Building Surveys

Posted by on Sep 18, 2020 in Building Surveying

Building Surveys

What is it?

The term “survey” meaning an inspection of a building followed by a report is peculiar to Britain and countries that have been connected with Britain.  To Americans “surveying” more usually calls to mind the process of measurement and mapping.

One of GLM’s specialism is “building surveying” and this too can give rise to confusion.  Does it mean “measuring buildings and preparing scale drawings”?  Well, yes, that is one of the things that building surveyors have traditionally done but it goes a lot further than that to embrace inspecting the condition of buildings in detail and also to determining what works are required to repair, maintain, refurbish, convert and alter buildings, and to specifying and managing the resulting building projects.

So, when do GLM’s building surveyors get involved?

  1. When a building comes on the market

If a residential building is sold in Scotland it is required by law to have a “Home Report”.  This is a useful collation of the available information about the building.  However, when it comes to older, larger, more complicated or compromised buildings the information provided by a Home Report is invariably scant.

When a property comes onto the market GLM can be commissioned by a purchaser or a seller to undertake a building survey.

For a seller GLM will typically prepare a report that is an honest assessment of the condition of the building, neither trying to cover anything up nor providing an alarmist view of its shortcomings.  We will provide an indication of what is required to bring a building that has problems up to the level of a building of its type that is in reasonably good repair.  We can also advise on the likely scope and cost of adapting the building in question to suit the needs and requirements of a purchaser but these questions are more usually specific to the needs and aspirations of a particular purchaser and therefore would not normally form part of a report commissioned by a seller.

In acting for a purchaser, we provide a similar service providing due diligence on what ownership of the building is likely to involve.  If a refurbishment project is going to result, we can help the purchaser to understand the implications in terms of budget, statutory compliance and the overall scale of project that they are likely to be getting into.  Alternatively, it may be that the building is presented as being “fully refurbished” in which case we will address the question “is it really?”.  And, of course, there are many shades of grey between these two extremes.

Case studies

Ackergill Tower – we have been involved with this A-Listed building since the late 1980s when we completely refurbished it and installed 17 bathrooms.  We were engaged by a subsequent owner to carry out further refurbishment/conversion works to the Stables block and other buildings.  More recently it came on the market once more and we undertook a detailed pre-acquisition survey for a prospective purchaser advising on the condition of the building and the likely cost of repairs and maintenance.

Brechin Castle – we were commissioned to undertake a pre-acquisition building survey of this great house and its stables block.  It will be obvious that the purchase of such an Estate carries with it a significant liability for maintenance and repair, but getting a handle on just how much this adds up to requires a specialist knowledge of buildings of this sort.

Arndilly – when we were asked to survey this fine and substantial mansion it was presented as being “fully refurbished”.  Our task was to find out whether this was indeed the case, and, again, to determine what ownership of such an asset would be likely to involve.

2. When someone already owns a building

We often undertake building surveys when a building is changing hands within a family or if it has reached a stage when it is important for its owner to know how best to prioritise repair or maintenance work or when an owner is faced with a specific repair issue or is contemplating some change to the building.  By reviewing a building holistically our building surveyors can help owners to allocate their available resources wisely.

It may also be of value for an owner to have an evaluation of what is “significant” about their building in conservation terms and to receive advice on what alterations might or might not be acceptable to a listed building.  Our experience of handling hundreds of Listed Building Consent, Planning and Building Warrant/ Building Regulations applications comes into play here.

A particular issue that affects many building owners is energy conservation.  How best to improve the building fabric and building services is a particular specialism within the GLM team.

As a mixed practice of building surveyors and architects specialising in existing buildings, we will always ensure that top class design advice is also provided as required.

Case Study – Calgary Castle : The owners of this early nineteenth century castle on the Island of Mull came to us when they were planning to sell it.  They had done extensive repairs to the roof, but there were still problems.  The concern was this: would a Home Report provide answers or simply sow doubt in the mind of prospective purchasers?  We were able to analyse the problems and report on what it would take to bring the building up to the level of an equivalent building without these obvious drawbacks.

Case Study – Keillour Castle : This building had not been well maintained for many years and was suffering from Dry Rot.  In bringing it to the market the owners were concerned that it would be severely market down by prospective owners.  We were able to propose and execute a relatively modest program of works that would reveal and stabilise the situation so that, whilst it clearly continued to be a “doer-upper” a prospective purchaser could have some reassurance as to the extent of problems that they would face in doing the work.


David Gibbon