Starting training as a Building Surveyor with the Greater London Council in 1971, work involved various aspects of Surveying, from devising and ensuring implementation of ‘means of escape in case of fire’ in London’s hotels, through office and site experience on the GLC’s housing developments both in the London area and throughout the south-east, to working in the District Surveyors office in Brixton helping to ensure Building Control.
After completing the GLC training scheme in 1977, and with a Graduate Diploma in Building Surveying from the Polytechnic of the South Bank (Brixton School of Building) a job change was made to gain experience in refurbishing old buildings in the ‘Lots Road Conservation Area’ in Chelsea, working for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
In 1978, and after becoming an Associate of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a job was offered, based in Luton, and working for Bradshaw and Company, a long established practice of Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents. Appointment to a Junior Partner was achieved in 1979 and ‘graduation’ to Senior Partner in 1984. Election to ‘Fellow’ of the Royal Institution followed in 1986. ‘Bradshaws’ expanded, and upon incorporation in 2001, the ‘Partner’ status changed to Director.
At the end of 2006 it was time to leave Bradshaw and Co to concentrate on a small residential development project and to open a Building Surveying practice: Stephen Woodbine Chartered Surveyors. This has allowed the time to concentrate on individual private clients and more importantly having the luxury of being able to ‘take as long as it takes’ to carry out mainly Building Reports (structural surveys) and Intermediate Reports, rather than working in the ‘survey factory farm’ conditions that are necessary for a small/medium sized provincial firm to survive when relying on corporate clients for instructions.
As the Partner in charge of Building Surveying the scope of experience gained over the past thirty years was extensive, covering the provision of drawings and specifications for new-build and for alterations/extensions to existing commercial, industrial, educational and domestic buildings, consultancy work for a locally based, but nationally operated brewing/hotel/restaurant company, inspecting and advising on the purchase of all sorts of property, pubs, clubs, cinemas as well as civic centres. We also served a number of local churches advising on maintenance and repair of their buildings.
The main, ‘bread and butter’ work was carrying out Building Surveys (‘structural surveys’) and advising individual clients on structural and repair matters when contemplating the purchase or leasing of property, from flats up to substantial country homes, and from small ‘lock up’ commercial/industrial units up to large-scale warehouses.
On a regular/daily basis the area covered by the Surveyors of Bradshaw and Company was Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and North London, although for existing clients we travelled countrywide.
While at Bradshaws and increasingly more so now that the constraints of commercialism are reduced, it has been a policy to make the Building Reports as thorough, yet at the same time as realistic and as readable as possible. ‘Jargon’ will be used as little as possible, and where such technical terms are unavoidable, an illustrated glossary is included within the report. Photos are also included with the report to show points of concern.
The balance has to be made between ensuring that the client is made aware of defects and future risks of a property while at the same time taking into consideration the age and nature of construction of the building. It will never be possible to upgrade an old building to the standards that would be expected of a new build development and so as long as a ‘defect’ or shortcoming is not going to deteriorate or cause problems in the future, and as long as the client is made aware of the matter, it is little point in making a big issue of the point. Reports can look like a list of total gloom and doom, and be un-necessarily ‘scarey’ to read unless a balanced view is achieved. Everything should be put into the context of the type and age of building being considered. Sample survey reports are available on request, please drop me an email at email@example.com.The aim is to be as professional and as accurate as possible while at the same time being helpful, practical and economical.