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Sixty seconds: Steve Jackson

Some civil engineering surveyors are riding out the recession better than others, says Steve Jackson, president of the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors

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How are civil engineering surveyors coping with the effects of the recession?

The impact of the economic climate on the civil engineering surveying profession is, as with other engineering professions, wide ranging and variable. Much of the work of civil engineering surveyors is, by defi nition, dependent upon the civil engineering sector which is still fairly well funded, particularly from government − certainly in the UK. This means there is work available in a variety of sectors such as railways, utilities replacement, the Olympics and major highway schemes − although the competition is strong and margins are tight.

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Can you elaborate?

Many surveying professionals, particularly in the geospatial disciplines − for example land surveying and photogrammetry − carry specialist skills and have close relationships with their clients, relying on repeat business which is often short term. Some of the smaller companies in these areas are struggling, but the skills of taking and analysing field measurements are transferable between sectors and continents and survival depends upon the flexibility of the individual.

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Which surveying professions are coping well?

Civil engineering surveyors working in commercial management disciplines (quantity surveying, estimating, planning) appear to be faring better as many are engaged in projects that are long term and they still have a good chance of outlasting the recession.

Those working in post-contract dispute resolution have seen an increase in activity as clients are often taking matters further than they would have done previously. Whether this has meant an increase in adjudication notices, or arbitration is a matter for debate and will probably become clearer towards the end of 2009.

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And which ones are being hit hardest?

Certainly, the number of enquiries for new work has lessened as the recession has deepened and this has meant less work for surveyors engaged in estimating and bidding projects.

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What can the profession offer clients?

As always, in times of reduced workloads, clients are looking to enhance value for money. This seems to mean an increasing trend away from partnering style contracts and a return to competitive tendering. This will once again change the emphasis of the role of the civil engineering surveyor in commercial management, bringing with it new drivers. There will be a need to develop existing skills to achieve successful management of project interfaces and programmes. It will mean a new way of working.

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What are the prospects for the profession?

Whatever the challenges of the recession, the resourcefulness and tenacity of civil engineering surveyors and their ability to bring control and accuracy to construction projects will be essential for success. The profession is well placed to ride out the storm.

  • Steve Jackson is president of the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors. The institution has been granted a Royal Charter and from September will be known as the Chartered Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors.

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