Career Advice Property and Construction

Five Myths about Quantity Surveyors

What was on your mind when you first heard the term, ‘quantity surveyor’?  What did your friends consider about the description of a quantity surveyor?  The measurement of quantities?  A survey of construction materials?  It is not surprising to make such a correlation if you simply consider the literal meanings of ‘quantity’ and ‘surveyor’.

However, the role of a quantity surveyor is certainly more than that.  In fact, there are numerous perceptions about quantity surveyors that are half-true or incorrect.  Let’s reveal them one by one and find out what the truth is!

Myth No.1 – All about Measurements

It is generally believed that a quantity surveyor obtains quantities of construction materials.  In order to do that, measurements are inevitable and taken from drawings and onsite surveys/measurements.  Then calculations are needed to work out the exact quantities such as the volume of concrete and the weight of rebars.

Despite measurements constituting part of the job of a quantity surveyor, it is incorrect to conclude that they are his/her sole or major responsibility.  To be more precise, a quantity surveyor is responsible for managing the costs and contracts of a construction project.  In terms of areas of specialty, quantity surveying involves cost planning, cost control, value management, tendering, valuation of construction works, and other contract administrative duties.

Measurement is one skill acquired by a quantity surveyor to perform his/her work, but it is certainly not the only one.

Myth No.2 – Expert in Mathematics

A quantity surveyor has to work closely with different sets of figures and numbers such as preparing cost estimations and cost data and adjusting and adopting some design rules of thumb.  To provide a payment valuation, the quantity surveyor has to make realistic calculations of the work done.

Nevertheless, the requirement for becoming a professional quantity surveyor is more than about being proficient in mathematics.  A quantity surveyors must have the ability to work diligently and cautiously.  Catastrophic consequences may result if s/he deals with contract terms and financial figures carelessly or imprecisely.  Also, good communication and analytical skills can greatly enhance the quality of a quantity surveyor’s professional services.  Quantity surveying is never a one-person job in any project.  A quantity surveyor is required to be proficient, but not expert, in mathematics.  Of course, other characteristics are equally important.

Myth No.3 – Too Many Documents

Quantity surveyors have to handle tons of construction documents in order to perform their jobs.  They have to familiarise themselves with the conditions of contracts, bills of quantities, schedules of rates, construction drawings, specifications, etc.

In fact, scrutinising and analysing all related documents is one of the values of quantity surveying.  Instead of simply ‘dealing’ with the documents, a quantity surveyor must apply his/her professional knowledge to examine them, so as to be able to formulate and suggest solutions to the project team, management, or the client.  A document is, in fact, a storybook about a project that summarises each party’s obligations, the costs involved, the design requirements for the works, etc.

An experienced quantity surveyor should be familiar with the framework, classification, and wording of each document.  Despite the sheer quantity of documents involved, they are, in fact, helpful tools for project teams to complete their work.

Myth No.4 – Too Boring

Everyone has his/her own preferences when seeking work.  Some consider paperwork to be boring, while others may be bored by routine tasks that lack challenge.  Still others cannot tolerate working in the office all day long.

Quantity surveying is hardly a ‘boring office job’ because of its unique job nature.  It does not simply deal with paperwork.  It also involves various techniques like information consolidation, critical thinking, data analysis, professional judgement, etc.  For example, to become familiar with the construction progress, a quantity surveyor has to be stationed at a site or visit it regularly.

Those who are looking for challenges and dislike their routine work may be interested in different kinds of projects like office, residential, hotel, infrastructure, public facilities development, etc., which can undoubtedly widen their exposure and construction knowledge.  They will also have the chance to work with different professionals in the industry.  As quantity surveyors, they may also help with other tasks like project planning, dispute resolution, project procedures setup, etc.

Myth No.5 – Minor Contributors to Projects

Most people know about the roles of architects, but they may not be familiar with the contributions of quantity surveyors.  This is because the role of a quantity surveyor is harder to describe and understand for the average person.  However, it is incorrect and unfair to think that quantity surveyors make limited contributions to construction projects.  They play a significant role in construction cost and contract management.

Some developers neglect the value of quantity surveying and may combine quantity surveying services with those of other construction professions.  This is common practice in infrastructure projects and has long been a concern due to its lack of an independent cost consultant, which is generally regarded as an ideal practice in a project.  If cost control is to be performed by a design team member, there would be a role conflict due to a lack of a check-and-balance system between the design and cost control teams.

To conclude, the role of a quantity surveyor is definitely more than measuring quantities.  Quantity surveying is a cost and contractual management profession in the construction industry and is a challenging, meaningful, and contributive career that is worth considering by young people who are still unsure of their futures.

About the Author

Sr Eric Ting, a qualified quantity surveyor with around ten years experience, believes that the quantity surveying is more than just a career. He considers the profession is important to his personal development and widened his exposure in the industry. He notes that the public may not have a full understanding on quantity surveyor and would like to share his view about the profession.