Construction Cost Estimator vs. Quantity Surveyor – The Difference and What They Do

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If you live in the USA and Canada, you are probably familiar with the terms Construction Cost Estimator or Construction Cost Estimating. Those who live in the UK, Australia, Ireland and former English colonies like South Africa and India are familiar with the terms Quantity Surveyor or Quantity Surveying.

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So what are the differences between these two professional job titles? Here are the differences between a QS and a Cost Estimator:


Regional Differences: USA vs. UK


The roles of a Construction Estimator and QS might be different depending on the region in which they are based. In broad terms, a Quantity Surveyor in the UK is equivalent to a Cost Estimator in the USA. However, a Cost Estimator in the UK will have different requirements, which are usually far fewer than that of a professional QS in the same region. In the UK, Cost Estimating is a role that is part of the Quantity Surveying profession.


In the USA, a Construction Estimator may be required to play different roles depending on the company or organization that they are working for. In this case, the Estimator will be expected to carry out the full responsibilities as that of a Quantity Surveyor in the UK or do a part of the job description. Basically, Americans use the term “Construction Estimator” to describe an industry professional who does the following:

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  • Construction Plan Takeoffs
  • Prepares Cost Estimates
  • Prepares Detailed Cost Estimates
  • Prepares Tender Documents
  • Contract Management
  • Site Measurements and re-measurements
  • Construction Cost Management , Valuations and Payment Certificates
  • Project Management


Depending on the type of Employer that you are working for, a Construction Cost Estimator will be expected to carry out some or all of the above roles. Some companies many require you to do project quantity takeoffs and pricing, others may require you to manage the project from preparing cost estimates to attending site meetings and doing valuations during the construction stage. Your services will be required until the project is finished, that is until the new house or building is handed over to the client, and finalization of the contract amount is done.


Large organizations usually delegate roles to specialized departments within the company. A large firm or company may have an Estimating Department that employs Technicians to prepare pre-contract estimates. They will have another department that deals with project management and post-tender contracts. It makes sense for large organizations to delegate tasks to smaller departments to prevent workload on the Project Manager, who in most cases is required to do estimating tasks if there are no Junior Estimators in the firm.


In the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and other British colonies, a Quantity Surveyor is a qualified professional who does the following:


  • Prepares Brief Cost Plan from Sketches During Planning Stage,
  • Prepares Detailed Cost Plan from Initial Drawings,
  • Prepares Detailed Bills of Quantities According to System of Measurement During Pre-Tender Stage,
  • Tender Management and Selection,
  • Attends Site Handover Meeting for Selected Contractor,
  • Contract Management (Relating to Agreement Clauses)
  • Project Management,
  • Progressive Site Remeasurements of Variations, Additions and Changes issued by Architect.
  • Site Visits, Preparing Valuations after each Construction Phase and Handing out Valuation Certificates for Payment to Contractor as agreed with Architect,
  • Handling Contractor Claims and Disputes,
  • Preparing Final Account,
  • Handing Over Newly Completed Building to Owner.
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It is important to note that a Quantity Surveyor or Construction Cost Estimator works in close liaison with the Architect and Civil Engineers involved in the project.Pre-tender specifications for design and materials are likely to change when working drawings are produced and several changes are expected during the course of construction. These changes affect the final cost of the project and they have to be taken into account by the QS or Estimator. The Architect will issue variation orders from time to time as work progresses, and these are reflected in new drawings that are issued to the Contractor and Estimator.

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    • mwesigwa david on May 8, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Good work Bt hw can i get lectures of drawing å plan

  1. […] Cost Estimators aka Quantity Surveyors work for a number of organizations in building, civil engineering, home renovations, […]

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