The Surveyor Hub: 037 with Steve Hodgson and Phil Parnham

Marion Ellis and Phil Parnham met up with Steve Hodgson, the Chief Executive Officer at the Property Care Association (PCA) since 2012. Steve is passionate about the industry which he is proud to serve, and he is committed to creating and promoting best practice, scientific research and a better technical understanding of moisture related issues. 

As the CEO of PCA, his aim is to help facilitate the delivery of good service and workmanship to consumers, as well as providing effective representation and value for money to all members of the PCA.

What PCA Is and What They Do

For those who are not familiar with PCA, Steve starts by introducing us to this organisation and what they do.

“The Association was founded around 1914, and it was a group of people that came together to look at the dangers associated with preservation. So at that time people started to brew up all sorts of hideous things in barrels to kill bugs and fungus, and they were probably killing as many people as there were bugs. That whole thing has morphed and changed over a very long time. First it was all about bugs, fungus, and damp. But over the years, we’ve increased our scope, so now we’re also involved in underground waterproofing, non invasive weeds, ground gas protection and flood stuff. The common link to all, apart from the weeds, is moisture. So we are involved in anything that you can think of, that is about water in the wrong place in the environment.”

The Surveyor Training Offered at PCA

PCA offers surveyor training for property professionals in Remedial Treatments (CSRT) and Timber & Dampness in Buildings (CSTDB). A number of Chartered Surveyors have gone down that route. Steve would be happy to see that route grow further.

“The training is for somebody who wants to know about timber, dampness, condensation, structural waterproofing and that kind of stuff. We cannot make surveyors in three or four days, but what we do is take people with surveying knowledge and experience, and give them a few days of training, so they can, if they want, go on and sit an exam and get a qualification through ABBE.”

Can You Guarantee a Waterproof Building?

Marion raised the point that surveyors need to be more included in the process of building inspection and to be able to see the damp investigation reports if they are to help people with their homes, and make sure that the building is waterproof. Steve has objections, however, to the process of issuing guarantees against dampness.   

“The fact is that we know without doubt that if we look after a building, it will serve as well. If we ignore it and we treat it badly, and we don’t maintain it, it will fail. As long as water falls out of the sky, it will get into badly maintained buildings and you’ll have problems. It’s as simple as that. The guarantees are the work of the devil, as far as I’m concerned. If you get a contractor that’s told that a client requires a guarantee at the end of the job, then the contractor will draw up a specification for a repair that’s not necessarily the most sympathetic or inexpensive, but the repair that’s needed in order to get to a point where they can issue a guarantee for 10 years on it. And the two things are different, whether we’d like to admit it or not. If you’re going to have a long term engagement with the client with no requirement for guarantee, you’re going to be motivated to work on that property in a slow, methodical, holistic way. If you’re given one shot to go, do an inspection, write a specification, and at the end of the process issue a guarantee that the building is going to be dry for 10 years, then that causes all sorts of conflicts.”

Are the Policies Around Japanese Knotweed Overstated?

PCA is involved in working with invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed, a controversial area of work that affects the lending policy. Phil wanted to know whether some of the policies around Japanese Knotweed might be overstated a bit.

“Japanese knotweed is a weed, it isn’t the destroyer of worlds, it doesn’t steal your babies, it doesn’t pull your house down at night. It can be gotten rid of, but it’s tenacious, it’s a pest, and it’s difficult to get rid of, unless you do it in a methodical, long-term way or dig it out. Even if you dig it out, you still have to make sure you go back to the site and check for any regrowth for a considerable period of time. So our view is that in many respects, its reputation is overdone. But in other respects, like the issues of devaluation and the blight that it brings to properties, it still has to be tackled seriously. What I’ve said for many years to different people, I would certainly buy a house with the Japanese knotweed in the garden, I’d think twice about a house with dry rot,” Steve states.

The Pros and Cons of ‘Green Vouchers’

The UK Government has started the Green Homes Grant Scheme, where people can apply for ‘Green Vouchers’ to make improvements to their homes and make them energy efficient by insulating walls, floors or roofs. Here’s Steve’s take on this scheme.

“In a nutshell, the Green Homes Grant Scheme is giving every one of us in a building that qualifies a 5,000 contribution to spend on energy saving measures. Now, we understand that it is a job creation scheme, and improving the energy performance of buildings has been on the government agenda for quite some time. Our real concern, that has come through bitter experience, is that you don’t insulate houses, and you don’t put insulation over cracks or defects. When you insulate the building, then what you’re doing is reducing the amount of natural infiltration, the air exchange that you described as breathing. But when the air does escape, it goes out through the fabric of the building, and hopefully it remains in balance. So you must then bring the building back into balance, usually by mechanical ventilation or other means,” Steve explains.

“I am an advocate of making our buildings more energy efficient. It’s unavoidable and we’ve got to do it for the sake of our kids and the planet. But what I don’t want to see is a well intentioned action having a massively detrimental effect on the underlying housing stuff, especially when that can be avoided,” he concludes.

In this episode, Marion Ellis and Phil Parnham are interviewing Steve Hodgson, who is Chief Executive Officer at the Property Care Association (PCA) since 2012. He is passionate about the industry which he is proud to serve, and committed to creating and promoting best practice, scientific research and a better technical understanding of moisture related issues.
His aim is to help facilitate the delivery of good service and workmanship to consumers, as well as providing effective representation and value for money to all members of the PCA.

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