I recently asked an architect in what situations he’d consider hiring someone to help with building documentation. The answer he gave surprised me — he said he would never hire out what he can do in-house. “The basis for design matters too much to trust someone else to document my projects properly.”
I was curious whether or not he had ever hired a professional building surveyor. His answer was no. Somehow he formulated an opinion that this service required a certain level of expertise in order to be done properly, expertise that only existed within his own firm.
Really? I pondered. Maybe it’s time to consider the following 5 reasons to hire a professional building surveyor:
- Architects don’t learn building documentation in architecture school
I went to architecture school (albeit a while ago), but I’ve not heard of an architecture program offering a class on how to properly measure and document a building. Sure, some historic preservation programs might cover ways to document a building, but the focus of architecture school is to teach students how to design buildings, not how properly document every bump on a million-square-foot building.
- Contrary to popular belief, the intern doesn’t have the same level of expertise
I can’t tell you how many times my expertise – developed over 30+ years of work – has been compared to that of an intern. Knowing something about how buildings are built and how to utilize proper survey technique greatly affects the ability to accurately document a building, and this is not knowledge that one gains in the first couple years of one’s career. However, an intern doesn’t take long to learn how to use the fudge button. Just hit it when things aren’t quite working out, then tell the boss you made it work. There you go: a floor plan background ready to base your design on.
- The “good, fast, cheap” rule does not apply
It is often said in the service business you can choose any two of the following three: Good, Fast and Cheap, but you cannot have all three. Well, I contend when you hire a professional building surveyor you can shatter this rule. Since a professional building surveyor brings years of expertise, you will be getting good work (unlike the intern mentioned above). A professional building surveyor has perfected the techniques of proper building documentation and has the tools to get the job done fast. And, at the end of the day, if you add up the extra costs incurred for all the time an inexperienced person will spend measuring and re-measuring, all the extra design time needed when errors are discovered, and the cost of change orders related to existing conditions that are not properly documented, it becomes clear that hiring out professional building documentation services is actually very cheap.
- Survey control requires expertise
Survey control, in the context of building documentation, is the means and methods used to control the accuracy of the building survey. Survey control is a methodology based on proven survey techniques that quantifies and controls the amount of acceptable error in the cumulative measurements. A professional will know when you can get away without using survey control and when you absolutely must have it.
- “Good enough” is not good enough
If your design is too important, and you want to reduce or eliminate your risk, then don’t settle for good enough. Hire a professional. Focus on your expertise and what you do well, and let a building documentation professional do the same.