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  • Writer's pictureJohn Russo

Send in the Intern

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Building documentation and its complexities require much more than often perceived.

Building documentation is easy. Actually, anyone can do it. It takes no special skill or knowledge. In fact, many times I am told that the only reason I am being asked by a client to measure a building is that they are too busy to do it themselves. Oh yeah, and the words “I’ll just send in an Intern” are commonly preceded by “your fee is too high.” Why do I suddenly hear echoes of Rodney Dangerfield’s I don’t get no respect?

While my inner voice is responding with a sarcastic “I hope that works out for you,” what I’m really thinking is how I can help my client see the real value in my service offering. There’s nothing like having my forty plus years of knowledge and experience compared to a six month out-of-school intern that barely knows how to operate a tape measure.

Now back to reality. I’ve got other clients to serve who truly value what I have to offer. After all, documenting a building can be very challenging. Not just anyone can do it and do it accurately. It takes a good understanding of not only buildings and building systems, but a thorough knowledge of the principals of survey, skills with a variety of hardware and software technologies and a tenacity for uncovering hidden conditions and conquering complexities that would make an intern’s head spin.

Often it just takes a bit of time and a lot of pain before a client will realize how difficult performing an existing conditions survey can be. In fact, today I received a call from that client who figured they’d just do the work themselves. I think to myself, “Hmmm, why are they calling me now?” The caller started out very cordial and polite as if my value had never been in question.

“I have another building I need measured, and I need to get a fee from you.” Of course, I’m already wondering “Is his intern too busy?” or, “Maybe he forgot how much I charge.” Then come the words that brings joy to my ears… “We should have used you guys on that last job you quoted. We spent hours and hours trying to make things work in our model and had to make multiple trips back-n-forth to and from the site. We ended up taking a blood bath when the job got to construction due to all the existing conditions, we were not able to reconcile.”

It’s counter intuitive, but sometimes the best thing we can hope for is to not get a job and have the client struggle with doing it themselves. Having to document every little bump on a hundred thousand square foot building or struggling with the best way to measure a mechanical room or above ceiling plenum space filled with complicated MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) systems can be the best way for a client to learn the value of a professional building surveyor.


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