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What is a Quantity Surveyor and why are they important?

All too often, we, as Quantity Surveyors, become engaged on a project after the concept design has been completed and the plans have had council approval. Would the input of a QS have made a difference to where the design ended up? In some cases, the answer is no but in many cases the answer would be yes. In ALL cases, the financial side of a design decision would no doubt have been better informed had a proper cost appraisal been carried out.

Case Study: At a recent event a developer told me of a struggling site on their books where the construction cost per apartment/ m2 etc can’t be compared to than anything they’ve built before. When anyone asks why this is the case, this developer can’t provide a sensible explanation. It turns out that many of the projects delivered by this developer were completed during times when cost pressures were less of a concern; current levels of escalation however are exposing shortcomings in how budgets were being established.

How could a QS have helped things? A QS appraisal of a design, if properly done, would have looked at the breakup of overall costs before pinpointing where the inefficiencies were, and established where it sat in the context of benchmark projects – or indeed your previous project. Where a construction budget has challenges or limitations, how and where to spend that budget to get the best value for money is a vital consideration and a proper Quantity Surveyors report can unravel all of this and communicate it in understandable terms.

Decisions on design direction are made every step of the way in the evolution of a project. A QS is not a designer, but the advice of a QS should be a precursor to any key decision. An informed decision brings an extra level of confidence that your project is proceeding in the right direction.

Engagement with a QS comes with a caveat – there needs to be an understanding of the benefits a QS can bring. There’s a need to know the questions to ask and how to interrogate the work of a QS. The key to this is in the word ‘engagement’. The time and space for collaboration with a QS needs to be there when you do engage one.

And I’m sure every professional in the construction industry and around the world is asking themselves the same question: Will my role be replaced by AI? The feeling that AI is about to take over is ubiquitous. For the QS, I believe there’s never been a greater need for good design to be complemented by good, coherent analysis.

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This blog has focused on the cost planning side of the services a QS can offer a project; we’ll be back soon to provide further insight into the QS profession and the roles we play.

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