The leaky building crisis is not the only issue facing the New Zealand construction industry.
Poorly repaired homes in Christchurch post-earthquake and sub-standard construction in an overheated Auckland market are also having an impact on the sector, along with the substitution of cheaper, lower-quality building materials by some contractors.
William Hursthouse, acting vice president of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors says the size of these problems is driving significant demand for building surveyors, who provide independent and impartial expert advice and evidence in legal disputes over construction related matters, including defective workmanship and leaky building claims.
“There is a lot of money involved in some of these disputes. Several of our registered members are currently working on New Zealand’s largest leaky building litigation, with a claim of $40 million being heard in the courts for a high rise apartment building in Auckland.”
Other work completed by building surveyors may include condition surveys, long term maintenance plans, accessibility reports, investigation and remediation of weather-tight and structural issues in residential and commercial buildings, and advising on the nature and cause of defects.
The complexity of the work demands a high level of professionalism, something the NZIBS takes extremely seriously, says William.
“Since I became a member of the Institute in 1997 the bar has been raised tremendously in terms of the qualifications we expect aspiring members to have. In the old days it was more of an open membership, but now it is quite difficult to join. We expect members to be highly qualified and professional.”
To become a Registered Building Surveyor with NZIBS, surveyors have to complete 10 modules as part of a lengthy training process, during which time they are known as transitional members of the Institute.
They must practice for some time in a work environment before they are able to take the last step towards full registration, a final interview stage where they get a “serious grilling” on all aspects of the profession, says William.
“By the time a member becomes a fully Registered Building Surveyor, the public can be assured they are engaging someone with credibility who continues to undertake training and ongoing professional development. It’s a status that is worth something.”
In addition to full registered members and transitional members, NZIBS also offers student memberships, honourable memberships and retired memberships, although they are unable to advertise themselves as fully registered members.
There are other organisations that accept building surveyors as members without the same level of skills or training required by NZIBS, which makes it vital people use the Institute as their first point of contact when seeking the services of a professional, says William.
“Having the different Associations can be a bit of a trap. NZIBS only has one class of full membership, Registered Membership, which entitles the holder to call themselves a Registered Building Surveyor.”
NZIBS has an alignment with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a long-established English organisation that a lot of its members also belong to.
“It is a huge international organisation with a lot of other property professionals including chartered building surveyors, who are required to have completed a university degree in England.”
William says some building surveyors have been professionals in other fields such as architecture, design, engineering, quantity surveying, construction management, building sciences and contracting before entering the industry.
“Our executive members have also been doing presentations to people getting university qualifications associated with property. We hope the next step will be the introduction of some additional papers to enable people to get a university qualification in building surveying here in New Zealand.”
William became a building consultant in 1998 and is one of the few sole practitioner building surveyors operating in the market.
“Most surveyors these days tend to work for the big firms. It is a great profession to be involved with and we are always keen to speak with professionals who are interested in looking at building surveying as a potential career opportunity.”