Building control surveyor: job description

Building control officer/surveyor: job description

Building control officers (also known as building control 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 or officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Building control surveyors are also known as building control officers (BCOs), building inspectors or approved inspectors. They ensure that new buildings, alterations, installations and extensions meet the regulatory standards of 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. They start on a project once applications for new buildings or structural alterations have been given the green light by the local planning authority.

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 of prosecution.

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 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
  • liaising with local authorities, planners, surveyors and other professionals, as well as special interest groups such as heritage organisations

Building control officers typically work normal office hours 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, but may also occasionally be on 24-hour call to deal with emergencies such as unstable buildings. Visiting sites can take up a considerable part of the job; frequent travel is typical, with officers expected to work outside in all weather.

Typical employers of building control surveyors

The work of building control surveyors used to be completed by local authorities only, but now can also be done by approved inspectors from the private sector. As such, most building control surveyors still work for local authorities, but there are some vacancies with regulatory and advisory construction bodies, such as the National House Building Council, and with private consultancies that advise on building control regulations.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a building control surveying job for graduates and school leavers.

As a school leaver, you will find that there are a few apprenticeships available, with a typical minimum requirement of GCSEs/standards in English, maths and science. You might also find an entry position that requires A levels, highers or equivalent. However, many employers prefer applicants to have an HND or bachelors qualification in a construction-related subject, for example building surveying, civil engineering, structural engineering or construction management. Entry requirements for these degree subjects will vary according to the institution.

Many employers also prefer you to be a student member of a relevant professional body, most notably the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). You should be willing to work towards a relevant professional qualification while in the job (for example, chartership).

This is a niche profession and vacancies tend to be offered on an individual basis rather than via a large graduate scheme. Vacancies are typically advertised directly by the employers, via specialist recruitment agencies, through the channels offered by the relevant professional bodies and, occasionally, on TARGETjobs.

Key skills for building control surveyors

  • An interest in and the ability to understand and interpret building regulations, construction processes, legislation and requirements
  • The ability to explain complex issues and legal requirements in simple terms
  • The confidence to provide advice and guidance
  • Communication skills, both written and oral
  • Relationship-building skills
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • IT skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Time management and organisational skills
  • The ability to pay attention to detail but also to see the bigger picture

Also: a full driving licence is often required, due to the need to travel to sites.

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