A Little bit about me...

I'm a Structural Engineer, specialising in conservation, at Hurst Peirce + Malcolm in London. I don't wear tweeds, am not particularly "cultured" and I'm not that old, but I do care passionately about the conservation of old buildings. I am a Chartered Structural Engineer, a member of The SPAB (formerly on the founding committee of the reborn Berks, Bucks & Oxon Regional Group), a Friend of SAVE Britain's Heritage and have recently completed a PD Diploma in conservation at West Dean College, with a view to achieving CARE accreditation. I hope to give you regular updates on my trials and tribulations as well as some insight into projects I am involved with and things I believe in.

Be patient with me - I'm no writer and I'm normally up to my eyeballs at work........

All views expressed here are my own.

Hurst Peirce + Malcolm, Celtic House, 33 John's Mews, Holborn, London WC1N 2QL

07854 624692 - richardsalmon9@gmail.com

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Who CAREs?

I want to talk about conservation accreditation and ask you a question at the end if you don't mind (please respond via comments).

There are a number of accreditation schemes for conservation/heritage professionals, such as the AABC (and new RIBA tiered) Register for Architects, the RICS-BCAM Register for Surveyors and the IHBC Register covering a wide range of professions. (You may not be aware of these, if not please say so in your comments)

As Engineers, we have two options, IHBC and the ICE/IStructE CARE scheme (Conservation Accreditation Register for Engineers) which currently has 28 members (not many considering).

The application process for the CARE register involves the submission of a number of case studies which identify what you did, why you did it and an understanding of conservation issues way beyond the bounds of what an Engineer would normally get involved with. Along with this, a personal statement is required to demonstrate your philosophy and attitude to conservation work and a CV showing a number of years of relevant experience and preferrably a post-graduate building conservation Diploma or Masters Degree. You may also be required to attend an interview with the panel. Importantly, CARE accredits individuals rather than companies. (IHBC is similar, I believe)

Now, none of that worries me particularly and I'm glad that the process is so rigorous. My plan is to finish the Diploma at West Dean and then make a decision one way or the other.

As a Chatered Engineer and full member of IStructE, CARE would be my obvious choice over IHBC, but could well do both eventually.

As a relatively small company, we are unlikely to be able to get involved in any large public works projects and would also be seen as to small to be considered for term contracts/frameworks with any governmental or heritage bodies (unless, of course, we decide to grow to suit the demand!).

So this begs the question:- Is it worth me pursuing the path to accreditation?

There are many good conservation engineers out there who are not on the register, for whatever reason. Having spoken to various people and worked on a wide variety of conservation projects over the years, I have drawn up a shortlist of pro's and con's (possible, in my opinion) regarding accreditation:-

Formal recognition of your experience and suitability in this sector
Opens up new markets with Government departments and heritage bodies

May be seen as elitist, so less likely to be considered for smaller projects (?)
Expectation that fees will be very high. (?)
More suited to larger firms (?)
Many people are unaware of the registers and their significance (?)

My raison d'etre as I see it at present, is to get involved with the huge number of smaller buildings out there which have suffered abuse by improper repairs/alterations and poor maintenance (having less official protection) and leave the larger jobs to the big boys. It fulfils my particular desires and suits my firm's capacity. (I am sorely disappointed by the number of times we are going in simply to clear up other peoples mess.)

Most of our work comes via repeat or recommendation, so how much difference would marketing our CARE credentials make on small projects?

We believe our fee structure is fair and reasonable. We only charge for what we do, but what we do involves more time and effort than "normal" projects, but we would never charge a 'premium' just because its a conservation project. We are therefore not hyper-expensive, but still cannot compete with non-conservation engineers. Its all about educating clients to appoint appropriate consultants, not just the cheapest (easier said than done!)

To help me make my mind up, I will ask just one multiple choice question and ask if you (Heritage Bodies/Architects/Surveyors/Developers/Contractors/homeowners etc) would kindly answer in the comments space below.

You have a potential structural issue with your listed/old building. When selecting a structural engineer would you look for:-
  1. CARE Registered Engineer.
  2. Chartered Engineer experienced in conservation (and proof of such, or recommended)
  3. Chartered Engineer, whatever.
  4. The cheapest Engineer you can find
  5. Not bothered - Leave it to the Architect/Builder* to sort out.
*-This assumes that the Architect/Contractor have conservation experience of course!


  1. What a quandary for you...

    I'd go for number 2 with personal recommendation being a big plus. Never heard of the accreditation schemes but would look it all up if I needed that kind of work done.

  2. Id go number two. Not heard of CARE.

    Not sure I would assume you were elitist because of accreditation, as your field is elite anyway compared to Joe Schmo jobs?

    Altering perception is a tough call though. I still get asked, are you a proper painter? Folks say they research but not sure that always involves reading anything.

  3. As someone who points homeowners and project managers to people for mostly smaller jobs I would say get some sort of accreditation. However, procurement on a small scale comes down to trust and the ability to work with the client with accreditation just opening the door.

  4. Hello Richard
    Interesting Blog our view would be that most folks outwith the industry do not know about accreditations.
    We know about ICE as we have used SEs for around twenty years or more.
    Dont think small or you be be small
    Any accreditation is good - for the company and the person.
    Your worry about being Elitist is unfounded what's the problem with showing the world how good you are.
    Draw attention to the registers make the public aware use social media.
    The Big Boys are sometimes too big they can't feel or communicate correctly - you cannot fear the giants as they do not rule the world.
    Others mess -fixing it ? this is why you are a pro. We too spend most of our lives fixings out others mess its whats makes us the best.
    Service your client, Talk to them as human beings, Explain what you will do for them, Have empathy,passion and most of all self belief and the rest will fall into line.
    Speak soon
    John Stobbs