James Lake

Questions and answers:

Before you came to Brookes what did you study and where?

I studied Geography, Business, and Media Studies for A Level at Gordonstoun. English, Maths, Double award Science, R.S, Spanish, Geography, Food Technology GCSE at King Ely.

What made you choose Brookes as a place to study?

Has got a diverse range of subjects, and a nice city to be in.

What do you think of the course now you're here?

It is job specific, directed towards getting a job afterwards. It covers a large range of different aspects of the industry, which is also good. Finally I enjoy it.

What do you think of the industrial placement aspect of your course?

It is definately worth while doing, getting used to what it is like working in a professional environment. It also puts what you have learnt into practice, hopefully putting one at an advantage once left university.

What are your plans for when you've completed your course, for work or further study?

If I get offered a job by Leadbitter (which is hopefully fairly likely) I will probably stay with them to do their graduate program, and be accredited as a surveyor.

What are the best bits of studying at Brookes?

Apart from the social life, the placement is definately a good idea as mentioned above. Many of the bits of coursework are done in groups, and relate to actual projects. The University also gets the students involved in the current large development at Brookes, which adds interest to what is happening to the surroundings.

What advice do you have for others?

Get the placements organised earlier rather than later. The more you put in the more you get out of it.


Student placement

Project description

St Oswalds – 161 apartment Care Home, with a village including workshops, spar area, restaurants, pubs, etc, and a 16 apartment bungalow. Located in Gloucester retail park. Built on an illegal landfill site. All to be traditional build, apart from village, which is to be steel frame. Bungalow to be fast track build, and to act as a show room, and a model for the rest of the build. Decided recently to become code 3 recognised, only needed to put in 2 micro CHP units to meet criteria.

Brockworth Care Home - 80 apartment Care Home completed in 2 phases. Demolition of the existing Care Home, which is also been done in 2 phases. 1st phase to be finished by the end of the month. Although the project is currently running smoothly due to management changes, there have been a number of large problems. When I was there, corner posts were ordered to the wrong length, unnecessary delays, and services laid in the wrong place.

Girls School – This project is/was only at tender stage. The building is to be an environmentally friendly building to fit in with the nature around it, with solar panels and various other eco friendly ideas. The provisions and price for each element of the build was to be given an extra margin as there is a lot of risk. As it is built into a steep bank, tricky soil conditions, next to pond (and other ecological elements), a large lack of design, and lack of information on steel frame structure. These have been the main problems.


Project team

St Oswalds - Main members on site at St Oswalds: 1 Senior Project Manager, 2 Site managers, 2 Senior Surveyors, 1 Design Coordinator, Foremen, Clerk of work, Receptionists

Brockworth Care Home - On site: 1 Senior project manager, 1 assistant, Foreman, Clerk of Works. Off site: Design Co ordinator, Surveyor, Contracts Manager

Girls School - Estimating: Yet to be awarded.


Student's responsibility on team

Quantity Surveying in the Office:

I got involved in all aspect of the pre construction stage First of all would send out enquiries, chase up the sub contractor's prices and then do an excel comparison / assessments. From here I would negotiate for the cheapest prices, and try and get the preferred sub contractor to the lowest price. Having narrowed down to a couple of sub contractors my colleagues would then organise interviews and pre construction meetings, and finally awarding the job to a chosen sub contractor. I also got involved in doing some valuations for the client of the current cost of the project. Finally got involved in looking into CVR's which is a monthly report looking at the cash flow, and budgeting of the project.

Trainee Surveyor on site at St Oswalds:

Did the take off for all internal blockwork for the 161 apartment Care Home. I did the pre construction package for brickwork, and blockwork, incl dpc, cavity trays, lintels, pad stone etc. I got involved in doing the comparison for the floor planks. I sent out a number of enquiries for various packages. Finally I got the opportunity to attend interviews, and pre let meetings, which involved a large amount of problem solving. Steelworks and saunas caused a large amount of problems. The sauna's trial pit had to be put in before steel works go up, and also there was not enough room to put the pit in due to the ground beams too close. Luckily for us the company went into receivership and another sub contractor was appointed (who redesigned the sauna to fit)

Brockworth – Assistant site agent:

Started off getting involved in the QA (Quality Assurance) system, which fundamentally lines out a major part of what a site agent is meant to do, such as H & S, COSH, site diaries and many other elements. On top of this I shadowed the site manager around, and got stuck into trying to solve some of the problems, such as corner post ordered in to the wrong size. As well as this I acted as a first point of call for guys on site to see. My duration was only a couple of weeks, though I am back to site in a months time where I stay for the remainder of the placement.

Estimating – Girls School, Hemel Hampstead:

For the girls school there was no bill of quantities. So I got involved in doing all the taking off for the build. This involved a large amount of problem solving as there was very little design in the spec and drawings. Assumptions such as foundation type, internal frame (Steel / concrete), and where, positioning of retaining walls, drainage, and many other elements. This was an initial cost plan, later on in the projects development there will be more design in the project and a more accurate forecast can be undertaken.

Experience gained

Time allocated at Leadbitter: 2 months Buying, 2 weeks site (followed by a further 4 months at end), 4 months Quantity Surveying, 2 months Estimating, 2 months Design Co ordination, 4 months Site Management. All aspects of the above disciplines, which more or less covers a project.

Training received

SMSTS course