In construction, time is money
Surveyors play a crucial role in bringing in projects on time and on budget
The work of the surveyor doesn’t stop after the contract has been awarded. They continue to monitor the project and ensure there are no cost overruns and report back to the client on any variations which may arise.
The words on time and on budget are music to the ears of project promoters and funders everywhere. Not only do they mean that the project hasn’t cost any more than expected, they mean that there are no angry taxpayers or shareholders or indeed impatient bankers requiring explanations for costly delays.
Gillian Tyrrell of Tyrrell Chartered Quantity Surveyors says quantity surveyors should be brought in as early in the design and planning process as possible. “The quantity surveyor looks after all the cost management on the project,”she says. “They can put together an initial budget based on just an outline concept. They have the technical ability to build a cost out of that and then add in contingencies.”
This costing is refined as the project goes through detailed design and eventually the quantity surveyor will prepare a set of documents which the competing main contractors will use to base their tenders.
“This ensures that all the contractors are pricing the same thing,” Tyrrell points out. “The tenders are based on a single interpretation of the drawings by the quantity surveyor. It ensures that they are comparing apples with apples. A good quantity surveyor will know what a competitive tender price is likely to come in at and can advise their client accordingly.”
Failure to engage a quantity surveyor early enough can be costly. “I have known clients who hadn’t gone to a quantity surveyor before going to tender and they get prices in varying from €150,000 to €750,000 based on the same set of drawings. They couldn’t figure out what the differences were based on and had no option but to go back and start all over again.”
The work of the surveyor doesn’t stop after the contract has been awarded. They continue to monitor the project and ensure there are no cost overruns and report back to the client on any variations which may arise. Tyrrell explains that there can be times when an architect specifies a change to what was in the drawings and this may increase the cost or that an unforeseen technical difficulty may arise with a cost-increasing impact. The role of the surveyor is to negotiate these claims with the contractor.
Similarly, savings may arise in some areas. “The client may choose to use these savings to increasing spending on another area of the project or to make up for cost increases elsewhere.”
Chartered surveyor Greg Flynn heads up the project management team for Aecom in Ireland. He explains the value of good project management. “The real added value comes from spending a quantum of time doing the briefing, the scope of services to be provided, the programme of works, and setting the parameters and deliverables for the project. At the end stage, you are referring back to the business case and those elements. Once you get set up properly, it’s about having good project controls and reporting structures in place. That sits underneath a project steering committee made up of representatives of different stakeholders.”
This brings all elements of the project team together to monitor progress continually and ensure the project is on schedule. Any slippage can be addressed in a timely fashion.
He believes the skills of quantity surveyors make them uniquely suited to the project management role. “The quantity surveyor’s background gives them an understanding of the technical construction work to take place, the contract and legal structures, the financial and business side of the project, the science behind the products being assembled, knowledge of value engineering, and understanding of risk and risk management. Project management is becoming more and more important because of things like building information modelling and these skills prepare quantity surveyors very well for the role.”