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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
It may seem a long time ago by the time you read this piece, but at the time of writing it we have just entered a new millennium. This is therefore my first opportunity to wish our readers a Happy New Year. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the "structural surveyor" and I discuss some of these below. In this issue, a very experienced Chartered Building Surveyor, Steve Staveley, offers his personal review of construction and design in the last millennium. The review is biased towards domestic property and the many house surveyors who regularly read the journal will, I am sure, find Steve's piece to be of interest.
It is exactly 12 months ago that I sat down to write my first editorial for the journal and in that piece outlined the Government's consultation document for changes in house buying in England and Wales. Now we know that legislation is planned so that by 2003 vendors will have to compile an information pack which will include a "report on condition". A pilot study is being carried out in the Bristol area this year to assess the impact of the seller's pack. This is obviously very good news for surveyors - the RICS estimate that at least an additional 3,000 surveyors will be required to carry out these inspections. The RICS and ISVA are drafting a suitable report that is likely to be based on the Homebuyer Report. Last November all of the professional bodies whose members are likely to be involved with this work met at the RICS to discuss the setting up of a body to accredit professionals wishing to carry out this work. The accreditation body is something which has been mooted by Government and, although it will be voluntary initially, clearly those surveyors, engineers, architects, chartered builders, etc. who wish to carry out this work will need to be accredited. The scheme, to be known as SAVA, will vigorously audit and monitor standards, and again a pilot scheme will operate this year. For more information contact the Professional Services Department of the ISVA at 3 Cadogan Gate, London SW1X 0AS.
Perversely at a time when things have never looked better for those undertaking residential surveys there has been further adverse publicity about the standard of surveys being undertaken - this time in a BBC TV Watchdog programme (29 October 1999). The RICS were quick to respond to this adverse publicity and issued a press release to remind the public of their complaints procedure and of the availability of independent low cost arbitration. They have also reminded us that the number of surveys that go wrong is very low. Let us hope that an accreditation scheme will reduce even further the proportion of dissatisfied clients. Of course under the seller pack arrangements, it will not be the surveyor's client who is likely to be dissatisfied if a mistake is made, but the buyer who relies on the condition report. Malcolm Hollis makes an important contribution to the debate about standards with his paper "The missing link" in this issue.
In my editorial for the last issue I was bemoaning the number and standard of students enrolling on built environment degree courses. Since then the RICS has announced plans that it hopes will address this problem as far as Chartered Surveyors are concerned. While any proposals to raise standards are to be welcomed they have been met with some dismay by many in the Higher Education sector. One of the proposals is to raise the number of A level points required by students to enter a surveying degree programme. Using one of the criteria proposed by the RICS there would be virtually no students enrolled on any university degree programme at the present time - and that includes the so-called red-brick institutions where it is often mistakenly believed that academic entry standards are higher. For a profession the majority of whose members are supposed to be experts about markets, this proposal demonstrates stunning naïvety. The only way that high calibre students will be attracted to built environment degree courses is for the financial rewards available to qualified members to be on a par with the other professions with which they compete for students. At a time when Government proposals are likely to increase demand for surveyors' services this proposal may actually result in fewer surveying students graduating.
One of the other RICS proposals is to greatly increase the number of non-cognate degree holders entering the profession. A fast-track postgraduate course will be offered to these candidates. While this entry route may be appropriate for general practice surveyors and perhaps even quantity surveyors, it is unlikely to be suitable for those undertaking building surveys, who require a high level of technical competence. It will be of great interest to see what effect the RICS proposals have on both the number and the quality of those graduating from surveying degree courses in the new millennium.
On a personal note please note that my contact details shown on the inside of both the front and rear covers have changed. I am pleased to have returned to the area of the country where I was in practice, and have joined Anglia Polytechnic University.