Job spotlight: Iain Whittick – writing a page in history
The building surveyor at the National Trust mixes the traditional with the modern in his role.
What does your job involve?
It’s a very varied role, as the National Trust owns a wide variety of buildings – the large mansions that people probably think of when the Trust is mentioned, though to farms, cottages and visitor tea rooms.
My role is a mixture of maintenance work, ensuring the estate is compliant and safe for visitors, tenants and staff, and projects. Projects can be minor refurbishments and improvements, to major conservation works. A particular focus recently has been adaptive re-use of redundant buildings to protect our historic building stock.
“All building surveyors at the National Trust are required to be chartered. The CIOB enabled me to achieve chartered status and, with my previous experience and qualifications, I was able to secure my current role.”
Did you need a specific set of skills and experience for this role? If so, what – and how did you achieve them?
I completed my degree in Heritage Conservation in 1993, and initially worked in countryside conservation. I later moved to a role within a cathedral works department. I studied for a PG Dip in building conservation part time.
Work I did with a local authority built my knowledge of the building industry in more depth, and then I got a job with English Heritage, where I was able to use my specialist conservation knowledge on a daily basis. After working at a university in Edinburgh for a few years, I moved back into conservation with the National Trust as it is the environment that I most enjoy.
All building surveyors within the National Trust are required to be chartered. Many go down the RICS route, but there are a number of us who have chosen to go with the CIOB. In my case the CIOB enabled me to use my experience within the industry to achieve chartered status and, with my previous experience and qualifications, I was able to secure my current role.
Do you see this as a growth area for the construction industry or is there a skills shortage here too?
I recently assisted my local CIOB hub in Exeter to set up a heritage skills day. Through this we were able to demonstrate a range of traditional skills and to show that there is a place for them within the modern construction industry.
There is a skills shortage in the conservation field, although I feel there has been an increase in interest. Knowledge of traditional materials such as thatch and cob, and masonry and joinery skills will always be in demand to maintain the historic buildings we have, but also have a place within new buildings.