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Quantity Surveying

Quantity Surveyor (QS)

Quantity surveyors in private practice (sometimes referred to as cost consultants or commercial managers) provide expert advice on construction costs.

Quantity surveying helps to ensure that proposed projects are affordable and offer good value for money, helping the client and the design team assess and compare different options, and then track variations, ensuring that costs remain under control as the project progresses.

The Contractor’s QS is often seen as aggressive and employed by Contractors for the specific purpose of saving them money no matter what.

quantity surveying

What Is Quantity Surveying?

Quantity Surveying is a profession akin to that of a doctor or lawyer in that it combines formal qualification with specific training and experience that provides a general set of skills which are then applied to a diverse variety of problems.

QS’s work in professional quantity surveying practices, and in various other organisations. These include national and local government bodies and agencies, Contractors and Specialist Subcontractors, developers, financial, legal and insurance companies.

Some QS’s are trained in techniques of cost control and may use the term “Construction Cost Consultant”.  Their primary role is to ensure that projects are designed and constructed in such a manner as to secure value for money, cost certainty and achieve programme dates.

Some QS’s specialise in project management, and their background and training provides a good foundation for understanding the complexities of modern large-scale projects.

Private Practice or Industry Based

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 specialisation in which a QS may concentrate.

For the most part the StreetwiseSubbie will encounter QS’s who are either

a) carrying out work on behalf of the Employer or Client organisation and are referred to as a “Professional Quantity Surveyor”, or “PQS”.


b) work for construction companies and known as a “Contractor’s Quantity Surveyor“.

The functions of a PQS or Consultant Quantity Surveyor

Their role covers a range of activities which may include cost planning, value management, feasibility studies, cost benefit analysis, lifecycle costing, tendering, valuation, dispute resolution and cost estimating.

The QS’s traditional independent role on the team comprising client, architect, engineer, QS has given him a reputation and appreciation for fairness. However, it is not un-common for the QS to come under pressure from the Employer/Client to act in a more partisan manner, and the Specialist Subcontractor would do well not to take it for granted that the QS will act fairly and objectively.

Traditionally, quantity surveyors exercised control over construction costs by accurate measurement of the work required, the application of expert knowledge of costs and prices of work, labour, materials and plant required. This enabled them to have an understanding of the implications of design decisions at an early stage and to advise the Employer/Client accordingly.

The technique of measuring quantities from drawings, sketches and specifications prepared by designers, principally architects and engineers, in order to prepare tender/contract documents, is known in the industry as taking off.

Contractor’s Quantity Surveyor

A Contractor’s QS is responsible for the performance of operations similar to those of the PQS; i.e., the measurement and pricing of construction work, but specifically that actually performed by the Contractor (and the Contractor’s Subcontractors).

The role of a Contractor’s QS will extend to such other areas as Subcontract formation, dealing with all matters relating to costs and values of the project including payment and cash flow forecasts.

The QS usually reports to Project Manager or Project Director and provides advice throughout the management of a project from initial inception to final completion.

The Streetwise Subcontractor should not expect any degree of impartiality or fairness from the Contractor’s surveyor!

The Contractor’s Surveyor is there to make money for the Contractor!

We would strongly recommend that you use the Ask Streetwise or Streetwise Confidential facilities on this site to obtain further advice if you find yourself involved in any kind of issue relating to Quantity Surveying or the measurement and valuation of your works.

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