This article is all about the history of quantity surveying. Quantity surveyors started out as essentially clerks working on behalf of the Client attempting to manage the construction costs of say a castle, palace or town but as times changed, their roles changed. Most quantity surveyors now promote themselves increasingly as Construction cost consultants/managers, project managers, value engineers and so forth.
Essentially however, the primary role of the quantity surveyor, to manage construction costs, is still the core role of the quantity surveyor.
Whilst some naysayers predict the declining role of the quantity surveyor, they are consistently proven wrong. In every construction project someone needs to manage the construction costs and finances whether its for the Client or the building contractor and therefore this role will be always be required. This means that there will always be well paid, attractive jobs for Quantity surveyors or their career descendants.
In construction, a quantity surveyor will generally work for a Client (someone who controls the funds for a construction project) or the Contractor (a business hired to manage the construction project).
• Measurement/taking off of quantities from drawings
• Creation of early cost advice including: order of cost estimates, cost plans, pre-tender estimates.
• Procurement advice
• Tender management and recommendation
• Contract preparation
• Post contract cost control including change control
• Post contract valuation of works completed and payment recommendations
• Cost reporting, draft final account reporting
• Final account agreement
1. Degree in construction economics and management
2. Post-graduate in law or a qualification in Arbitration
3. Membership of the RICS as a MRICS quantity surveyor
Most builders or building contractors employ quantity surveyors.
Builders will have a quantity surveying department who will be headed up by a senior quantity surveyor who usually is also a director of the business.
In a smaller building contractor the role of the quantity surveyor will involve:
In larger businesses the contractors quantity surveyor will have more specialized roles including managing the cost of a construction project – site quantity surveyor role who does nothing but manage the costs of one construction project.
These tasks would include
In times past, Kings or heads of Government, religious organisation or business leaders would commission new construction works.
The work would be designed by the forerunners of Architects who would run the project hiring and managing skilled tradespersons directly.
Now of course this led to huge cost over-runs and therefore a need for consistent construction cost control was born.
Clerks of work were hired to calculate how much work was required in a proposed project and to obtain prices from the tradespersons. These tradespersons would employ their own staff to work out exactly their costs before submission as a fixed quotation. And eventually these tradespersons worked out it was easier to have the Clients representative produce one document with all the work required that competing tradespersons could price. This gave birth to the quantity surveyor.
The first quantity surveying firm was in Reading, United Kingdom in 1785.
For a long time, the core service of the quantity surveyor was to produce bills of quantities that contractors could price. However, over time the role has evolved into total cost management from ‘cradle to grave’ as well as project management and a whole host of other services.
A bill of quantities has several core purposes including:
The principle documents in contract documentation include:
Coordinated project information is the concept of improving construction efficiency and success by making incremental changes in how construction projects are planned and managed.
It is an industry wide led initiative and quantity surveyors are very much a part of these improvements.
Quantity surveying is constantly developing.
Its original purpose centered upon creating one bill of quantities per project that could be used for competitive tenders and managing payments.
But the profession has evolved. A key value point for quantity surveyors is the ability to provide early construction cost advice.
The next value point is to run a competitive tender process for a project. Traditionally, this would involve the use of a bill of quantities and this does in many cases. But increasingly, the Quantity Surveyor will use the bill of quantities or another pricing document as a guide only and instead focus on putting the risk onto the building contractor and the subcontractors. The idea being that the subcontractors who know their trade inside and out are best placed to take the risk of their respective costs.
For example, why should a quantity surveyor, working on behalf of a Client, produce a detailed bill of quantities (with quantities provided) for structural steel when they can just have a brief item that says (supply and install all structural steel as per the drawings, all works deemed to be included). A structural steel contractor will carry out their own estimate and if the Quantity surveyor obtains several estimates, they will find a clear average of costs. It matters little that it is more difficult to see what the contractor has allowed for if the contract states that the contractor must allow for all structural steel as necessary.
The quantity surveying role is less about creating detailed bill of quantities and more about the professional management of construction costs. This is a difficult task in itself.