A quantity surveyor (QS) is a construction professional whose job it is to work out how much materials a project requires to complete it. Quantities such as how much concrete is needed, how many bricks do I need to buy and how much paint is required for the job.
In order to do this surveyor must perform an exercise called a take-off. To do a take-off the quantity surveyor must have the project set of drawings and specifications. Once the quantity surveyor has specifications and drawings, they can start to measure the quantities.
Once the quantities are finalised, the quantity surveyor can then get pricing for the materials required. As an example, if the project requires 1,000 bricks and each brick costs $1 then the cost of the bricks will be $1,000.
The QS must make sure that the materials are in accordance with the specifications as this is what the end-user will have asked for on their construction project.
The taking off and pricing of the materials is known as estimating. This can be a major role of a quantity surveyor. A quantity surveyor has usually completed a qualification. This may be a degree from a university or perhaps a certificate from a college.
However, some Quantity Surveyors do not have a qualification and have built up their knowledge through experience within the industry. Quantity Surveyors can work on several different projects throughout their careers.
Projects such as:
- High rise buildings
- Roads and bridges
- Gas plants and mine sites
A quantity surveyor can also work in different types of industries within their career.
Industries such as:
- commercial construction
- residential construction
- oil and gas construction
- infrastructure construction
- mining construction
Depending on where you are based in the world, Quantity Surveyors can also be known as:
- contracts administrator
- claims consultants
- procurement consultants
What is a quantity surveyor in construction?
Quantity Surveyors can get involved in many different stages of a build. At the start of a project, a quantity surveyor would be tasked with estimating the cost of the project to ensure that the project is feasible for the end-user to go ahead with.
During this stage, budgetary pricing would be put together using concept design plans. This would usually be done by the end-users quantity surveyor. If the project is deemed feasible, then it would move to the second stage.
At this stage, detailed design is completed by the architects and engineers which the quantity surveyor would then use to refine the original budgets. The end users QS would then send out the designs and quantities to gain market pricing from contractors and sub-contractors.
Again, the quantity surveyor reviews this pricing to make sure it falls within the initial feasibility budgets. If it does not, then they would be the responsibility of the architect and engineers to refine the design so that the project can be built within the end-users budget.
Once an agreed construction budget is finalised then the construction can begin. During this period the quantity surveyor would make sure that the build costs track against the original budget costs. If anything seems like it might exceed the budget the quantity surveyor would inform the end-user. An important aspect of a QS is to be able to forecast costs for the future and confidently explain any budget overspends to the end-user.
It is important for the end-user to be aware of the forecast costs in case they need to secure any further finance to complete the project. If there are any delays or unexpected circumstances during the project, the quantity surveyor will need to take into consideration the changes that will affect the budget allocated on the project.
The job also involves taking note of any disagreements that might arise between participating parties and to resolve them as smoothly as possible. At the end of a project, a quantity surveyor would be required to close off all contracts, produce a final account of the project and prepare any other information required by the end-user.
A QS can also work for at least three different parties in a construction project. The parties are:
- The end-user or client
- The builder or contractor who is completing the work
- A subcontractor who is building part of the work for the builder or contractor.
Each role has its benefits and disadvantages which we will look at in another blog on the roles and responsibilities of a quantity surveyor.
What is a quantity surveyor in other industries?
Quantity surveyors do not just work in the construction industry. There is a huge variety of areas that a QS can work in other than construction:
Some industries like the following:
All these different industries will have various different aspects for the QS to fit into. For example, the aviation industry may need you to work on building aeroplanes and understanding the quantities of materials needed to build the aircraft.
The same applies to the marine and shipbuilding industries. They may a QS to help planning and manage the building of ships in their yards. As you can probably tell asking what is a quantity surveyor is not just limited t the construction industry. If you did decide to become a QS then you would able to also help influence other industries you may be interested in.
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