The misconceptions of building surveying: a look into what a Building Surveyor really does

Rajveer Nijjer

Rajveer Nijjer

What is a Building Surveyor?

Most people have heard of a Building Surveyor, but few people have a clear understanding of what is involved in building surveying and the part they play in the project lifecycle. Our Building Surveyors have got together to highlight the details of the job, and what you should look for when selecting a Building Surveyor for your project.

Firstly, a good way to think of a Building Surveyor is to think of them as a ‘house doctor’, they inspect a property and determine any defects that exist within it. This is typically done through defect analysis or condition assessments, where they use their building pathology skills to thoroughly inspect a residential or commercial building. After identifying the defects, they then need to understand the cause of the defects. Understanding the cause is just as important as finding the defect because the last thing any owner wants is a re-occurrence of the problem. A Building Surveyor will then provide a remediation solution to the defects and offer guidance on how to prevent further damage to the building. Should the defects concern a legal dispute a Building Surveyor can then offer expert witness services which can be relied upon in legal proceedings. These are often the core competencies of a Building Surveyor, however, other responsibilities can include;

  • Clerk of works / development monitoring
  • Earthquake damage assessments
  • Contract administration
  • Dilapidation reports
  • Due diligence investigations
  • Help with code compliance reporting (e.g. CCC resolution services)
  • Timber decay assessment
  • Remediation design

Another key aspect of a Building Surveyor’s role is project management. Quite often a Building Surveyor will make the best Project Manager as they have all the technical expertise needed to ensure a smooth project delivery. They are capable of overseeing a project from start to completion, and ensuring the construction is aligned with the Architect’s drawings and specifications, of which a Building Surveyor can often assist in drafting up. The last thing you want is for construction to start deterring from the architectural drawings and specifications and end up with a long list of variations at the completion of the project, which can result in high and unexpected costs for the Client.

A Building Surveyor can also produce maintenance plans for residential or commercial buildings. This includes evaluating the building and determining when you will need to invest money into repairs and restoration to ensure a durable building over its intended lifecycle. For example, a Building Surveyor might tell you that the roof has a lifespan of five more years before you will need to repair or replace it. While you may look at this as an unnecessary and costly exercise, this could actually save you a lot of money long term and provide assistance in budgeting.

Case study
As an example, one of our Building Surveyors, Rajveer Nijjer, has worked on residential extension projects where she was heavily involved in the process from beginning to end. The initial inspection involved discussions with the Client to ensure an understanding of their requirements. Existing and proposed design drawings were then produced using AutoCAD software. The design of the proposed development also involved working alongside other professions, such as a Structural Engineer and a Thermal Environmental assessor to ensure the required structural calculations and R-values were obtained.

The Council process was then overseen where drawings and an application were submitted to council regarding the proposed extension. Following this, a detailed specification of works was produced and submitted to tender to three contractors. As soon as pricing was received from the contractors, the tender analysis process was carried out where costs, timescales, quality and workmanship were taken into consideration when selecting a suitable contractor for the job. Once a contractor was appointed regular site visits were carried out to monitor the works and ensure everything was kept on track.

The misconceptions
So, what are some common misconceptions of a Building Surveyor? The biggest is that people often think a Building Surveyor is the same thing as a Quantity Surveyor or a Land Surveyor. Let’s set the record straight – they offer different services. However, they do often work together and compliment each other whilst collaborating on projects. As we’ve explained above a Building Surveyor can manage a project from start to finish, identify defects and provide remediation strategies. A Quantity Surveyor primarily costs up projects and provides owners and vendors with a budget, then monitors the project through to completion ensuring the project stays on budget. Part of what a Land Surveyor does is identifies, verifies, and documents the lines of the boundary for properties.

Another misconception is where people think a Building Surveyor specialises in mechanical or electrical systems. This isn’t a core competency for many Building Surveyors, although they can provide some assistance and provide some advice around these topics. A Building Surveyor is also not qualified to provide structural advice or comment on the structural integrity of a building. Where structural related advice is required, a Structural Engineer should be sought.

What to look for in a Building Surveyor
A good Building Surveyor needs to be accurate in their work and has excellent attention to detail. Imagine missing a crack that could end up costing the owner thousands of dollars or missing a roof leak that could be detrimental to a building down the track.

It always helps if the Building Surveyor you’re engaging is recognised as a Registered or Chartered Surveyor in the industry. For example, MNZIBS (Member of the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors), or MRICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors member). These credentials are a good sign and usually means you will be in professional and experienced hands.

A good Building Surveyor should be knowledgeable on all the latest building regulations and have a good understanding of the New Zealand Building Code. Make sure you are receiving sound technical and regulatory advice that will help shape your project requirements.

If you can, try to engage a firm that can offer you multiple services for your building project. If you use a Building Surveyor, Quantity Surveyor, and an Engineer all from the same firm that will help with the smooth delivery of your project as all three consultants will have shared knowledge, they will work well together and can have the ease and convenience of being able to communicate instantly with each other. We find our Building Surveyors have an advantage over some others as they have the opportunity to work directly with our Architects, Engineers and Quantity Surveyors.

If you’re looking for a Building Surveyor or you want some advice don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Email us at

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