The Evolution of Quantity Surveying

Modified: 18th Jul 2018
Wordcount: 2299 words

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Quantity implies amount, number, measure, extent, size, magnitude and mass. Surveyor denotes inspector, assessor, examiner, reviewer and evaluator.

The name Quantity Surveyor was originally derived from the initial need for the profession; which is to prepare the Bill of Quantities from plans, describing the material, items of work and the quantities required. Builders also use the Bill of Quantities when submitting tenders in order to secure work.

Currently, Quantity Surveyor functions involve numerous activities. It is these activities that far remove the profession from that of simple “brick counting.”

With the changing environment, the quantity surveyor has evolved to satisfy the marketplace by filling the gaps across diverse industries, as is reflected in industry changes, title changes and education.

Suitable titles have now become necessary, namely those of Construction Cost Consultants, Building or Construction Economists, Cost Engineers and Commercial Managers.

The cluster sampling survey method was used, which involved pilot interviews and structured questionnaire surveys. Investigations were limited to the views expressed by both students of Quantity Surveying and professionals employed outside the traditional construction industry who were members of the South African Council of Quantity Surveyors, although the views of practitioners with no professional affiliations were also sought. Content analysis, descriptive statistics, multi-attribute techniques and rank correlation tests were used in the analysis of the research data.

The Potential Outputs of this work in progress could include changes in courses at tertiary institutions or the introduction of new courses, a name change for Quantity Surveying as a Profession.

1. Introduction

Historically, the three major employers of Quantity Surveyors were; professional Quantity Surveying firms (PQS), municipalities and government departments, as well as construction and civil engineering companies.

Quantity Surveyors are increasingly employed across several industries, ranging from chemical e.g. Fluor, communications e.g. Telkom, electrical e.g. Eskom, oil refineries e.g. Sapref. What does this mean regarding the demand for the profession? This report will also strive to ascertain what they are doing there, how they are valued and so forth.

The option of working in an industry of your choosing elevates the status of quantity surveying as a profession. This should be tantamount to greater job opportunities and employment security, further enhancing quantity surveying as a target profession. How does this impact on students’ career choice?

Due to the range of services currently provided, the profession is becoming less reliant on construction, as it places more emphasis on finance, which enables greater involvement in other industries such as insurance, banking, law, and property management.

2. Literature Review

2.1. The Establishment of Quantity Surveying

There is a shortage of qualified Quantity Surveyors with good employment opportunities in various industries (AIQS, 2010).

Demand for qualified and experienced Quantity Surveyors has been high in recent years. Historically, this demand follows the fortunes of the building, construction and engineering industries.  When industry booms, so does the need for Quantity Surveyors.

By the middle of the 20th century Quantity Surveying had evolved to a recognised profession in the construction industry (Ashworth and Willis, 1995). Quantity Surveying had developed into the traditional role of keeping accounts and controlling of construction costs for both the client and the builder.

The prime role of the quantity surveyor pivots around the aspect of cost control of projects (Willis and Trench, 1999). From inception to completion necessitates a detailed knowledge of contractor’s prices, experience of the construction process and an ability to foresee the likely effect of economic trends.

Quantity Surveyors are construction economists who fulfil varied and comprehensive duties to support cost-effective construction and property development projects (Ilias et al., 2010).

The core competencies of Quantity Surveyors include determining project budgets, measuring project quantities, preparing contract documentation such as Bills of Quantities and cost control documents, administering contracts, and preparing final accounts.

Despite being recognised as a professional discipline distinct from architecture and civil engineering since 1836, Quantity Surveyors are not immune to the threats and changes in their operating environment. Some parties in the construction industry have been critical about the quality of works and services provided by Quantity Surveyors.

Some even question the importance of appointing Quantity Surveyors as project consultants. Because of these challenges, the profession needs to regroup and take stock of the whole situation so that they will not become extinct in the future, this includes all parties who have vested interest in the development of the profession, be it the students, educators and professionals.

Every profession evolves in response to the ever-increasing changes in the global business environment (Marcel and Jasper, 2009).

In order to remain relevant, globally competitive and successful, South African Quantity Surveyors need constantly to scan their business landscape to discern new directions and to adapt to imminent changes in their professional practice. This study aims to investigate the current areas of, and future directions in, quantity surveying practice in the South African construction industry; imminent opportunities and threats; and ways to proactively maximise the opportunities and minimise the threats.

The results of a survey, based on a structured questionnaire reflecting 23 defined competencies, which were derived from the literature and from in-depth interviews with selected practitioners, indicated that technically orientated competencies were rated of highest importance for current services, while management orientated competencies were rated of higher importance for future services (Nkado and Meyer, 2001).

Quantity Surveying firms that offer services overseas have more staff than non-exporters. They also handle larger projects and offer a wider range of services (Florence Yean and Chan, 2008).

Recent practice, however, has gone back to the original intent of value engineering, i.e., to improve the value of the end product or service (McDuff, 2001). This typically means that the client is going to receive more for their money because of the practice of value engineering.

2.2. Current and Future Trends of Quantity Surveying

Quantity Surveyors are also employed by large engineering companies as well as housing agencies (AGCAS, 1994). Specialist home builders seek the expertise of Quantity Surveyors, as do some trading agencies, including any public committees who control extensive property investments. Multinational mechanical contractors and energy conglomerates regularly employ Quantity Surveyors under the unconventional title of Cost Engineer.

The University of Salford is offering post graduate Electrical Quantity Surveying courses, Mechanical Quantity Surveying courses and Electrical Mechanical Quantity Surveying courses (Salford, 2011).

These courses are accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. The MSc Quantity Surveying in Mechanical & Electrical programme is aimed at the mechanical and electrical sectors.

Due to the increased importance on low carbon emissions and sustainability in the modern built environment, new roles are emerging for the Mechanical & Electrical Quantity Surveyor in the areas of renewable energy, sustainability, low carbon technologies and energy management involved in the provision of careers and employability.

With buildings accounting for around 50% of all carbon emissions, the Quantity Surveyor plays a significant role in combating climate change.

The need for Quantity Surveyors is relatively consistent (AIQS, 2010). The range of services provided by the profession has become less dependent on the level of construction but more on finance and property management.

Quantity Surveyors are known by various names, as they are also called Construction Cost Consultants, Building / Construction Economists, Cost Engineers and Estimators.

The Quantity Surveying profession is at an interesting stage, where opportunities and rewards will be high for those who are innovative, keen on research and willing to embrace the challenges of the future and emerging technology.

A description of the quantity surveying profession states that, Quantity Surveyors get a lot more involved in all aspects of construction as well as other industries such as insurance, banking, law etc. (University, 2010).

An article in a career recruitment company further speaks of a Chartered Quantity Surveyor working as a Commercial Manager (Kempthorne, 2010).

As a job description for a Quantity Surveying role, it was stipulated that market need creates evolved Quantity Surveyors (Construction, 2011).

Quantity Surveyors meet the ever evolving needs of their clients, offering a vast range of services as depicted in the following website article (Brown, 2010).

Today several Quantity Surveyors have explored opportunities out of the boundaries of construction industry, examples being the financial industry, insurance industry, manufacturing industry and real estate sector. (NISA et al., 2006).

As emphasised, being one of the key professional experts in the construction sector, Quantity Surveyors have the utmost responsibility to address the key cost, financial and contractual issues of the construction process, which is always highly influenced by the environmental parameters, which are very sensitive to changes and are unique for every project (Senaratne and Sabesan, 2008).

The new approaches in construction culture, procurement strategies, changing markets, delivering added value and supply chain management, partnering, private finance initiatives have directed the construction industry towards a new route of evolvement (Cartlidge, 2002). The importance of this is further emphasised due to the declining role of manufacturing and increasing growth in the service sector of the economy.

In order to subsist and grow in the future, Quantity Surveying profession has the utmost necessity to respond to the accelerating social, technological, economical and environmental changes quickly as well as productively (Surveyors, 1992).

Since the needs and expectations of the clients are ever changing facts, in order to compete and to excel in the profession, Quantity Surveyors have to acquire and operate wide range of diverse skills outside the normal traditional Quantity Surveying role (Pathirage and Amaratunga, 2006).

The changing nature of the construction and development industry such as the adoption of innovative technological processes and development, the emergence of highly focused professionals and the full range of advanced technologies will necessitate a much stronger emphasis on job competencies than ever before (Lenard, 2000).

The findings are important given the increasing globalization of construction services, especially given the international ties between designers, Quantity Surveyors and other built environment professionals (Bowen et al., 2010).

3. Research Methodology


In order to achieve results, use of pilot interviews and cluster sampling questionnaire surveys will be employed. With regards to the analysis of research data, content analysis, descriptive statistics, multi-attribute techniques and rank correlation tests will be used.

Providing Supporting evidence – industry happenings

Developing Questionnaires – industry awareness / feedback

Researching written material on industry patterns.

4. Findings and Discussions

Potential Outputs include:

  • Changes in courses or and introduction of new courses at tertiary institutions.
  • A growth in Quantity Surveying to include specialisation in other industries e.g. MSc/ Pg Dip-Quantity Surveying Mechanical & Electrical) aimed specifically at the mechanical and electrical industries.
  • There is a potential of offering further courses at tertiary institutions, namely petrochemical, banking, insurance, law, and so forth.

5. Conclusions and Further Research

A Profession name change might also be in order.

If in fact there are many other industries employing Quantity Surveyors, this spells good news for the profession. A knock on effect would be an increase in the number of students applying to study Quantity Surveying as a career, as it moves away from the traditional construction approach. Throughput rates will also be affected, as a greater number of students could have access to in-service training earlier. For the long term, course material/notes might change/adapt to suit the various sectors, as each, having subtle differences in approaches would need the necessary curriculum and syllabus changes.

The Quantity Surveying profession is at an interesting stage, where opportunities and rewards will be high for those who are innovative, keen on research and willing to embrace the challenges of the future and emerging technology.


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