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David Holmes 60 Second Interview about the Spon Price Books

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Davis Langdon, Building Magazine's Construction Consultant/Surveyor of the Year for the 4th year in a row.

When was Davis Langdon founded, and what did it start out doing?
The modern origins of Davis Langdon LLP lie in the merger of Langdon & Avery with David Belfield & Everest in 1988. Both firms operated in the UK and the Middle East and this was the first step into ‘going global’. In 1999 engineering services specialists Mott Green Wall, who edit Spons M&E price book, were merged. We now have some 5000 staff in 100 offices worldwide working on some of the most challenging and complex projects being built.

Until recently the firm was called “Davis Langdon Everest”. Who was Everest and what was he famous for?
Bobby Everest was a founding member of Davis Belfield & Everest. He was related to George Everest, Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843 and the man who, with William Lambton, undertook the ‘great trigonometrical survey’ of India, which included measuring the height of Mount Everest, and subsequently had the world’s highest mountain named after him.

Davis Langdon has won a number of awards. Which is or are the firm most proud of, and which were hardest to get?
Our most recent success in being named “Best Construction Consultant/Surveyor of the Year 2009” for the fourth year running is considered the industry benchmark for recognizing leading-edge, innovative and best-practice organisations operating within the construction industry.  We have also received accolade for our training and development programmes and have been named one of the Sunday Times ‘Best 100 Companies to Work For’ in the UK for several years.  All awards are hard to win, and I believe we are all incredibly proud of our reputation in the construction industry which is a reflection of breadth and diversity of our work, as well as that of everybody who works here.

What is the firm’s core business and what skills does a good member of the team really need?
Core business is Cost Consultancy, a development from the more traditional Quantity Surveyor role, and represents approximately 50% of our total fee income. Other key areas include Project Management, Engineering Services (Mechanical & Electrical Services) and Banking, Tax & Finance.
A good team member needs a great number of skills to be really effective, plus the ability to know when and when not to use them.
Be a good listener! To properly understand a task you need to listen & properly understand exactly what you and the rest of the team are supposed to be doing. Understanding the task is the first step to completing the task!
Be a good speaker. Not necessarily to stand up in front of an audience, but to be able to clearly explain your ideas, ask the right questions and interact across all levels within the team is incredibly important and helps to bring the team together.
Being a good team member does not mean that you have to be able to do everything, but being able to fit your skills to the task in hand is a basic requirement.

What irritating questions do quantity surveyors get asked and wish they weren’t?
How much will it cost?
It is why we are here after all. Trying to second guess how much a contractor will charge can be challenging, so any back up data we can make use of is always useful and Spon’s Price Books provide good solid data and can be very useful in a variety of ways, not only looking up the rate for bricks!

What will the construction industry be like in 25 (or 50?) years time?
There will still be an industry and I don’t think we will be using many site robots to erect buildings. There would be much more off site manufacturing (OSM) techniques used and some of that assembly work would be carried out by robots!
Every construction project is unique, be it a small kitchen extension at home or a 300m high city center office development, and construction will always rely on skilled craftsmen on a building site assembling a structure at the end of whatever the design/production processes are in place at the time.
How we actually get to that end will change - roles & responsibilities of designers and consultants will be re-written more than once. There will always be a need for good design and similarly someone will want to know how much it’s all going to cost.
We would be building in a truly sustainable way, probably less new buildings and more re-cycling of existing – particularly substructures and frames which are very carbon intensive to produce initially. We cannot keep demolishing our old buildings as we do too oftentimes today.

DID YOU KNOW?  - Tell us one unknown fact about yourself …
From September through to April I like to spend Saturday afternoons at Franklin Gardens watching Northampton Rugby Football Club with Tracy, my wife next to me cheering on the Saints – I’m quite vocal in my support!


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