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In order to identify the role of the quantity surveyor in the current industry in the UK, we will review the quantity surveyor's involvement and duties during each of the different stages of the construction cycle.
We will also review how and when a client appoints a quantity surveyor, in order to understand his early involvement in the process.
To conclude, we will explain how the quantity surveyor claims his/her fees and how the client pays for the QS services.
But firstly, let's look to history in order to better understand where the profession of quantity surveyor originates from and when it first appeared in the UK.
We can trace the roots of the quantity surveyor profession back to the rebuilding of London following the infamous Great Fire in 1666. Prior to this, buildings for the most part were built on a design build arrangement whereby the client would advise the builder on what was wanted and the master builder would work out the plan, contract all the specialist tradesmen and forward bills to the client at regular intervals. The problem with this arrangement was that the client would not know how much the building was going to cost before construction work had finished or was close to completion and if the client wanted several estimates or quotations then each builder would need to do the calculations thus adding to effort and cost.
Due to the sheer scale of reconstruction after the Great Fire, a more efficient way of calculating building costs and providing estimates was needed and this is where the quantity surveyor comes in. Originally, the role of the quantity surveyor was to develop a bill of quantities based on the architect's drawings and specifications so that any firm wanting to tender for a project could calculate it on the same basis thus reducing duplication of effort. The service that the QS provided was originally paid for by the contractors tendering for the work but the role soon became one of the client's responsibilities as it ensures that all tenderers were provided with identical tender documents.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the large majority of major building work was procured by the government or by private individuals where cost was not the main criterion. However, following issues in the railway construction industry with going over budget and the non-payment of contractors, another change to the profession was to come.
What is now the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) was founded in 1868 and it developed means of controlling construction costs by accurately measuring the work required and applying specialist knowledge of costs/prices of work, labour, materials and plant. Quantity surveyors would later use this knowledge to assess the implications of design decisions at an early stage thus ensuring complete value for money.
As we can see, the role of the quantity surveyor has adapted throughout its existence to suit current economic climate and to find better ways of meeting the needs of the construction industry. This continues today.
4.0 THE ROLE OF A QUANTITY SURVEYOR IN THE PRESENT
Quantity surveyors are essentially the accountants of the building profession. They are in charge of planning and managing costs for construction projects from the start of a project to its completion. Quantity surveyors, otherwise known as QSs, either work for private practices acting on behalf of clients or for a contracting firm which carries out construction work. Those working for the latter, often known as a contractor's quantity surveyor, tend to be responsible for legal and commercial matters within the organisation.
Interestingly, the British quantity surveyor has developed differently to its European counterparts in that pre and post contract roles are generally split. Therefore, the quantity surveying profession as we know it is a very British institution because of its history.
Thanks to their adaptability and their assumption of several different roles and responsibilities, the modern quantity surveyor has many names. For example, private practices refer to themselves as 'cost consultants' and 'project managers' because of the type of work they now deal with. Also, the contractor's quantity surveyor is now often termed 'commercial managers'.
Due to the recession, QSs have had to adapt to survive and private practices have had to be prepared to on a broader remit of work and a larger range of projects. Although quantity surveying, like any profession in the construction industry, is recession-sensitive, the way it has adapted has helped it to survive the downturn.
Quantity surveyors now have a more strategic role and no longer just measure and price work. Today, the QS is involved at every phase of a project from preparing tenders and planning costs to preparing final bills of quantities; basically, they ensure that projects are planned and completed to cost and quality requirements on time.
UK construction professionals are also respected abroad and, partly in response to the depressed market in Great Britain, many UK firms have developed an international branch. Traditionally a male-dominated profession, more and more women are now employed as quantity surveyors.
5.0 WHEN TO APPOINT A QUANTITY SURVEYOR
In order for the client to get the most out of a quantity surveyor, the client should appoint the QS as soon as possible in the process of a project, preferably at the inception of a scheme. This way, the QS's advice can be provided on such issues as:
The costs involved in the project (in terms of meeting the client's budget).
The best procurement route to choose according to the client's requirements.
The selection of others consultants and contractors.
It is advisable for the client and the quantity surveyor to meet and discuss the appointment before any agreement is reached, unless the services supplied by the QS are to be restricted during the process.
6.0 HOW TO SELECT AND APPOINT A QUANTITY SURVEYOR
There are three methods available when it comes to selecting a quantity surveyor;
Selection based on existing knowledge
A client may choose and appoint a QS using existing knowledge of the latter's past performance and reputation. This may be a result of previous successful projects, a good relationship between client and surveyor or recommendations from others.
Selection from a panel maintained by a client
A client may maintain a panel of quantity surveyors. The client will possess records of their professional experience which will enable him to make any selection or appointment.
Selection from an ad hoc list produced by a client
If a client is unable to make a decision using either of the two methods listed above, it may be more appropriate for the client to produce an ad hoc list.
For all of the above methods of selection, it is important for the selection criteria to include the following:
The financial position of the QS concerned
The experience, ability and reputation of each candidate for equal opportunities.
Their capacity to provide the services required by the client.
7.0 SERVICES OFFERED BY A QUANTITY SURVEYOR
The above diagram shows the various ph the phases in the construction cycle. The quantity surveyor is involved in each one of these phases. The following is a description of the duties and responsibilities of the QS during the construction cycle.
Quantity surveying in construction phases
Inception and feasibility
During the inception and feasibility stage, the quantity surveyor has the duty of:
Liaising with the client and other consultants to establish the client's needs and from there develop the full brief.
Advising on the choice of other consultants.
Advising on the implications of the proposed project and liaising with other experts to provide such advice.
Advising the client on the most appropriate procurement route.
Establishing the client's order of priorities in terms of quality, time scale and cost.
Preparing an initial budget estimate based on feasibility proposals.
Preparing global cost calculations for the project and cash flow projections.
During the design stage the QS will:
Prepare and develop a preliminary cost plan.
Advise on the cost of the design team's proposals.
Monitor cost implications during detailed design stage.
Retain and develop cost plan and prepare periodic reports and updated cash flow forecasts.
During this stage, the quantity surveyor will:
Advise on tendering and contractual arrangements taking the client's priorities and any information available from the designers into account.
Advise on insurance responsibilities and liaise with the client's insurance advisers.
Advise on warranties.
Advise on bonds for performance and other matters.
Prepare tender and contract documents with the client and members of the design team.
Provide copies of documentation as agreed
Advise on use and/or amendments of the standard form of contract or help the client's legal adviser with the drafting of particular requirements.
Organise the form of contact, obtain contract drawings from members of the design team and prepare and send contract copies of all documentation to both parties.
Tender selection and appraisal
At this stage of the tender actions phase the QS must:
Advise on short listing prospective tenderers.
Look into tenderers and advise the client on their financial standing and experience.
Attend pre-contract interviews with tenderers.
Arrange for the delivery of documents to the selected tenderers.
Check tender submissions for accuracy and pricing.
Advise on errors and qualifications and, if necessary, negotiate on offers.
Advise on submission of work programme and method statement.
Prepare suitable documentation, if necessary, to adjust the tender received to an acceptable contract sum.
Review financial budget in light of tenders received and prepare revised cash flow.
Prepare tender reports with recommendations where appropriate.
During the construction phase the quantity surveyor will:
Prepare recommendations for provisional payments to contractors, subcontractors and suppliers in accordance with the contract requirements.
During the final stage of the construction cycle the QS will:
Assess designer's draft for altering the project before issue.
Prepare periodic cost reports in the agreed format at specified intervals stating any cost distribution and/or copies as requested by third parties.
Prepare the final account.
Attend meetings as agreed.
Provide copies of documentation as agreed.
The client shall pay the QS for the provision of the services required. All fees and charges are payable in instalments according to the fee offer clause and, under the agreement, are exclusive of VAT which, if due, is to at the same time. The due date for payment shall be 7 days following the date of invoice submission. The quantity surveyor must confirm the basis on which the stated amount is calculated on each invoice.
The final date for payment is 21 days after the due date for payment. This is the absolute final date for payment and payment cannot be made after this time.
Any sum owed to the quantity surveyor under the agreement which remains unpaid by after the final date is subject to interest at the rate fixed in the fee offer clause.
A quantity surveyor needs to employ a wide range of skills in order to excel in the profession. Quantity surveyors need to negotiate with all types of people, from building site workers to directors, which means that they need to possess good people skills and be able to express themselves well both when speaking and in writing.
Knowledge in a wealth of areas such as building law and regulations, health and safety, tax and insurance, contract law and the construction process are essential to the profession as the quantity surveyor needs to understand any legal implications involved in the construction process. Excellent numerical and computer skills are essential as well as the ability to read architectural drawings.
A quantity surveyor needs to be flexible in terms of working hours and having to go on site to resolve a problem or take measurements. When there's a deadline to meet, it is the quantity surveyor's responsibility to ensure that it is met and so weekend/evening work is on the cards.
As we can see, the quantity surveyor has to have a wide range of skills, abilities and knowledge in order to excel in the profession. The QS is so much more than an accountant for the building trade and with greater opportunities abroad and the growth of the commercial management side, the role of the QS is bound to continue to adapt and grow to meet the needs of the current climate and its demands.
Client guide to the Appointing a Quantity Surveyor, first edition(February 1992; RICS books
Cost Planning of Buildings, Eighth Edition; Ferry and Brandon
Lecture notes 2010; Discipline Project 2
RIBA Outline Plan of Work 2007 amended Nov 2008