Professional Quantity Surveying: Optimistic or Pessimistic?

An insight into the future

In bygone days, with a booming construction industry and the construction of large multi-storey buildings viewed as a common site, quantity surveyors were accepted as professional personnel with salary scales topping the lists of construction professions. Concerns were predominantly getting the work done as new projects “walked through the door” with little or no marketing services to new clients or spending nightly hours in balancing the business finances.

Prosperity in the 1960‘s and 70‘s lead to quantity surveyors working harder, without spending time on in-practice research, new technologies, continuous quality control procedures or profession marketing, to mention but a few. This attitude has left a vast gap between the client’s perception of quantity surveyors and the value that they add to a project. The question remains whether or not the associations created to facilitate research and marketing have not become merely administrative centres?

Newly qualified personnel, registered quantity surveyors or young quantity surveying firms are required to substantially increase production levels, including professional and information technology knowledge. This must be done amidst survival in an industry where the amount of professional fee discount for private sector projects have become the driving factor in the commercial adjudication of professional fees. It is inevitable that an economic entity, whether a corporation or private individual, cannot maintain the same level of service or produce the same quality of products if discount margins are increasing in an aggressive construction industry. The quantity surveying profession has perhaps survived by omitting financial security, research or real profit sharing from budgets and has remained content with basic income.

This survival methodology has lead to the uneasy feeling that management of consulting firms maintained the required production levels by pushing the work onto young aspirant quantity surveyors, often without the full compensation for the responsibility levels. In comparison, reimbursement structures of other professions for young enthusiastic professional people have remained relatively high.

Why is it that contractors are realising the potential of quantity surveyors and appointing them at scales up to 70% higher than that of the personnel in professional offices? Contractors are thus seeing the advantage to gain a larger portion of project costs by utilising the correct people. This leads to a continuous outflow to newly qualified people of construction firms. It becomes increasingly more difficult to argue with a client who holds the opinion that “if the contractor employs a quantity surveyor, why should he appoint and pay for another independent professional quantity surveyor“, if the consultant succumbs to merely checking submissions by contractors?

Our profession is slowly being drained of qualified people moving either to contractors, other industries or overseas at an alarming rate. This issue is serious: the omission of an independent cost consultant who is central to all information processes, including the management of the client’s money, could be fatal to a struggling profession and ironically clients. New technologies are forcing our profession to convert traditional methods into lateral thinking, with information and cost management central to adding value to every project.

The days of waiting for information to arrive and to react thereon have passed. Quantity surveyors do have a place in the construction industry, but have to be bold with an aggressive approach on real time cost management. The tools are available and the time right for the quantity surveyors to stand tall, stand proud and to be reimbursed for the value we add to clients’ budgets.

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Rouan du Rand

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VDDB provides project structuring, execution and control services that makes projects predictable and controllable. Some clients prefer the full project office function, including procedures, procurement, contract administration, policies and general project execution and co-ordination, and use selected services.

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The concept of analytical quantity surveying is one of numerous enhanced services where traditional skills are merged with information management tooling to provide strongly enhanced project services in a fast world which is keen for optimisation.

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