First of all an apology is in order. I had been rather snearing about GIA’s original venue suggestion – an outlet of the coffee chain Benugo. I told the hapless PR that Building journalists buy PINTS not skinny lattes, and besides, we had a Benugo franchise in our office building and I didn’t want to spend an evening in one. I insisted GIA choose a new venue. They came up with Ping Pong, a perfectly nice lounge bar near the Festival Hall on London’s South Bank. “Thank God for that,” I thought.

I now know why they chose Benugo. The other night I popped into the British Film Institute (BFI) on the South Bank and discovered a great new bar with a great interior, good music, and an intelligent crowd. It was called Benugo Bar & Grill and it was the venue GIA had originally chosen.

I imagine GIA would have felt at home at the BFI bar. I’d never seen such an attractive, well groomed bunch of surveyors. Some of GIA’s work involves resolving disputes – being attractive probably helps soothe the pain.

“We get involved in neighbourly matters,” explains Shirley euphemistically. “We advise developers on their obligations regarding party walls.”

Disputes may arise if developers put scaffolding up without advising neighbours or, in the case of the Pinnacle, when vibrations caused by demolition cause disturbance.

At this point Stuart introduces a shocking revelation. “I have terrible neighbours. One of them stuck an axe in another one recently.”

Suddenly, rights of light disputes sound less important. “It’s in the Camden Journal. He’s on life support. It was only after they’d done a scan and realised he wouldn’t die that they let me go back to my house.”

So, obvious next question from Mark: have you considered leaving London? “No plans. You have to live on top of each other in London, but there’s lots of pluses as well.”

Everybody agrees, especially Michelle who’s only just moved down from Yorkshire. “I love the bustle and the diversity. I can’t see myself leaving,” she says. Obviously the axeman hasn’t visited her neighbourhood yet.

Listening to the range of perks GIA offers their workers I begin to understand Michelle’s enthusiasm. As well as pool tables and computer games in the office, there’s also an imaginative range of company awaydays from conservation work to band nights and putting on plays.

No wonder they’ve managed to attract an ex-TV presenter, a model and a nuclear scientist to their staff. “It’s about recruiting high-calibre individuals,” says Ingram.

Hart goes further and I think expresses the essence of what GIA are about. “We’re trying to make building surveying sexy.” And why shouldn’t they?

Gordon Ingram senior partner
Stuart Hart partner and head of building consultancy department
Michelle Long surveyor, rights of light
Shirley Waldron associate partner, party walls
Alex Smith Building

Chosen watering hole: Ping Pong, South Bank 
Ambience: Cocktail drinking groups of twentysomethings
Topics: Axe murderers and other bad neighbours 
Drinks drunk: three Chinese beers, two Ping Pongs (the house cocktail), two Ratini cocktails, one iced tea