A quantity surveyor is a construction industry professional tasked with estimating project costs and monitoring contracts and expenses. Sometimes referred to as construction economists or cost estimators, these experts often have an extensive background in construction and finance, including a combination of:
- A relevant undergraduate degree;
- Postgraduate certifications;
- Hands-on experience in the field.
The bachelor’s degree should be in a related field like civil engineering, construction, economics, or structural engineering. It’s also possible to substitute education with experience. Quantity surveyors can have a background of working in the field for a considerable amount of time, and they can also obtain professional certifications to become a Certified Cost Technician (CCT), Certified Estimating Professional (CEP), or Earned Value Professional (EVP) to name a few. Whichever path they have taken, a quantity surveyor's responsibilities are crucial to the success of construction projects.
The Core Responsibilities of a Quantity Surveyor
Construction project planning and execution rely heavily on quantity surveyors. Their duties are multifaceted and span from before the project starts to post-construction. Each phase of a construction project will require different things from a quantity surveyor to ensure the budget and allocations of that budget are implemented smoothly.
During the planning phase of a construction project, quantity surveyors are tasked with setting everyone and everything up for success. This involves:
- Cost estimation: Conducting feasibility studies and drafting bills of quantities to determine a projection of construction material, labor, and equipment costs;
- Budgeting: Creating a detailed budget, including cash flow projections for each stage, for the project based on cost estimation, market fluctuation, and contract details;
- Tendering and procurement: Requesting and evaluating a price quote for a specific scope of work and selecting contractors for the project, often drawing up and negotiating contracts;
- Risk assessment: Anticipating any project issues, changes, and potential overruns of cost, coming up with mitigation and contingency plans;
- Value engineering: Identifying areas for cost savings while preserving material, method, and design quality;
- Compliance analysis: Ensuring the project plan adheres to relevant regulations like environmental guidelines, health and safety laws, and building codes.
These are broad categories of the large scope of work that quantity surveyors undertake. They have the responsibility of ensuring pre-construction feasibility. This includes any aspects of the plan that have financial implications. A quantity surveyor’s job is to make sure the project is set up for financial success.
To help facilitate this, many quantity surveyors use construction takeoff and estimating software. The digitization and automation of reports and financial estimations make for an easier, safer, and more streamlined process. Especially with AI-powered cost-estimating software, quantity surveyors have the tools they need to uncover all aspects of pre-construction planning in a timely, efficient manner, propelling the project forward without delays.
During construction, quantity surveyors often visit the construction site to ensure everything is going to plan. However, even with a carefully crafted plan, projects can still change along the way. There may be changes in design plans, disagreements with contractors, or delays in the supply chain that affect the timeline. By keeping track of spending and changes, cost experts can offer real-time suggestions and facilitate billing and renegotiation with suppliers, contractors, and subcontractors.
Once actual construction is wrapped up, quantity surveyors are responsible for tying up loose ends and finalizing accounts. This can include recording all expenses and comparing that to the pre-construction plan to inform future financial forecasting.
They will also prepare the required documentation for tax reporting, identifying tax deductions and savings opportunities along the way. If there are any disputes, quantity surveyors are tasked with resolving issues and submitting insurance claims if applicable. They audit all construction project finances and wrap up the project to industry standards.
The Importance of Quantity Surveying in Construction
Quantity surveying is a crucial part of the construction process. Projects are more likely to run smoothly with a cost expert analyzing finances every step of the way. Plus, if anything goes awry, the quantity surveyor is there to mitigate issues and keep on track as much as possible.
Accurate Budgeting and Cost Management
Quantity surveyors are equipped with the industry knowledge necessary to research and plan construction costs. This includes accounting for material cost inflation, labor costs, and even fluctuations in currency value.
It’s clear why quantity surveyors need a solid understanding of the construction industry as well as accounting and finances. They can use that information to maximize the construction budget and drive down costs. Even the best cost estimators use construction takeoff software to help minimize human error and increase the accuracy of construction budgeting.
With knowledge of the industry and past projects, quantity surveyors can provide a predictive assessment of risk. This prepares them and the construction team for possible issues that may arise.
In addition to being more prepared, quantity surveyors can also optimize mitigation efforts. For instance, they can reallocate resources if the project falls behind due to supply chain issues, injuries, natural disasters, or even legal ramifications for any missteps. A good cost estimator will have set aside a portion of the budget to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
The Role of Technology in Quantity Surveying
Construction budgeting technology has transformed the industry by improving accuracy and efficiency. Manual tasks can be automated, freeing up quantity surveyors’ time and energy to be spent on more important parts of the process.
These cost estimators can have access to real-time resource use, and quantity surveying software facilitates communication with stakeholders, suppliers, and the construction team. Quantity takeoff software also provides solutions regarding proper calculation, units, and construction components. This speeds up decision-making, facilitates bidding, and allows better use of the construction budget.
Quantity surveyors have an immense responsibility to keep construction projects on time and running smoothly. This position can be demanding and time-intensive. However, with extensive industry knowledge, proper planning and execution, and cost estimation software, quantity surveyors can manage construction projects with ease.