What is a Quantity Surveyor in the Construction Industry?
Author: Bill Wynn
So what is a Construction Quantity Surveyor?
A quantity surveyor is a professional working within the construction industry concerned with building costs. The profession is one that provides a qualification gained following formal education, specific training and experience that provide a general set of skills that are then applied to a diverse variety of problems. Predominantly these relate to costs and contracts on construction projects.
The professional institution with which most English-speaking quantity surveyors are affiliated is the UK-based Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The QS usually reports to a Commercial Manager, Project Manager or Project Director and provides advice in the decision-making process throughout the management of a project from initial inception to final completion.
The QS handles estimating and cost control, the tendering process and, after contract award, the commercial interface. QS's should be able to carry out estimating and measurement of construction works prior to tender, producing the bill of quantities; produce tender documentation and manage the tender process; clarify and evaluate tenders; and manage the resultant contract through monthly valuations, variations control, contract administration and assessment of claims.
Some QS's are trained in techniques of cost control. Those QS's who emphasize the cost discipline often use the term "Cost Consultant". They ensure that projects are designed and constructed in such a manner as to secure value for money, cost certainty and programme dates.
Others emphasize contracts management. Trained to draft, interpret and administer complex contracts, those QS's who operate in the broader field of project management often adopt other titles such as "Contracts manager" or "Construction surveyor". A number of QS’s work in procurement in the oil & gas industry, process and power industries, and civil engineering. Their preferred title, in countries where the QS profession is less known, is "Contracts engineer".
Some QS’s specialize in project management and running multi-disciplinary projects, the QS background being a good foundation for understanding the complexities of modern large-scale projects.
As well as in professional quantity surveying practices, the QS finds employment in all parts of industry and government including primary and secondary industry, national and local government bodies and agencies, contractors and subcontractors, developers, and financial and legal companies.
Although all QS’s will have followed a similar course of education and training (for those entering the profession today, this is usually to degree level), there are many areas of specialization in which a QS may concentrate. The main distinction amongst QS’s is between those who carry out work on behalf of a client organisation, often known as a "professional quantity surveyor", and those who work for construction companies, often known as a "main contractor's quantity surveyor".
Did you know that as a profession, Quantity Surveying emerged around the 1820s and one of the earliest QSs was Sir Henry Arthur Hunt who was involved in work on the Houses of Parliament? After the fire that destroyed the old Palace of Westminster in 1834 Henry Hunt came up with an estimate cost of £724,984.
Did you also know that Nick McCabe best known for being the lead guitarist from The Verve began his career as a Quantity Surveyor?