and other benefits, including Wider Wallet for high-street and online discounts – you don’t find many other businesses offering these kinds of benefits.

The free flu-jab is good too – especially for someone who works on-site during the winter months.”

We're hiring! Building control roles at all levels

Are you an experienced surveyor or currently working in construction, and you’re looking for a new challenge? Perhaps you’re a graduate or new to the industry.

We have a range of opportunities available to join one of our regional teams across the country. Like what you’ve read, apply for our latest vacancies at /careers.

If you’d like to chat about roles in more detail, please email recruitment@stroma.com.