This is the first in a series looking at a local authority building control organisation. For our first Spotlight, we caught up with Simon Heywood from Hertfordshire Building Control (HBC).
Tell us a little bit about Hertfordshire Building Control
HBC Limited was established in August 2016 when seven Hertfordshire local authorities TUPE transferred their staff into the Company. Other than TUPE nothing had been done to change the Company’s operational processes and therefore there was a lot to get our teeth into. Changing to a common IT system, setting up and running accounting, HR and marketing departments and trying to retain our people and recruit more. It was an exciting time and since then we have grown the business.
We now employ 71 people: 30 are qualified surveyors (20 have been independently assessed by LABC to be at level 6 Fire Safety competency) and a further 17 are at various stages of working towards a professional qualification. Some of those working towards a professional qualification already have a related degree, while we are funding others to become qualified.
We work on a flexible basis with an office available for people to visit should they wish to, but offer the opportunity to work remotely, saving them time commuting between work and the office. We have recently added another local authority to our group, so we are a growing business.
What’s so great about working in Hertfordshire?
Hertfordshire has plans to build 100,000 new homes in the next ten years, so there’s a lot of work to be done. There is also a diverse range of business within the county including defence, pharmaceutical and retail organisations as well as world-class sporting, leisure and entertainment complexes. We have both urban and rural areas, with a wide range of buildings. Some are almost a thousand years old, while others are bang up to date.
What is fantastic about working in Hertfordshire is that we get to work on them all!
What are your main challenges as a building control team?
We employ great people who are highly sought after, which means we must be the best possible organisation we can be. We need to make sure that our staff get to carry out interesting, rewarding and challenging work – and that they do so in an environment where everyone pulls together.
How would you describe your work?
Our work is varied. In any one day, people can be in the office discussing plans, out on-site working with builders and customers, meeting with developers and architects at their offices or even working from home to get the quiet time needed to complete their checks on plans.
We equip our staff with the IT and communications systems they need so they’re not fixed to an office environment. Work is allocated on a fair basis by the Heads of Building Control, who also take their fair share, based on the abilities of our people.
What kind of projects do you work on?
We work on a range of projects. These have included:
- State-of-the-art training facilities for premiership football teams
- Listed and historic houses (some were built in the 1300’s)
- Pharmaceutical complexes
- Film studios, including the Big Brother house
- Award-winning social housing developments
- Large-scale, award-winning social housing developments
- State-of-the-art properties that after three years are carbon positive
You’ve been finalists and winners of several awards– what does that mean to you?
We like to be successful – who doesn’t? We must recognise the hard work our people have put in, which contributes to our overall success. An award reflects this hard work. It also helps us to remember to celebrate the many - and significant - achievements each employee has made to the success of our company.
How do you ensure your staff reflect the values of Hertfordshire Building Control?
We worked with our people to understand what company they wanted us to become. We held workshops to develop our vision, mission and values. This achieved buy-in from everyone as to why we are in business, what we set out to achieve and how we achieve it.
Our staff are excited by our vision and recognise that our values set us apart from the competition they are therefore proud to be part of an organisation that aims to be different and to do its best for the people in our community.
What would you say to anyone thinking of starting a career in building control?
Go for it but be aware it is hard work and carries a lot of responsibilities.
The overriding requirement is to demonstrate leadership potential. You need to gain the technical knowledge and the ability to apply it both theoretically (which can be intellectually demanding) and in practice. Then, you must have the moral courage to tell construction industry professionals when plans or buildings are not compliant but do so in a way that engages so that they work with you to ensure compliance.
We usually recruit up to four people annually and will be having a new recruitment drive in the spring. Keep an eye on the HBC website (and this one) for new positions.
In the meantime, you can learn more about our trainees and how their careers have led them to HBC.