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Role of the Contractors | The Work and Skills Base of the Quantity Surveyor in Ireland

The Range of Surveying Disciplines

"The role of the contractor’s Quantity Surveyor is quite different to that of Quantity Surveyors working within a professional practice, yet the core skillset remains the same" Critically discuss the above statement.

The role of the quantity surveyor is one that is often unclear amongst the general public. This study discusses the role and skills of the quantity surveyor in carrying out the financial management of building construction projects. The study outlines the roles of various categories of chartered surveyor and focuses on the duties of the quantity surveyor working in a consultancy role for building clients, and working in a commercial capacity for building contractors. The study examines recent developments in the profession, which have led to the quantity surveyor delivering a number of management related consultancy services, in response to rising client expectations and demands. The study also outlines the various competencies and skills required of chartered quantity surveyors in discharging their professional duties. The study is intended as an aid to Irish students undertaking undergraduate and conversion masters courses in quantity surveying and construction management related disciplines.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s (SCSI) website explains that surveying is a collective term for a range of careers concerned with property, construction and land. It adds that careers in surveying include ‘quantity surveying, estate agency, valuation and investment, project management, property and facilities management, mapping, planning and development and mining’. The website describes surveyors as experts in property, construction and land and describes them as ‘logical thinkers and effective communicators with strong business acumen. Highly adaptable, Surveyors are involved with cross-disciplinary teams and work in a variety of global markets in both the public and private sectors.’ (2014a) Quantity surveying is located within a range of construction surveying specialisms, these include quantity surveying, building surveying, project management and facilities management. The SCSI (2014b) write that ‘Surveyors provide value for money through the efficient cost management of construction process – their objective is to control cost, limit risk and add value to the project ensuring that the design and construction of a project delivers value to the client.’

The Society adds that when a surveyor is appointed as a project manager, they will help the client to develop the project brief and then select, appoint and co-ordinate the project team. The Society notes that surveyors operate in all construction sectors covering ‘residential, commercial, industrial, leisure, agricultural and retail facilities’ and infrastructure projects such as ‘roads, railways, waterways, airports, sea ports, coastal defences, power generation and utilities.’

The role of quantity surveyors may be viewed as providing the financial and commercial management services on construction projects. Cartlidge (2009) writes that quantity surveyors are employed in a number of different fields which he categorises principally as private practice and contracting surveying. Surveyors often work as consultants in private practice or may work within development companies, arms of large commercial organisations or financial institutions. They may also work for public sector organizations and within the insurance industry as loss adjusters. They are often described using the term ‘PQS’ or professional quantity surveyor. Contractors’ surveyors are often referred to using the term ‘CQS’ and may be employed by main contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers, for whom they carry out the commercial management functions on the construction project. The quantity surveyors’ involvement varies from project to project and depends heavily on the individual nature of the scheme and the methods by which the project is delivered.

 The Contractor’s Surveyor A large proportion of quantity surveyors work with construction companies, with contractors and subcontractors. Most medium sized and large contracting organizations employ a number of quantity surveyors. The contractor’s surveyor’s duties vary and depend to a large degree on the size of the company. Hore et al (2009) comment that in smaller companies these duties are of a general nature and are often very wide in scope.

1. ‘Preparing bills of quantities for small contracts and agreeing measurements with the client’s quantity surveyor.

2. Collecting information about the cost of various operations from which the contractor can prepare future estimates.

3. Preparing precise details of the materials required for the projects in hand and compiling target figures so that the operatives can be awarded production bonuses.

4. Preparing interim costings so that the financial position of the project can be ascertained as the work proceeds and appropriate action taken where necessary; planning contracts and preparing progress charts in conjunction with the general foremen/site manager and making application to the architect for variation orders if drawings or site instructions vary the work.

5. Agreeing subcontractors’ accounts; placing subcontract orders and comparing the costs of alternative methods of carrying out various operations, so that the most economical procedure can be adopted.

6. Advising on the implementation of contract conditions and different contractual methods.

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