Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Where are you Gordon Quartey?

At the beginning of my career I was in an office on the top floor at Southampton Row in a still famous practice.  I came out of college and found myself sitting at a desk with a pile of drawings and a pile of blank take off sheets.  Next to me sat Gordon, he was from Ghana.  I've lost track but often think of him as one of the best Quantity Surveyors I've ever worked with.  He had no qualifications at the time but contractors would live in fear of his eagle eye and his negotiation skills.  He carried me through those first two years and I owe him a lot.  We were working on Peabody and Samuel Lewis conversions which I maintain is one of the best groundings, if you can solve all the problems in a Victorian building and bring it up to modern standards, you've encountered more challenges than if you built a brand new house. 

The point of the above is that through my career I've been employing consultants of all sizes and it is my opinion professional people, like any other breed, are good, average or they shouldn't be in practice at all and those divide by almost equal thirds.  Just because you've got a qualification does not mean you either have the application or knowledge to be a good surveyor.  I've met many people with no qualifications that were superb and people with qualifications that were complete dingbats. 

Therefore, how does the customer know who to trust.  I suppose many of us in rural practices believe the RICS does not help, in fact, at one function where a Vice President was trying to encourage members to up their fees, one stood up and said, “Is there any chance that the RICS could offer a downgrade path from Fellow to Associate because we don't think we're getting our value”. 

Now it is dividing up into specialisms whereas in the past a surveyor was an all rounder, now he not only has to specialise in a topic but has to get another qualification and pay another fee to an institution to hold that qualification.  I'm a Registered Valuer, I see many valuers around me that aren't registered and are no doubt doing a perfectly fine job.  However, someone in London came up with the idea that we need to register to prove the quality. 

The one thing that worries me is that the public are not being sold this and it just provides them with more confusion as to who they should choose.  I've got a client at the moment who says, “Well, I've heard what you say on the phone, I've seen your website, now I want to come and see your office to see how it's organised and then we can talk about employing you”.  I thank goodness for such perspicacity, there are too many clients who just walk blindly into situations without considering the consequences. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Land Act and The National Schedule of Rates

Its been a few weeks since my last entry. The Christmas season has been and gone and new projects and surveys have been looked at and dealt with. It is my intention to keep this blog regularly updated to encourage more people to follow and interact with me over current and future construction issues.

In this blog I want to share with you how I originated The National Schedule of Rates, a system many now take for granted, but which for so long did not exist.

In 1981 the Local Planning and Land Act required of local authorities to compete for all contracts and to show that they were being run in a responsible and demonstrable openness.  At that time I was a member of the Society of Chief Quantity Surveyors in local government, now working for themselves and later president and as a Chief Surveyor was required to resolve the issue, particularly term maintenance contracts.  

The only document then available was a Ministry of Works document which had originally come from the War Department and had been in use for so long I knew a surveyor who could put his hand into the book and pull out a description without even looking, fat as the book and the surveyor were. 

There was nothing that could be used to form a basis for the pricing of works and each local authority did something different.  This made no sense to me in that contractors who tender for various authorities needed to have some stability for pricing and surveyors within local authorities when moving between would have to learn new systems every time. 

I therefore proposed a national system whilst I was writing for a national paper called the QS Weekly.  Few probably remember those articles and that paper; however, it stimulated me to look at a standard set of prices nationally and thus form the basis for the National Schedule of Rates.  

The National Schedule of Rates was formed as a joint enterprise eventually between the Society and the Building Employers Confederation and the document was born.  Today after so many years it still exists in basically its original form although much expanded and extended into different formats and local authorities, housing associations and other government bodies are still using it throughout the country.  

 How I regret those early days when I suggested that 1% of the income ought to go to the originator and was told that wouldn't be possible as I was employed by a local authority.   

Oh well, at least I get my complimentary copy every year.  It's well worth looking at if you want some comparable prices and to let an urgent building contract whether local authority or not.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Changing Attitudes to Boundary Disputes

In the near 30 years that this practice has been in existence boundary disputes have not been high on our agenda, that is until the last 3 years when amazingly suddenly they are taking a good deal of attention.  Is it because we're all less friendly and more litigious or is it because we just want to hang on to everything we've got?  Two or three of our disputes have involved the police where neighbours have scratched obscenities on cars, threatened with building implements or just entered and cut down trees.  What is going on!  The other feature is that we're not arguing about acres of land, one dispute is over 55mm, another of 225mm. Areas of land which will make no real difference to the value or 'quiet enjoyment' of the land.  On a piece of farmland where the distance is 3m is easily understandable since that impinges upon an entrance; however, we appear to be involved in MATTERS OF PRINCIPLE!  

 As a Registered Valuer I have been asked to put a value on a 150mm strip of land along one garden boundary in a rural setting.  Comparables?  What there patently is in the instances I've quoted is a lack of neighbourliness and it seems to me that the lack of adequate precedent and the fact that the Land Registry drawings do not confirm the accurate boundary but rather the type and location of site is where the problem starts.  However, my good friend Charlie Elphicke MP is involved in sponsoring the Property Boundary (Resolution of Disputes) Bill which follows the format of the Party Wall etc Act 1996 and the Subterranean Development Bill and will hopefully bring some sense, clarity and a simpler process for resolving such disputes.  The second reading is due on 30/11/12.  Both the bills currently going through parliament are not certain to quickly see the light of day; however, in my view they will benefit all parties, especially we surveyors who have to convince both parties of a suitable procedure.  One of the few good reasons for having an act of parliament.  We'll see if and when it comes out of the end of the sausage machine.

David Hannent FRICS FBEng MCIArb has been in private practice for over 30 years and shares his experiences and knowledge via these blog pages freely. Information and opinions on this site are the the personal opinion of the author and should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking advice. This blog remains the copyright of PMC.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Introduction to this Blog

The main purpose of my blog is to provide information relating to common building and property related issues.  This will include subjects relating to Building Defects, Professional Work such as Planning, Building Regulation, Tendering, Project Management and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

The aim is to observe construction trends and offer the benefit of over 40 years of my experience to members of the public, as well as to tackle topical issues as they arise.  Also, those undertaking professional qualifications such as Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) and similar accrediting bodies may find my experiences of benefit.

I have been working as Chartered Building Surveyor for over 40 years and prior to my current Private Professional Practice I was a Chief Building Surveyor for a Council, originator of the National Schedule of Rates, the reference point for all Quantity Surveying which to this day has my name within and assisted in the drafting of the JCT forms of Management contracts. I have been dealing with a wide range of professional activities and projects. Even so, information posted on this blog should not be relied upon by any person or any third party without first seeking further professional advice as all projects are different as are all required procurement routes.

If there is a particular topic or problem you would like covered please let me know, I look forward to seeing how I can continue to assist.

I will update these pages regularly. David