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The Changing Role of a Quantity Surveyor

January 22, 2019

The role of a Quantity Surveyor (QS) has been in existence since the seventeenth century in some form or other.  We recently asked Carolyn Clay, Director of Laxton’s Price Books, how this crucial role in the construction process is evolving, and how contractors are using tools and technology to meet their changing needs.

Q – What is the history of the Quantity Surveying role?

“The earliest records of the Quantity Surveying role date back to 1785, showing a firm in Reading. In the beginning a QS worked for the owner (client) of the development and would measure and calculate costs after the work had been completed and agree payment to the contractor. This role changed to providing a total price before a project started due to more accountability and the desire to know what the final cost would be.

The future of the QS has been debated for many years and QS’s are now found working for both the Client and Contractor, although often under different job titles. A client QS (PQS), also known as a construction cost consultant or building economist, advises the client on the complete project from design economics and early estimates through to contract administration (and management) of the project and the final accounts. They are also involved in cost plans and whole life costing, procurement and tendering, but primarily are responsible for ensuring that a project is carried out to the best interests of the client by balancing their needs in relation to time, quality and cost.  In contrast a Contractors QS is responsible for ensuring that the contractor makes a profit and is often known as the Construction Commercial Manager.”

Q – How have you seen the QS role evolve in recent times?

“Today in the UK, the demand for traditional measurement skills has reduced as client’s requirements have changed along with the types of contract and working practices. Producing a traditional Bill of Quantities is a long, sequential process where work on site doesn’t start until the complete specification had been produced, contractor(s) selected and final cost of work along with contract terms agreed.

Developments in working practices, IT and the financial need to produce a project as quickly as possible mean that contractors might design the actual building to a client’s brief (Design and Build), a management team might be engaged to work with several contractors, or the client and contractor might work together (in partnership) to produce an asset.

With all these methods, a price produced by quantifying every element is no longer considered necessary and works start long before enough information is available to produce a price this way.  It is possible for work to start on preparing the site and groundworks, before full design details are approved, never mind costed. A fee is agreed on the contractors understanding of requirements, on subcontracted packages as they are agreed, or on actual cost plus a percentage.”

Q – How do you think contractors are responding to this change to help QS’s meet demands?

“As the role of the QS changes, so do the tools and technologies used by companies to keep up with the demand for today’s QS to produce fast, accurate tenders at the pace required to win work.  Estimators have moved from paper to manual spreadsheets, and now to computerised estimating and job costing software packages, with more companies looking to technology to streamline their estimating and tendering processes and manage the full project from initial tender through to completion.

“At Laxton’s, we continue to see estimators choose to buy our Price Books, with many purchasing every year to make sure they have access to the very latest information. We have seen a rise in demand for making that information more accessible, hence our partnership with Eque2 in making our Priced Libraries available with its EValuate estimating software package.”


Software solutions for QS’s from Eque2

Eque2 provides a unique range of modern construction software solutions used by thousands of construction and contracting firms of all sizes in the UK and Ireland. EValuate estimating software makes it possible to quickly produce Bills of Quantities; perform a fast On-screen Takeoff, easily manage subcontractor enquiries by issuing multiple tenders electronically and manage responses through an online portal. EValuate also allows companies to produce detailed estimates in multiple ways by producing Bills of Quantities manually or populate with content from previous jobs, templates, your own libraries or Laxton’s Priced Libraries in both SMM7 and NRM2 formats to suit the needs of both well-established and newer estimators.

Once a job is won, EValuate integrates exclusively with Eque2’s contract management software solutions to allow the QS and the rest of the commercial and finance team to manage the costing and administration of a project in real-time. Construct for Sage, a powerful job costing solution is suitable for small to medium sized contractors, whilst EVision, a contract management solution powered by Microsoft Dynamics NAV is suitable for larger contractors.

The powerful and unique integration of managing the full project lifecycle from initial estimate through construction to final account with Eque2 solutions, enable the modern QS and construction company to win more, profitable work whilst mitigating risk and protecting margins.

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