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29 Mar 2023 < Back

Reflecting on 35 years in Property Care

Retirement beckons. I’m feeling a bit chipper today, my final day of ‘regular’ employment and it certainly feels as if life is about to change!

Have I learnt anything useful that I can pass on? Perhaps, but I’m not going to bore you with words of wisdom. Hopefully, after many years of training/mentoring in the industry I have managed to secure my ‘legacy’ by osmosis!? To make this blog worth reading (and short, short is good) I thought I would try and give a bit of perspective. What has got better and what has got worse in the last 35 years? Let’s dive in, sector-by-sector…..

Damp Proofing and Wood Preservation

THEN: My first gig (which lasted 20 years!) was in the manufacturing sector (building chemicals, in particular for use in preservation and damp proofing). In 1989 the factory had 2-3 x tanker deliveries a week supplying white spirit alone and that gives you a clue as to the most popular products – ‘high-pressure’ DPC fluids and solvent-based preservatives (although these latter products were starting to being used less and less due to some spectacular roof fires!).

Thank goodness new technology and a shift in attitudes resulted in rapid change towards water-based systems during the 90’s and 00’s. Microemulsion chemistry enabled almost solvent-free preservative treatments with little or no loss of performance (penetration) and the introduction of DPC creams (silicone emulsions) was nothing short of a revolution – great for operatives and the environment!

Being a PCA member is ever more important – our collective super-strength is our qualifications and experience in structural and environmental investigations and this is being more and more widely recognised and applauded most notably in recent times through the publication of a Joint Position Statement by PCA/RICS/Historic England (Historic Environment Scotland and CADW).

Today, our PCA members are ready to respond to the challenge of providing objective/quantitative assessments of indoor air quality and mould/condensation risks. We should take every opportunity to ‘be the difference’ – advising and guiding property owners to protect their own families and/or fulfil their obligations to tenants, ultimately preventing ill health, higher energy costs and damage to the fabric of buildings.

Basement Waterproofing

THEN: In 1989 I worked for a company that sold lots of cement and bitumen products, so perhaps I am a bit biased but waterproofing in the 1980s seemed quite two-dimensional! 3D (‘air gap’) products had been around since the 30’s, but the 1980’s saw modern HDPE versions launched by several companies, with and without nylon mesh lathing. The widespread deployment of such materials as ‘cavity drain systems’ for above and below ground structural waterproofing took off.

NOW: It’s hard to imagine this sector without Type C drainage systems (and A and B of course!) and associated channels and sumps/pumps! The convenience and performance of this approach to waterproofing has even spawned a new industry – retro-fit basements added as extensions to existing houses. But as my colleague James Berry has said in recent blogs, beware pitfalls! Design your systems to cope with surface flooding (likely to be an increased risk of occurrence and severity), don’t allow competitive pricing/increased competition to dupe you into unsustainable pricing and, for specifiers, remember to use a PCA Waterproofing Design Specialist at the earliest possible stage of a project.

Invasive Weeds

THEN: This has been my main focus for the last 5 years (almost to the week) and even in that short time I’ve noticed some major changes for our members in this sector. The Invasive Weed Control Group (IWCG) was formed in 2012 to unlock something of an impasse between mortgage lenders and buyers where the mere presence of Japanese knotweed could prevent the sale of a perfectly sound property. Confusion reigned: about the extent of knotweed damage; about effective ‘eradication’ strategies; about the impact on property value. All accentuated by sensationalist press coverage (usually misleading, overstating risks).

NOW: Well, stories in the press haven’t changed, much but the professional invasive weed management sector has! RICS risk assessment guidance on Japanese knotweed has been modified to take account of its impact and the size of each stand, not just distance from property. The mortgage market operates freely because mortgage lenders recognise the effectiveness of, and security that comes from, professional knotweed management plans and IBGs and there is the possibility that this could be extended to include ‘running’ bamboos. Other non-native invasive species are now more widely recognised and considered in property surveys and valuations.

But the biggest change is one that is still bubbling-under to a certain extent. The recognition that invasive weeds are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and sustainability of wild habitats, agriculture and the communities that depend on both (all of us!). Not only has this been covered by the esteemed David Attenborough (reflecting data in a new BSBI Plant Atlas published recently) but its hard to think of a topic that gets more coverage in UN treaties. The importance and relevance of this PCA sector/group seems assured for the foreseeable future.

Farewell for now...

Thanks to every single one of you that I’ve either worked with, provided services to or simply shared a joke and a pint (or a Pimms) with at Conference. Lots of fond memories. The PCA’s members can be proud of what they stand for; they also know how to have a good time - as do the PCA team! Equally important in my honest opinion...

Peter - Signature



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