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News & opinion

27 NOV 2018

Stanley Phillips: the building surveyor creating a legacy

Responsible for managing and maintaining the huge stock of buildings in the British Isles, chartered surveyors are giving a new lease of life to ancient monuments and modern buildings. 

Here Stanley Phillips, of London-based Pennington Phillips, describes his varied career working on projects ranging from schools and Grade I listed buildings to the 2009 X Factor house.

There have been several extremely interesting projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on. I particularly remember working on a primary school off the end of Old Kent Road in the early 1990s. We were working for the London Borough of Southwark and were commissioned to improve an old single storey timber school, the suggestion was to replace all the windows, insulate and clad the outside. We decided on a plastic cladding system which came in large panels that could be cut to scale. 

We approached the school to see if they had any preferred designs and were amazed when they returned to us with these huge rolled up sheets of paper. When we opened them, they depicted drawn to scale elevations of the school in different themes. One theme was of a train and carriages, based on Thomas the Tank engine, and another was a scene from the Jungle Book. As we were able to laser cut the panels, we decided to replicate the designs around the school. We were told this had a very positive effect on the school and all the children liked it. 

We approached the school to see if they had any preferred designs and were amazed when they returned to us with these huge rolled up sheets of paper. One was of a train and carriages, based on Thomas the Tank Engine, and another was a scene from the Jungle Book.

On the residential front, I have been very fortunate to have refurbished numerous beautiful houses, including a Grade I Nash terrace in Regents Park. 

However, the one that really stands out was a Grade II* listed house in Bloomsbury, a former solicitors office that we refurbished in 2000. When my client, bought this house it was a Grade II listed building, but the minute the London Borough of Camden saw the inside, they immediately asked for and were granted permission to upgrade the listing. 

This house had two floors made entirely of original timber panelling which made the threading of service risers virtually impossible without cutting into the panelling. Having finally agreed a way forward, the next set of issues revolved around our suggestion that we use water-based underfloor heating. This, combined with the Grade II* listing, made our task very complicated, but very gratifying, once the project was complete.

As a pre-purchase surveyor, no single day is ever the same. The variety my job offers means that one day I could be out managing a building project, the next I could be carrying out a survey. It’s also satisfying to be responsible for giving older houses a new lease of life by carrying out internal and external refurbishment projects. 

The X Factor house project was a speculative development by a young developer. We came up with a striking design including a fantastic ‘floating’ staircase. It became quite famous, or indeed infamous, as the public found out and fans of the show were camping outside. 

Whatever you do for a living, there must be something that excites you and that will get you out of bed in the morning. As a building surveyor you really can decide where and how you want to practice. Once you get qualified you can choose to specialise in so many different fields.

I have been very lucky to work with a range of incredible properties in various styles. Combined with the ability to earn good money, I have been able to enjoy a rich and varied career.