“I am not a Land Surveyor, I am a Quantity Surveyor” Many times I have found myself responding to people’s question of who I am in such a manner. As a result I have come to learn that though Quantity Surveying is one of the oldest trade/profession in the construction industry, many people have no clue who a Quantity Surveyor is or what he does. Having been trained and working as a quantity surveyor I will be seeking to break down on who really is a Quantity Surveyor commonly referred to as ‘Q.S.’.
To understand who a Q.S. is one needs to understand what quantity surveying is.
In simple terms, Quantity Surveying is a Mathematical process used in estimating cost of a new building construction, improvement, or reproduction. Quantity surveying is primarily centred on construction and the management of the costs and budgets of both large and small projects. From the moment a plan is drawn until a construction project has been completed. Quantity Surveying deals with the legal, technical, financial and economic aspects of any construction activity.
A Quantity Surveyor is an expert in the art of costing a construction project at all its stages. Quantity Surveyors are highly trained professionals offering expert advice on construction costs. They are essential for life cycle costing, cost planning, procurement and tendering, contract administration and commercial management. Quantity Surveyors must have strong financial, analytical, interpretative and teamwork skills. Clients rely on their judgement to ensure the smooth running of any project and provide value for money.
Basically, the Quantity Surveyor is the person responsible for figuring out just what a building is going to cost and in some cases for making sure that construction costs and production are managed as efficiently as possible. In some of today’s projects there may be many millions of dollars involved.
How do Quantity Surveyors work?
Before a construction project starts, a Quantity Surveyor will study drawings and specifications about a new building normally provided by architects or engineers. From this information, he/she will be able to calculate the quantities of materials for the building. They must also provide accurate labour and work costs.
Quantity Surveyors rely on a range of technical measurement tools to come to accurate costs and give early cost advice, to budget and benchmark projects and to prepare life cycle cost plans. They will also have a thorough understanding of Building Regulations in order to adhere to them and ensure that the project passes Building Control. During the build they keep a constant check on costs.
A Quantity Surveyor can identify and collate the costs involved in order to develop an overall budget for any project. They can then undertake cost planning which aims to help all members of the design team arrive at practical solutions and stay within the project budget. It is the final detailed estimate prepared by the Quantity Surveyors, in consultation with a project architect, which forms a basis on which subsequent tenders can be evaluated. Schedules of quantities translate the drawing, plans and specifications produced by the design team to enable each contractor to calculate tender prices fairly, on exactly the same basis as the competitors.
Once tenders have been accepted, the Quantity Surveyor can provide cash flow data to enable a client to programme his resources adequately to meet contract commitments. In other words, the Quantity Surveyor decides how much of a job should be paid for at any one time. With interest rates the way they are, no one wants to hand over money before it is due.
In most construction contracts, the contractor is paid monthly and the Quantity Surveyor can value the work carried out each month submitting a recommendation for certified payment.
The Quantity Surveyor can also be called on to assess cost effects when changes occur and agree on variation with contractors.
Following completion of a contract, the Quantity Surveyor prepares a statement of final account, summarizing the cost charges that have occurred and arriving at a final contract sum.
A quantity surveyor manages all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures. Surveyors seek to minimize the costs of a project and enhance value for money, while still achieving the required standards and quality. Many of these are specified by statutory building regulations, which the surveyor needs to understand and adhere to.
A quantity surveyor may work for either the client or the contractor, working in an office or on-site. They are involved in a project from the start, preparing estimates and costs of the work. When the project is in progress, quantity surveyors keep track of any variations to the contract that may affect costs and create reports to show profitability.
The functions of a quantity surveyor are broadly concerned with the control of the cost on construction projects, the management and maintenance of the budget, valuations and any legal matters arising through the course of the project. They are required to make sure that the project remains profitable and efficient.
Quantity surveyors need to be highly numerate, commercially aware, professionally trained and great communicators. The job requires a combination of technical, financial, economic and legal knowledge.
Before you start building your dream house, before you commit your finances and engage that contractor friend of yours, consider engaging the services of a Q.S. It will save you on cost, unnecessary delays, arguments and you will be free to engage in other activities.
Below are listed services offered by a Quantity Surveyor in any construction work.
The Services of a Quantity Surveyor
The role of a Quantity Surveyor in connection with building contracts can be summarized as follows:-
- Prepares budgets for building projects.
- Advises on the effects of quality to the budget.
- Advises on what size and standard of structure can be constructed for a given expenditure.
- Act with other consultants to ensure that the financial provisions of the contract are properly interpreted and applied so the client’s financial interest is safeguarded and that the contractor is paid a fair price for the works.
- Advising on the cost of alternative materials
- Advising on the cost of construction method
- Advising on effect of site condition on budget
- Advising on the feasibility of different sites
- Advising on tendering procedure and contractual arrangements
- Preparation of tender documents
- Exercise cost control during construction to ensure that cost is not exceeded without authority
- Advising on matters between Clint and Consultants
- Advising on matters between Client and Contractor
- Advising on contract interpretation, payments, changes in scope of works, variations, claims, final accounts etc.
In Conclusion a Quantity Surveyor is expected to:
- Give impartial advice
- Achieve value for money
- Manage the budget and control cost
- Achieve a quality product
- Satisfy the client
The writer Gachagua Ngunjiri is a consulting Qs. with Premier Consultants