Guide to Quantity Surveying

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Quantity Surveying focuses on estimating, managing, and controlling costs and quantities in civil engineering and construction projects.

Quantity Surveying involves the careful management and assessment of costs throughout the different stages of civil engineering and construction projects. It combines financial expertise, construction knowledge, and project management skills to accurately estimate and manage the costs involved in construction projects.

The role of Quantity Surveyors

As construction projects continue to grow in complexity and scale, the role of a quantity surveyor becomes increasingly crucial in ensuring cost efficiency, effective resource allocation, and overall project success.

Quantity surveyors play a vital role in ensuring cost control, budgeting, and financial transparency throughout the project lifecycle. From early cost estimates to procurement, contract administration, and final account settlements, these professionals meticulously analyze and quantify construction materials, labor, and associated expenses.

The job of a quantity surveyor encompasses a wide range of responsibilities throughout various stages of a construction project. Some key tasks include:

Cost Estimation: Quantity surveyors assess project plans and specifications to accurately estimate the costs of materials, labor, and equipment required for construction.

Budgeting: They develop and manage budgets, ensuring that costs align with the client’s financial objectives and that funds are allocated appropriately throughout the project.

Procurement: Quantity surveyors assist in the selection and negotiation of contracts with suppliers, contractors, and subcontractors, ensuring competitive pricing and compliance with project requirements.

Contract Administration: They manage the contractual aspects of the project, including evaluating variations and claims, reviewing payment applications, and resolving disputes related to costs and contractual obligations.

Cost Control: Quantity surveyors monitor project costs, track expenditures, and implement strategies to control and minimize expenses, providing regular reports to stakeholders and recommending cost-saving measures when necessary.

Value Engineering: They analyze designs and propose alternative construction methods or materials that can enhance value, improve efficiency, and reduce costs without compromising quality.

Risk Management: Quantity surveyors identify and assess potential financial risks in construction projects, such as cost overruns or delays, and develop risk mitigation strategies to protect the client’s interests.

Final Accounts: They prepare and negotiate final accounts, ensuring accurate measurement and valuation of completed works, as well as handling settlement of any outstanding payments.

Overall, quantity surveyors serve as financial advisors, ensuring that construction projects are executed within budget while maintaining quality standards and optimizing financial outcomes for clients.

History of quantity surveying

Quantity Surveying originated in England in the 17th century, focusing on measuring and quantifying materials for strictly billing purposes only. As civil engineering and construction projects grew, the profession expanded to provide financial control management.

Professional bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have helped further expand the field. Quantity surveyors continue to evolve and play a vital role in civil engineering and construction projects. They ensure projects are completed within budget, have sustainable practices, and have cost-effective solutions.

The involvement of a Quantity Surveyor through different construction phases

Pre-construction phase

Quantity surveyors play a significant role during the pre-construction phase. They generally estimate costs, prepare bills of quantities, and assist in procurement. Moreover, they identify value engineering opportunities, develop cost plans, assess project risks, and handle contract administration.

During the construction phase

During the construction phase, a quantity surveyor oversees cost control, monitors project expenses, manages variations, prepares progress reports, and handles contract administration. They may provide cash flow forecasts and approve progress payments monthly.

Completion of a construction project

After the construction phase, a quantity surveyor finalises project accounts, assesses and manages claims or variations, conducts post-construction cost analysis, provides cost reports, and assists with project closeout and handover.

Quantity surveying techniques

There are numerous quantity surveying techniques as it involves multiple aspects of cost management, project control, and financial analysis for civil engineering and construction projects. Below are a few standard quantity surveying techniques used throughout the industry.

Elemental cost analysis

Elemental cost analysis is a technique used by quantity surveyors to break down the cost of projects into different components. This includes the substructure, superstructures, finishes, and mechanical and electrical works. Quantity surveyors will then estimate the costs for each element to determine the total project costs.

Cost estimating

Quantity surveyors utilise cost-estimating techniques to predict the expenses of a civil engineering or construction project. This may involve analysing historical cost data, using cost databases and indices, and considering market rates for labour and materials. Also, it may include incorporating factors such as location, complexity, and project-specific requirements.

Value engineering

Value engineering is a systematic approach to optimising a specific project value by identifying effective alternatives without sacrificing quality or functionality. Quantity surveyors use this engineering method by analysing different materials, options, and construction methods to be more cost-effective.

Measurement methods

Numerous measurement techniques and methods are used to quantify the materials and works involved in a project. This includes on-site physical measurements, electronic measuring devices, or digital takeoff software for quantity extraction from drawings and models.

Bill of Quantities (BoQ)

The ‘Bill of Quantities’ is a detailed document that quantity surveyors prepare for a construction project. The document provides a clear, informative list of the required materials, equipment, labour, and other resources. It also includes quantities, unit rates, and the total costs for each item or category.

Cost control and monitoring

Quantity surveyors use various techniques to monitor and control project costs throughout a construction project. This involves regular cost tracking, analysing cost variances, comparing actual costs against budgets, and implementing corrective measures to ensure projects stay within the budget.

Risk analysis and management

Quantity surveyors assess and manage cost-related project risks, including fluctuating material prices, labour availability, and contractual disputes. Techniques include identifying risks, quantifying their potential impact, developing risk mitigation strategies, and monitoring risk factors throughout the construction project lifecycle.

Cash flow forecasting

Quantity surveyors use this method to forecast and monitor the cash flow requirements by considering the timing of expenses and income throughout the construction project timeline. This technique will assist in financial planning to ensure sufficient funds are available to meet the project obligations for each construction phase.

Cost benchmarking

Quantity surveyors will occasionally employ cost benchmarking techniques to compare the costs of a specific project against similar projects or industry standards. This helps to identify potential cost overruns, inefficiencies, or areas for improvement. Some cost benchmarking techniques include market analysis, historical data comparison, published indices, cost databases, and supplier and contractor quotes.

Life cycle costing

Life cycle costing is when the total cost of a project over its entire life cycle is assessed. This includes initial construction, operating, maintenance, and eventual disposal costs. Quantity surveyors consider factors such as asset lifespan, energy efficiency, and ongoing maintenance requirements to evaluate the long-term financial viability of a project.

The methods and techniques generally depend on the specific project requirements and the experience a quantity surveyor obtains. Moreover, the methods and techniques depend on project complexity, stakeholder agreements, and client objectives.

Quantity surveying software programs and tools

It is common for quantity surveyors to use a wide range of software programs and tools to enhance productivity when performing tasks. Below are a few software programs and tools used by quantity surveyors.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital and collaborative process that enables the management of construction projects. It involves data about the physical characteristics of building elements using 3D models. BIM enhances coordination, improves cost estimation, helps clash detection, reduces errors, and supports effective communication amongst quantity surveyors and engineers. Some BIM software commonly used throughout Australia and New Zealand include Autodesk Revit, ArchiCAD, and Tekla Structures.

Cost Estimating and Takeoff software

These tools help quantity surveyors measure quantities, apply rates, track and estimate project costs, and generate detailed bills of quantities. Cost estimating software such as CostX, PlanSwift and On-Screen Takeoff help quantity surveyors enhance efficiency, improve accuracy and enable them to generate detailed cost estimates.

Estimating and Cost Management software

Estimating and cost management software are used to streamline the estimation and cost control processes. Leveraging these tools helps quantity surveyors generate detailed estimates, analyse cost variances, track project costs in real time, manage change orders, and produce comprehensive reports for stakeholders. These types of software generally include budget tracking, resource allocation, quantity take off and cost estimation. Some examples include Candy (Construction and Estimating Software), Buildsoft, and CostOS.

Accounting and financial software

Quantity surveyors need software for financial management, invoicing, and tracking project costs. It also enables them to generate accurate financial reports, forecast project budgets and monitor cash flows. The most common accounting and financial software quantity surveyors use in Australia and New Zealand includes QuickBooks, Xero, and Sage.

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is a common program used by quantity surveyors. It supports numerous tasks such as cost estimation, quantity takeoff, cost tracking, budgeting, data analysis, reporting, bill of quantities preparation, pricing analysis, resource allocation, and scenario analysis. Microsoft Excel will help quantity surveyors perform calculations, analyse data, and generate professional reports.

Project Management Software

Project management softwares are practical for quantity surveyors to use as it helps streamline project-related tasks, collaboration, and documentation. Quantity surveyors can efficiently track project progress, manage timelines, and allocate resources. Some common project management software used includes Microsoft Project, Primavera P6, and Procore.

Quantity Surveyors are in high demand across Australia and New Zealand

The engineering and construction industry significantly contributes to Australia and New Zealand’s economies. Both countries are investing in large-scale civil engineering and construction projects to improve public transport and liveability of large cities. As a result, the demand for quantity surveyors is high.

If you would like to view current opportunities for Quantity Surveyors in Australia or New Zealand, visit our Vacancies page here.

If you are considering working and relocating to Australia or New Zealand, view our ‘Live and Work’ guides below. These two guides provide advice and tips to make your move easier.

Live and Work in Australia

Live and Work in New Zealand

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