The Diversity of Quantity Surveyors – in Different Projects and Different Countries
There are 2,742 qualified quantity surveying members (as at 28 April 2015) in the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS). Most of them are employed by property developers, consultancy firms and contractors to manage construction cost and contract issues.
Most property developers in Hong Kong have teams of quantity surveyors working in their project management, cost control, quantity surveying, or commercial departments. They need people with cost and contract expertise to monitor and control their projects’ construction costs, while design consultants and in-house designers try to focus on and achieve the best aesthetics and quality to meet the highest functional requirements of the properties’ end-users. Usually, a developer’s top managers want different design options to choose from and need to know the cost of each option before deciding on one.
On one hand, quantity surveyors, as project team members, need to support their project teams and provide team members with cost and contractual advice. On the other hand, they need to establish a project budget at the beginning of a project and continuously update and control it until the project is completed. This control process requires them to challenge and query other team members on the need for a particular expenditure and explore alternative options to cut costs, including using alternative materials, construction methods, and procurement routes.
Sometimes quantity surveyors need to review, approve, and audit costs and contracts that are not construction-related and submitted by other departments, such as operational and maintenance costs. These include things as minor as a kitchenware purchase and the printing of a Christmas decoration sticker. There are plenty of opportunities for quantity surveyors to work with different departments and with different professionals.
If projects are funded by external financial resources, quantity surveyors who work for property developers would probably need to work with the external funders, in-house lawyers, and accountants to draft contracts, set up tendering and payment procedures, control and report on costs, and comply with loan agreements. Thus, they have to be familiar with design processes, tendering procedures, and construction costs. Not many property developers recruit fresh graduates to work in their cost management arms, as fresh graduates normally need to gain experience in cost consultants and contractors for several years and become qualified members of the HKIS before they can secure jobs under property developers.
Quantity surveyors in Hong Kong are lucky to have opportunities to be involved in projects outside of Hong Kong. They can apply their skills to a wide range of projects because the practices in Hong Kong are similar to those in many other countries. Most importantly, the HKIS’s professional standards are recognised by many of its counterparts in other parts of the world because the HKIS has signed reciprocity agreements with many other quantity surveying institutions overseas to mutually recognise each other’s professional standards.
Many quantity surveyors from Hong Kong also work on Mainland projects because they possess high integrity and professional standards. They work impartially and are not biased when dealing with suppliers and contractors over sensitive matters such as costs and contracts. Construction projects in China are usually large-scale and the contract values usually involve hundreds of millions of RMB. Developers from overseas and Hong Kong usually employ quantity surveyors from Hong Kong and station them at their project sites to manage the project’s costs and contracts. Often, they are also responsible for managing a team of local cost engineers.
A few years ago, I had the chance to join the activities of an international quantity surveying organisation called the Pacific Association of Quantity Surveyors (PAQS). PAQS is a confederation of national quantity surveying associations from the Asia-Pacific region including Canada, Japan, China, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, etc. In 2009, some of its younger members set up a “Young Quantity Surveyors Group” for quantity surveyors who were under 40. Since 2010, it has been organising annual programmes in different countries, during which they visit key construction sites and exchange views with members from other countries through discussions and presentations. These events benefit practicing younger quantity surveyors by giving them first hand exposure to quantity surveying practices in other countries.
A construction project can last from three to ten years, depending on its scale. Quantity surveying is a stable profession, as quantity surveyors are involved in a project from its earliest design stage to the final account stage. As quantity surveyors are involved in different projects in different locations, their jobs can be interesting and dynamic. Every day they face new challenges and gain new experiences from the projects they work on.
Sr Joseph Chong
Council Member of Quantity Surveying Division
The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors