Staff stories

TFT Edinburgh at 5: revitalising Scotland’s capital city

TFT’s Edinburgh office is celebrating its fifth birthday with a difference. The office bash might have to wait for another year, but we’re looking back on some of our favourite projects to date, and the big things which lay ahead.

First up is Neil Wotherspoon, Partner and head of Edinburgh, to talk to us about the St James Quarter development we’re monitoring for Nuveen. It’s making an impact already and is set to be a breath of fresh air for Scotland’s capital.

“Looking back on the journey of our Edinburgh office is deeply personal to me. Since I opened the office in 2015, our team, our work and our client list has grown and diversified a great deal. We’ve gone from strength to strength to offer our specialist services to incredible clients in Scotland and across the rest of the UK and Europe.

One project in particular has come to define my relationship with the city itself, personally and professionally: the St James Quarter development which I am monitoring on behalf of our clients Nuveen and APG. In fact, we were expecting two great parties as a St James Quarter milestone and our office birthday coincided in October. But for now at least we’ll make do with a visit to the Zoom Pub!

I moved to Edinburgh in 1998, so I know the St James Quarter site has always had a challenging place in the city. I don’t recall the old office space ever being occupied and the shopping centre was a short-cut rather than a destination. Yet, the site took up a large part of the east of Edinburgh. St James Quarter will completely change that. I’m not sure whether many residents appreciate the full scale of the new development, so I hope they will be surprised by all it contains, and how it will open up that part of the city. The incredible views will also show the city in a new way, and not just for the residential apartments and W Edinburgh guests. Towards Leith Street at level 5 there will be a publicly available courtyard with great views over Carlton Hill.

I think the structure itself it also going to help people move around the city differently. For instance, oddly Edinburgh has a limited selection of covered public areas to seek refuge from the Scottish weather. But the St James Quarter galleria roof will provide that sheltered street feel and build a great atmosphere too. You may have already seen some of the unique design features, but I think the lighting design is going to be really impressive in the galleria and on the W Hotel. Without getting in to the specification, I can say that these interactive, responsive and unique designs will be a first for visitors, unlike anything else in Scotland.

I can’t say that this year is everything I wanted for our fifth birthday celebrations. But even in these tough times I believe there’s an awful lot to be positive about. When SJQ opens in Spring 2021 it will begin a major positive change for the city itself, boosting not only the local economy but also the lives of residents and visitors alike.”

Read more about the transformation going on at Edinburgh’s St James Quarter, here.

TFT Edinburgh at 5: scaling the Cairngorms and court

TFT’s Edinburgh office is celebrating its fifth birthday with a difference. The office bash might have to wait for another year, but we’re looking back on some of our favourite projects to date, and the big things which lay ahead.

Jon Rowling, Technical Partner in our Edinburgh office, tells us about surveying in the Cairngorms and resolving legal disputes.

This was most definitely the highest I have been when carrying out inspections, which weren’t helped by the deep snow and sub-zero temperatures.  I nearly lost the tips of my fingers because, as an aspiring urbane surveyor, I slightly forgot that gloves would be important.  Certainly the best views though above the clouds, and feeling of being on top of the world.  As ever inspecting different types of buildings, one is always drawn also to understand what goes on there and how it all operates.  In this case there was a railway, a mountain rescue post, conservation, skiing, catering and retail all to be considered.  This is one inspection that I won’t forget.

Acting as a ‘court reporter’ for the Outer House, considering a dilapidations dispute in Glasgow:

A court reporter is appointed by the court to provide technical expertise when the case before the court is fundamentally a question of expert opinion.  As always with these disputes, significant time has passed since the evidence on site was available to review so it becomes a question of reviewing the (not insignificant) bundles of documents, and then expressing a reasoned opinion as to the various liabilities.  As often occurs though, much of the difference between the parties is a matter of legal interpretation and so the reporter is allowed to question to court on the correct legal approach.  In this case, the main issue was one of ‘supersession’.  I’m sure all dilapidations surveyors would like clarity from a court as to the correct way to deal with supersession.  Fingers crossed we find out.

I’ve also acted as arbitrator in dilapidations disputes.  The arbitrator receives evidence from the parties, considers it and publishes a binding ‘Award’ that sets out the resolution of the dispute.  Arbitration of dilapidations disputes is a growing area in Scotland and is something TFT is proud to contribute to.  Indeed, we have published a set of Dilapidations Arbitration Rules for Scotland, which we hope will aid parties who are considering this form of ADR.

Find out more about Alternative Dispute Resolution and how our teams can help you use it to your advantage.

TFT Edinburgh at 5: from Europe to the Royal Mile

TFT’s Edinburgh office is celebrating its fifth birthday with a difference. The office bash might have to wait for another year, but we’re looking back on some of our favourite projects to date, and the big things which lay ahead.

Alasdair Balfour, Associate in our Edinburgh office, talks to us about travel on the job and new developments close to home.

“I’ve enjoyed building close and longstanding relationships with our fantastic clients, and our team across the company. From our Edinburgh base we’ve delivered instructions in the city, across Scotland and further afield too, including England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and mainland Europe.

After all, the buildings don’t come to us!

My highlights are always exploring new locations. I relish the challenges that come with working in different places, with new projects in new contexts. Some personal favourites include inspection of just under 5m sqft of Grade A office accommodation across Paris, Berlin and Frankfurt. Those were to produce reinstatement cost assessments (RCAs) for a European portfolio. I also completed a range of separate Technical Due Diligence instructions across France and Spain, including a 800,000sqft industrial unit near Madrid.

Closer to home, it’s always exciting to see your city change and grow. In particular, I’m proud be part of the evolution of Edinburgh as its sites and buildings evolve to the commercial opportunities of our times. Major development sites aren’t common in the city centre right now. But I was privileged to work on the multi-use redevelopment of New Waverley.

I was a Fund Monitor for the new purchaser of the 190,000sqft office building, Queen Elizabeth House. I was overseeing the development obligations associated with the purchase, building contract and tenancy. It’s an impressive facility, right in the heart of the city with striking views east and west down the Waverley valley as far as Berwick Law, near North Berwick in East Lothian. As with many things, occupancy has been delayed by COVID-19 but it’s only a matter of time before the area is fully brought to life by its inhabitants.”

New Waverley is part of our nation-wide instruction from Legal & General to monitor the development of Government hubs in major cities across the UK. Find out more about some of the other schemes in that project, in Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow .

My journey to property: Trudy Revell, Associate Project Manager

Sarah Gunn

Once on track to a fashion degree, Trudy Revell tells us why she’s glad to have changed course for a career in construction. Trudy has great advice for those who fear they won’t be accepted or reach their potential without falsifying their personas to meet expectations.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

What if I told you I had every intention to study fashion…?

BUT, that changed.

I decided I didn’t want to follow suit, I wanted to do something completely different; something that would challenge me on a daily basis. I was 16 at the time and we were in the midst of a recession; there were no jobs. Construction and property were in a state of disarray, but it’s where I wanted to be. So I took a leap of faith and enrolled in a construction course. A couple of years later, I made another rash decision and chose to study building surveying at university. 

To people’s surprise, I didn’t drop out. Once I’d graduated I decided to pursue a career in project management. 

Do I look back and wish I had done fashion after all?

Absolutely not.

That one decision has shaped a fantastic career and for that I say thanks to my younger naïve self!

Have you come across any particular challenges within your role/the industry ?

I knew what I was getting myself in to when I chose to pursue a career in property. I wanted to work in an industry where it would inevitably evolve. I wanted to be part of the change and hopefully inspire others along the way. 

Do you have any advice to give people who are considering going into the industry?

Just go for it! 

Don’t let the fears of what others think of you stand in your way. Be unique, be open-minded and be transparent. 

To females feeling overwhelmed: embrace being you. Don’t try and dress or act like your male counter parts. Diversity is key to a successful project/ business. 

If you could change the industry in any way, what would you change?

Rather than changing just one part of the industry, I’m looking forward to the day where we’re not having to talk about diversity and inclusion because it’s simply ingrained in every facet of our daily lives.

Click here to view Trudy’s LinkedIn page.

Click here to find out more about TFT’s Project Management service.

My journey to property: Geoffrey Chihuri, Graduate Building Surveyor

Sarah Gunn

Geoffrey Chihuri joined TFT this year having made the decision to be a building surveyor a bit later in life. With the wisdom and maturity that comes with age, he is able to see where the industry falls short for newcomers. We spoke to him about how his expectations fit the reality of the industry on a personal and a professional level.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

I was inspired from a young age to work with buildings having watched with a keen eye my parents build several properties. Fast forward several years with a sound engineering course behind me, I decided to speak to a careers advisor about suitable opportunities as well as having chats with numerous industry professionals. It was then that I realised that building surveying had my name written all over it and so I enrolled into the University of Central Lancashire to study building surveying and it has been an upward trajectory since!

I am currently undertaking my APC and aspire to become chartered as soon as possible. I look forward to serving the industry to the best of my ability!

Have you come across any particular challenges within your role/the industry?

Starting a new role in building surveying whilst we face COVID-19 has been rather different to what I experienced during my placement year. Social distancing means not seeing colleagues as frequently as I would usually, however the staff at TFT have been very supportive with my career progression.

The other conundrum I have faced is within myself. I had an expectation that I would come across certain challenges due to my ethnic background. This was mainly influenced by the feedback I got from my peers when I indicated that I was going to study building surveying.

Hand on heart though, throughout my placement year to present, I can say that I have not experienced exclusion of any form and I have not come across challenges within my role in the industry as a result of my ethnicity.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?

My advice to anyone considering a career in the construction industry is to do plenty of research from the start! The industry is rather broad so it is pivotal to speak to career advisors and/or those within the industry before applying for college or university. Doing so will help align your career aspirations to a suitable discipline within the industry!

After identifying your suitable discipline, I would strongly recommend researching which body(s) governs your chosen discipline and apply for a course with an appropriate accreditation. I made the mistake of applying to a university that was not RICS-accredited however, I managed to transfer to a RICS-accredited university after completing my first year.

So…research, research, research!

If you could change the industry in any way, what would you change?

Having recently graduated, I feel that educational institutions and employers should collaborate better to offer more work experience opportunities to students. There seems to be a huge gap between academic and industry acumen. Doing so would give students the knowledge and experience of what to expect of the industry prior to starting in their first role.

Click here to view Geoffrey’s LinkedIn page.

Click here for the latest job opportunities at TFT.

My journey to property: Ellicia Perry, Undergraduate Building Surveyor

Sarah Gunn

Ellicia stepped into the property industry at one of its most challenging times. Not only is she getting to grips with TFT’s services but she’s getting to know her team in Birmingham more over video calls than in person. We had a chat with her about how she’s found this very unusual beginning to her journey in the industry.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

Since I was young, I have always had an interest in construction and made the decision years ago to go into the industry but had no idea how. Whilst studying a diploma in business at college, I undertook work experience at my local council building control department. A lot of the team there were building surveyors so this led me to research the role and attend university open days before deciding on the Building Surveying pathway.

I am currently on my professional work placement for my sandwich degree at Coventry University and I know that the knowledge that I am gaining whilst working at TFT will be extremely useful in my final year!

Have you come across any particular challenges within the industry?

The biggest challenge at the moment for those who have just joined the industry is COVID-19. Starting a new job with a socially-distanced office or working from home is very different to what I envisaged for my sandwich year so adapting to the new way of work life has been a challenge.

Other than that, I have found that colleagues and clients are very supportive of women who are starting in the construction industry.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it/who are considering going into the industry?

My advice would be to try and get a placement at a construction-related company. This will give you an insight into the industry and whether you will be suited to it before you make the decision of choosing your career path.

Also, when you start working in the industry remember that nobody expects you to know everything and there is always somebody to ask for help. There is such a range of roles and projects out there so you never feel like you’re going to get stuck down one pathway!

Click here to view Ellicia’s LinkedIn page.

My journey to property: Louis Maycock, Senior Party Wall Surveyor

Sarah Gunn

Louis Maycock is TFT’s newest Party Wall & Neighbourly Matters specialist. Since joining, Louis has been asked to help the Pyramus & Thisbe Club (party wall surveyors club) with its inclusivity initiatives for the industry. With National Inclusion Week on our minds, he told us that the industry is headed in the right direction, but says there is a lot more to be done.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

I have always had an interest in property development (I blame the TV shows Homes Under the Hammer and Grand Designs for this!), so in the lead up to going to university, I wanted to find a degree course that would help me learn more about property development. The courses available at the time were not property development-specific, but were typically geared towards graduates becoming Building Surveyors. 

On the week I graduated, I flicked through the yellow pages (shows my age) and called up every local building surveying practice seeking employment. Two weeks later I was invited for an interview and landed a job with Simon Levy Associates.

Although I was being trained as a Building Surveyor, my boss was making some landmark developments in the party wall world and I took keen interest in understanding the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. After gradual exposure to party wall matters and a further post graduate study, I decided to focus all my energies into this service line and become a Party Wall Surveyor. 

Have you come across any particular challenges within your role/the industry ?

I have had a wonderful career to date; one full of opportunities. I think the industry has come a long way in terms of diversity and inclusion, but we still have lots of work to do.

Amongst the party wall world, which is typically white male-dominated, I know only of only handful of surveyors that are Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), and even less that are women. This does not mean that industry is non-inclusive, we just simply need to demonstrate better that there are a variety of attractive careers within it for everyone.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?

First and foremost, never believe that your ethnic background, colour, or gender will be a limiting factor to your success in this industry. Yes, you may not see loads of people who look like you physically reflected in the industry, but that is ok, be a part of the changing of history. Also, diversity comes in many forms, a lot being non-physical. Make an effort to get to know your colleagues’ backgrounds and you will find that everyone has unique experiences to share.

Our industry is full of so many different roles and career paths. Have a look on the RICS website and get a feel for all that we do, or better yet, reach out to firms and professionals; ask questions!

Oh, and last point(!), in terms of study, do make sure that your course is RICS-accredited!

Click here to view Louis’ full profile.

My journey to property: Harry Thomas, Associate Project Manager

Sarah Gunn

Harry Thomas recently joined our Bristol office as Project Management specialist having spent two years doing a similar role in New Zealand. He has a keen interest in sustainability and hopes to drive its uptake across the industry.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

I spent four years studying Geography at the University of Edinburgh then went to Malta and worked in security operations before heading to master the world of wine in London. My itchy young feet led me to travel to Hong Kong for two months where I had an internship in the air cargo terminal there before hopping over to Australia to pull pints! I wanted to throw myself into any opportunity that came my way, before finally settling on completing an MSc in Building Surveying.

When it came to getting a job, my lack of specific property experience wasn’t an issue; thankfully it’s an industry that places far greater value on you as a person and your wider skills and ambitions. I qualified as a Building Surveyor but have moved more towards project management over the last few years. I really enjoy the satisfaction of taking a project from an initial brief to the hand over of the keys. It’s a great journey!

What do you think is most exciting about the industry? 

I believe that there is huge scope to grow within the industry which is the most exciting aspect. My experience is that if you put yourself forward and show willingness to learn, opportunities tend come your way.

I am also passionate about sustainability and this is something that I am excited to develop within my role. I think that the importance of sustainability is becoming more and more acknowledged within the industry, as seen with the recent ‘Declare’ movement. Also, Project Managers are uniquely placed to influence clients and decisions in a positive manner from inception to completion.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the property industry?

I don’t think people are aware of the enormous range of sectors within the industry: there’s something for everyone! No two days are the same and you can be highly specialised in a specific field or undertaking ten different roles on ten different instructions. It’s also truly global and can take you anywhere – I’ve just returned to the UK after two years working for a Project Management firm in New Zealand! Life is what you make it!

Click here to view Harry’s LinkedIn page.

My journey to property: Vanessa Rothon

Sarah Gunn

Ahead of her APC, we spoke to one of our regional graduates, Vanessa, who is based in our Queen Square office in Bristol, about her experience as a young surveyor so far and what she hopes the next generation of the industry will look like.

Why did you choose to work in the property industry?

One of my main aims in getting a degree was ensuring that once I graduated I could start progressing into a career straight away. I initially wanted to become a civil engineer, however upon further research, I discovered the world of building surveying and was drawn to the large variety of opportunities that the role brings.

I also was attracted to the option for site and office based work, avoiding the sedentary lifestyle!

How did you choose the right company to work for?

I wanted to have a wide variety of projects whilst also having the support and guidance to undertake these from the get-go. Since starting at TFT in 2018, I am sure that I am in the best hands to help my career flourish!

What future challenges does a role in surveying face?

Interestingly, for my university dissertation, I looked at the barriers faced by women entering or those currently in the construction industry. I found that whilst there have been major improvements in the industry in recent years, there is still plenty of room for improvement!

One of the main issues is attracting more young people into the role, both male and female. During my school years, I had no encouragement to pursue a career in the construction industry nor did I know anyone within it, so it is just down to luck that I have found the career that I enjoy. It is also surprising how few people outside the industry actually know what the role of a building surveyor entails

So how do you think this could be improved?

I think that more information should be made available to young people on the large variety of roles that are available in the construction industry. I feel many people especially women may be sceptical to enter the industry due to several issues: stereotypes of what construction is (men working on site), flexible working, pay gaps etc. Whilst these issues are often mentioned and talked about, a message needs to be sent out that diversity and equality is the best it has ever been in property and continues to improve, so there is no reason why women shouldn’t enjoy a successful career within the industry.

What aspirations do you have for your professional future?

My first aim in the near future is to become a chartered surveyor. I would also love to get involved in more events encouraging young women into the industry of course!

My journey to property: Jordan Molloy, Graduate Building Surveyor and Royal Navy Reservist

Sarah Gunn

What is your role at TFT?

I am a Graduate Building Surveyor but I am also a Communications Information Systems Specialist within the Royal Navy Reserves.

What drew you to property, and to TFT in particular?

One of my main focuses is career progression and finding ways to broaden my knowledge of the building surveying practice. However, whilst at my previous consultancies, I found it very difficult to achieve either mainly down to the fact that my ex-work colleagues were from a generation where you would ‘learn on your own accord’.

It was very clear that this was not the case at TFT. Everyone is more than happy to assist with career progression and additional learning which is absolutely great! Another key reason I choose TFT was because they fully supported my role within the Royal Naval Reserves and the charity events that I participate in throughout the year.

And what does that reservist role involve?

The role is typically front line and involves the use of specialist equipment (global radio, satellite communications and military IT systems etc.) to guarantee the secure exchange of mission-critical, and often top-secret information.

Do you feel your role in property benefits from the skills you learn in the Royal Navy and vice versa?

You may not think so on the face of it, but I’ve found many of my CIS Specialist skills come in handy through my role at TFT, for instance: attention to detail, communications, respect and care for equipment, and proper handling of sensitive information.

The subject matter might be quite different, but I’ve found plenty of crossover between my roles in the office, on site and on deployment.

What support does TFT offer you to balance your work and reservist duties?

My role in the Royal Navy means that I am required to commit 26 days a year to conduct training to ensure that I remain at trained strength ‘deployable’. TFT has allowed me to start my working day earlier so that I can have more time in the evenings to continue revising for my APC as well as undertake any reservist duties.

Any challenges with being in the ‘zone’ of each role?

Not overly, I am able to switch on and off in between quite easily. Although, I do have a habit of speaking navy talk (Jack speak) without realising and may sometimes say words without realising such as ‘scran’ (food), ‘heads’ (toilets) or ‘gash bag’ (bin bag). Sometimes I do have to explain what I mean with some of the terminology especially the latter jack word!

What do you think are the biggest challenges to finding the right career?

I think that a number of people falsely believe that only one perfect career exists for each person, but really there are many career possibilities which share similar characteristics. Instead of seeking one career that seems like an ideal fit, I would strongly recommend investigating a number of options that have features in common.

That said, I think the pressure to find a career that you’ll thrive and progress quickly in is really present throughout all educational and early working stages of our lives, not to mention financial pressure from our peers and perhaps even parents who we want to impress. These are so common though and I think it would be unnatural not to feel them!

Any advice for people stuck on the fence between a career in property and something else?

The only advice that I would give is to ask yourself the question ‘what do I want from my career?’.

If the answer is along the lines of, ‘a career that’s extremely challenging, in an ever-growing and friendly field where your skills are always valued and in-demand‘, then construction would be a sector for you!

If you are seriously on the fence then I would suggest pursuing a career within the construction industry and supplement this with lots of hobbies or like me, becoming a Reservist in the Armed Forces (best of both worlds – trust me!).