Simon Waterhouse, Senior Partner
News | July 26, 2022
2 min read
When Simon Waterhouse’s thoughts first turned to building a future in the construction industry, a career as an architect was one of the favoured options on the drawing board.
Inspired by his father, who excelled as a technical draughtsman for an engineering company, he dallied with design during his late teens and sought out work experience with an architecture firm.
Unlike his dad, however, Simon quickly discovered he was not particularly proficient with a pencil in hand and began to refine the blueprint that would ultimately deliver him the role of senior partner at building consultancy and project management specialist HartDixon.
“I was not particularly gifted in terms of design flair, but the experience made me realise that I enjoyed, and had a strong interest in, the built environment,” recalled the 46-year-old of his early epiphany. “I went on to study for a degree in building surveying at Nottingham Trent University and, although I did then join an architect practice as a graduate, it was as a member of their building surveying department.”
In sharp contrast to his ‘sketchy’ sketching skills, Simon has been applying a critical eye to construction projects ever since – a strength he believes is becoming increasingly valuable to those financing new developments or overseeing a portfolio of properties.
Citing the cladding crisis, which was sparked by the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, as an example of the critical consequences of shortcuts in construction, the experienced planned preventative maintenance practitioner stressed the need for vigilance throughout the lifecycle of a project.
“At HartDixon we are still receiving a high volume of enquiries from owners of smaller developments who need to remove combustible materials from their buildings but have been unable to get government funding to do so,” explained Simon, who secured his chartered surveyor status in 2003.
“You don’t have to look hard to read stories about leaseholders being unable to sell or re-mortgage their properties because of unsafe external wall systems or combustible decking on balconies and there is increasing pressure on clients to put this right.
“We can help them through our in-depth knowledge of the various schemes out there and to project manage the work to resolve issues.”
Simon added that historic building practices, such as the once widespread use of aluminium composite materials on high-rise structures, were not the only hazards that can be mitigated through the appointment of expert eyes.
“Fire safety is a hot topic for obvious reasons but that does not mean that there are no corners being cut elsewhere,” he said. “The industry is having a tough time economically and one casualty of money-saving measures has been the disappearance of the role of a clerk of works; an individual who previously served as the eyes and ears of investors on site and would be there to spot problems and get them sorted.
“It is therefore imperative to have someone like us standing over the shoulder of contractors and assuring the necessary attention is being paid to each stage of a build.
“The shortage of materials as a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine and rising labour and supply costs are adding to the pressure on developers so extra vigilance is needed to ensure things are still being done safely and to a high standard.”
Simon may have revised his original career plan, but his resulting specialism is continuing to help others realise their urban ambitions.