Building control officer/surveyor: job description

Building control officers/surveyors are responsible for overseeing the work of building surveyors and ensuring that building construction regulations are adhered to.
They have a thorough knowledge of the regulations and legislation that cover areas such as public health, fire safety, energy conservation and building accessibility.

What does a building control surveyor do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Building control officers/surveyors (BCOs) work to ensure that new buildings, alterations, installations and extensions meet the regulatory standards in safety, sustainability, accessibility and design.

One of the main ways they do this is by making sure that building surveyors are fulfilling their responsibilities of maintaining, altering, repairing, refurbishing and restoring buildings.

Once applications for new buildings or structural alterations have been given the green light by the local planning authority, building control officers take responsibility for the project before, during and after construction.

They can be involved in anything from the extension of a conservatory on a private house, to the construction of an entire shopping complex in the centre of a town. Using their professional judgement and understanding of current building legislation, they offer advice to building surveyors, construction workers and the public concerning any issues surrounding the proposed work.

Should specified regulations not be adhered to building control officers may ultimately use their powers to prosecute (though only as a last resort measure).

Typical duties include:

  • examining and commenting on plans for new buildings, alterations or extensions
  • overseeing the work of building surveyors and providing them with supportive management
  • providing advice about construction safety matters and new building regulations
  • making regular inspections of building work at various stages of completion
  • keeping records of how projects are progressing
  • issuing approval approval to start building work and completion certificates
  • inspecting and carrying out surveys of potentially dangerous buildings
  • approving demolitions
  • keeping up to date with relevant regulations and legislation
  • writing reports
  • advising on cost and time saving measures during construction, without forgoing safety regulations
  • liasing with local authorities, planners, surveyors and other professionals

Building control officers typically work normal office hours 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, with some opportunity for extra hours particularly in the private sector. Visiting sites can take up a considerable part of the job; frequent travel is typical, with officers expected to work outside in all weather.

Networking, direct approaches and speculative applications can sometimes be beneficial.

Typical employers of building control surveyors

  • Local authorities (district, metropolitan and borough councils)
  • Private companies such as the National House Building Council (NHBC).

Qualifications and training required

A degree or Higher National Diploma in building, building surveying, civil or structural engineering and other relevant subjects can be advantageous.

Particular recognition is given to degree programmes accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), among other professional bodies.

Although employers do not expect pre-entry experience, any work experience gained via work shadowing, vacation work or placements in related fields will be beneficial. Those who haven't studied a relevant subject may find distance learning or on the job conversion courses helpful in bringing them up-to-date with current regulations and practices.

Relevant training programmes are usually provided by employers, allowing officers to gain qualifications while working. With time and experience building control officers can study to become chartered surveyors with the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), and achieve a wider range of responsibilities as well as higher salaries.

A full driving licence is often a requirement, as officers may need to travel to and from sites on a regular basis.

Key skills for building control surveyors

  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Management skills
  • Interest in and understanding of construction processes, legislation and requirements
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Time management and organisational skills
  • The aility to explain complex issues and legal requirements in simple terms
  • Ability to advise on issues affecting building projects, with an emphasis on cost-cutting and sustainability measures
  • Strong communication skills, both written and oral, combined with good interpersonal skills