Defects analysis or ‘building pathology’ as it is sometimes known is the glue which binds together all building surveyors.
While some choose to branch off into the dark arts of dilapidations, party walls and rights to light, for most surveyors the draw of understanding buildings and what goes wrong with them, remains a constant thread and an evolving challenge throughout their careers.
When my young children used to ask what I did as a job, the easiest description I could come up with was that I was a ‘Doctor for Buildings’. Although a misnomer intended as a simplification for young minds, in many ways the analogy worked. As a surveyor at MacConvilles Surveying we inspect and examine, we look to identify the symptoms and diagnose what is wrong, we look at the overall health of the building to put the problem into context, and finally we seek to prescribe remedial action and cure the ailment.
A bit like a GP meeting a patient for the first time, we are not always able to identify the problem from the first examination. Sometimes it is necessary to undertake further exploratory works to confirm or rule out our assumptions or suspicions. The need for further tests or opening up works is sometimes unavoidable, but throughout the process of defects diagnosis there remains a need to be as analytical and systematic in our approach to buildings as a doctor would be to his or her patient. Action should be targeted and follow the chain of likely causation, not just involve saturation bombing in the hope of hitting the target.
The challenge for building surveyors of my generation is the sheer variety and range of defects that can affect buildings given the way methods of construction and materials have changed over the decades. In Brighton and Hove we are blessed with some classical Regency architecture dating back almost 200 years. Elsewhere in the city the architecture is diverse with Victorian and Edwardian influences, as well as emerging methods of modern construction.