The Experience of Professional Qualifications

  • Building Design Expert
  • 3 years ago

Show me a construction site without a fletton in its brick stock and I will show a jar full of hen’s teeth. A tradesman with thirty years experience, in discussion (lets assume) with the building design professional – Architect, Technologist, Building Surveyor……… take your pick, of similar vocational tenures. Both, of course come at the same subject from differing angles, and both believe fervently that they are right. We continue to languish in a male dominated industry where coursing testosterone fuels the only resolution short of a punch up, that being an agreement to differ.

Uncle Harry said “there’s always more than one way to skin a cat”. But then Uncle Harry had some other strange habits too. However, in building terms he was right, at least to an extent. There are generally several ways of resolving any construction problem, and then there’s the best way. But who decides?

The hierarchical nature of the contract system will usually err on the side of the inspecting professional. The experienced ones of whom will listen to the arguments, the reasoning, and weigh up the long term implications of each before pronouncing judgement; and if you take the cynical view, incurring the cold side of that particular tradesman’s tongue, because he’s been doing it the other way for those thirty years; he either walks away risking not being paid, or countering reluctance kicks in so at least the accounting stays tidy.

Whilst doing something in a certain manner for a prolonged time span doesn’t necessarily make it right. You can argue that if it had been totally wrong it may have caught up with whoever by now. Then the same argument cuts both ways, and the professional isn’t necessarily right either.

What tips the balance may be a combination of issues ranging from assessment of the long term implications of favouring one solution over another, to the amount of work that may have to be undone in order to achieve a given end, or perhaps an impending storm of variable perfection.

In site terms it’s a political knife edge, as the conscientious tradesman who truly believes he has been doing something correctly for a long long time, will have rightful suspicion of this younger (so often) pretender; who is in the fortunate position of having access to documented evidence that supports his view, and relies less on the anecdotal. This is so often how tradesmen develop their habits, when thy are site taught by others more ‘experienced’ than they, but not necessarily correctly.

Current building design technology is so far removed from the ‘traditional’ that unless the tradesman has retrained he (or she) may well be blissfully unaware that much of the way the job was learned decades ago has had to change. It’s changed due to the advent of technology associated with ‘Air-tightness’, ‘Super-insulation’, “Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery’ , and all of the building techniques associated with them. It always seems that those who have embraced the ‘New Tech’ can implement it but too often fail to understand why they are doing what they do. My own experience continually supports this.

The default of the professional qualification is Continuing Professional Development. So not only being aware of the new tech, but understanding the principles behind how and why it works, and just as important, understanding the reasons why it would not.

The answer might be that we only let highly trained craftsmen on our building sites, who carry something akin to chartered tradesman status. And, that they undergo their own CPD by retraining in any new facet of the industry that they become involved in.

It’s never going to happen – certainly not in my lifetime. Until then we will remain with the uncertainty of the building process as we know it. With the vagaries of one craftsman’s knowledge over another. The law, of course, does nothing to help. We design our buildings for a life of 50 – 60 yrs. We live and work in them for 100 – 200 yrs. yet the NHBC promote that all new house problems will have become known after ten yrs. and the law stopping at six yrs. A 20 yr old building may be energy imperfect by today’s standards, but at least it has done it’s tour of the block, and still breaths easy.

At SME level and below there continues to be that disconnect between the designer and the implementer, and it’s largely at a fundamental level. Professional builders who understand what they are doing, and most importantly, why they are doing it are like those hens teeth on occasions. Find them married to the experience of professional qualifications and I predict a confident future.