JCT Interviews…

JCT Young Professionals Group: founder member leaders

In this series we find out more about some of the key people who give their time to support the JCT Young Professionals Group (JCT YPG). We will look at our interviewees’ background and how they got into the industry, the importance of their contribution to JCT YPG specifically, and gain their views on JCT’s wider role within the industry.

Charlie Saunders

Associate, Emerson Bond

Charlie started his career as a quantity surveyor at Walter Lilly & Co. Ltd, a tier-1 contractor operating in the super prime residential market. He holds a degree in ‘Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management’ from the University of Westminster and is a chartered member of the RICS and CIOB. Charlie has since moved into consultancy, initially at CBRE and more recently at Emerson Bond Group Limited, where he specialises in funder due diligence and project monitoring.

JCT: Tell us a bit about your background. What is your current role, and why did you decide on a career in the construction industry?

With the rising cost of university, I was keen to further my education while pursuing a career, so I was drawn to the construction industry’s wide range of training schemes. After completing my A-Levels, I started a quantity surveying apprenticeship, which enabled me to gain hands on experience whilst studying a part-time QS degree at the University of Westminster.

I was employed as a trainee quantity surveyor at Walter Lilly & Co. Ltd, a tier-1 contractor who operated in the super prime residential market. Here I gained valuable on-site experience and commercial knowledge which led to my progression to project surveyor level. Having enjoyed a focus on the commercial aspects of construction, I decided I wanted to learn more about development, so I joined CBRE’s Development Monitoring team. Here I offered development due diligence and monitoring services to funders and developers, as well as carrying out more traditional PQS duties.

More recently, I have joined a specialist project monitoring consultancy, Emerson Bond Group Limited, where I oversee a portfolio of developments for several funders and debt providers.

JCT: Charlie, how did you first come to be involved with JCT’s Young Professionals Group? Why do you think it is important to be involved with the new focus group?

I have always been interested in meeting new people and expanding my professional network, so when I saw YPG advertised on the JCT website, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. It’s great to be able to meet, collaborate with and promote opportunities for future leaders in the industry.

Growing an enriching professional network has always been an important aspect of a professional career in construction but with the rise of flexible working, I think this is more important than ever. Flexible working arrangements may increase productivity and work life balance but can sometimes be detrimental to forming new working relationships.

Also, being a monitoring surveyor, I need to have a appreciation of the whole development and construction process, so it is especially important for me to liaise with professionals from different disciplines.

JCT: Can you tell us about any specific work you’re currently doing that has any association to JCT and its contracts (e.g. any case studies/webinars/podcasts/blogs/vlogs)?

Outside of work, I have been helping to shape the JCT’s Young Professionals Group alongside the other founder member leaders. This has involved spreading the word to other young professionals, sourcing guest speakers and planning events.  At work, I often help draft, administer and review JCT contracts, as most of the private sector developments we are involved with use JCT contracts.

JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights so far?

Gaining MRICS and CIOB accreditation were both major highlights so far. The assessment processes can be tough but the reward of becoming chartered was well worth it! I would encourage any young professionals in construction to start the process.

JCT: What are you most proud of about the construction industry as a whole and where do you think it most needs to improve?

One of the things I’m most proud of about the industry is the diverse group of people that work together to deliver projects. When working in construction, you get to work with people from lots of different backgrounds, and I think that’s what makes it so unique. Although, I do think that we have more work to do to make construction more accessible to minority talent.

JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry over the next five years?

Economic Drivers – The long-term outlook for construction output is relatively modest and inflation (although easing) is still expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The low output / high inflation environment could be a perfect storm for the industry, so we need to re-think how we manage projects to boost efficiency and to allocate risk fairly. This is strongly linked to how we draft and administer our contracts.

Adapting to new sustainable measures – The government and construction industry are taking action against climate change, which is positive news, however this will have a significant impact on the specifications of our new buildings. In 2022, we already saw updates to building regulations which housebuilders claimed added 17% to the cost of construction new houses, and future legislation is also expected to have a significant impact on the industry (e.g. Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings bill). I expect that our journey to net zero will pose a lot of challenges for investors, developers and contractors!

Technology – The industry has already adapted the way it manages information in recent years, with many parties becoming proficient with BIM. Further change is also expected over the next few years, as we start to test the waters with AI and robotics. With these advancements, there will be a requirement for a greater IT proficiency throughout the workforce and a need to change the way we work. This will be especially difficult for smaller companies, who may have to incur considerable software, training and recruiting costs.

JCT: Does JCT and the Young Professionals Group have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?

The main contract connects the key stakeholders on a construction project and therefore JCT liaise with professionals from various disciplines in construction. With this in mind, I believe they are uniquely placed to promote communication between these professionals. Given this opportunity, I think the JCT have a wider role to play in connecting construction professionals and promoting discussion in the industry. Having an appreciation for other professionals’ roles is paramount to project success, so I think we should all make an effort in this regard.