Why You Need a Construction Cost Estimator / Quantity Surveyor to Manage Your Building Project

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Ask some random people at your workplace, your friend or an ordinary person in the streets what a Cost Estimator is. More often, they have no idea what that job title means .At least, the word Cost Estimator is self-explanatory for most people. Ask them what a Quantity Surveyor is and they are even more puzzled. Most of them have never heard of such a career. A majority of people often confuse the name for Land Surveyor, which is a more popular profession than Quantity Surveying.

QS Builders Measuring Tape For Site Measurements

So a client who has never heard of a Construction Estimator will wake up in the morning and do the obvious thing i.e. contacting building contractors to get quotes. He or she might be planning to build a duplex house, apartment, shopping mall or office block on land that was purchased a year ago. In order to get the best contractor, the client may ask friends, neighbours and colleagues to recommend a contractor who did similar work for them. Friends will happily recommend an XYZ construction company in town and the client will set out to hire them, leaving everything in their hands.


A business savvy construction company will quickly offer to get the client some building drawings if the client doesn’t have them, and they will give a quote based on a rough in-house estimate. Note that most clients don’t like the hassle of being kept busy with a project, they just want to leave everything in the hands of experts i.e. the construction firm.


The hypothetical firm XYZ Construction Inc. has years of experience and they know how to deal with different types of clients. They have been involved with lots of personalities, ranging from the submissive ones, the professional ones, the busy ones to difficult ones who like taking control. The client Mr. Railroad will only show up at the site when the project is almost finished, but after a brief inspection of the works, he won’t be smiling. The project didn’t match the specifications he had in mind, the workmanship was sub-standard and above all, the project was delayed by three months.Mr Railroad paid what was asked by the contractor at each stage of the project, even though the contractor was liable for the costs. He has to foot the bill for delays, variations and many other claims put forward by XYZ Construction Inc to extract the maximum possible profit from the project. The project costs have ballooned by a higher percentage even though the local construction index remained constant over the course of the project.Mr Railroad has no idea about cost management and the construction index. To make matters worse, he has no clue about the type of contract he signed.

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The above scenario illustrates the consequences of not hiring a Construction Cost Estimator aka Quantity Surveyor to manage your building project. You need an Estimator for the following reasons:

To Get an Accurate Cost Estimate


An Estimator is a qualified professional who will calculate a realistic cost estimate for your proposed construction project in the planning phase. He or she works in liaison with the Architect and Building Contractor to keep the costs within your initial budget.


To Create a Detailed Bill of Quantities


A cost estimate is based on initial sketches for cost planning purposes. When the project progresses to the pre-tender stage, a Construction Estimator is required to create a detailed Bill of Quantities by taking off quantities from the latest Drawings issued by the Architect. At this stage, the latest Drawings are more detailed than the initial sketch plans and can be used by the Contractor for reference. A Bill of Quantities contains measurements of all items from the Architect’s Drawings and Schedule of Specifications. It is based on a standard system of measurement produced by the local Institute of Quantity Surveyors or Association of Professional Estimators. When you bypass the Estimator to hire a contractor, you are taking a risk because Contractors don’t follow the standard system of measurement. They have their own in-house methods of estimating a project. With a Construction Estimator, you are guaranteed that every item of cost is included in the estimate.

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To Implement Building Specifications


An Estimator’s role is to manage the building contractor. While the Architect will supervise the contractor through periodic site inspections of work in progress, an Estimator also supervises the contractor with a focus on measuring work in progress and creating accurate site valuations. The Architect sees to it that building specifications are followed on site, and he/she sends a progress report to the Quantity Surveyor to help in the creation of valuation certificates. In the absence of the Architect, the Quantity Surveyor takes the role of inspecting the building under construction for specifications.


To Enforce the Contract


Quantity Surveyors are experts in Building Contract Management. There are different kinds of building contracts as well as different types of cost estimates. A client needs guidance in understanding contract clauses when venturing into a construction project. Building contracts differ from place to place but the Institute of Quantity Surveyors or Association of Professional Estimators in your location has a lot of information regarding types of contracts. Clients should understand that it is not the contractor who decides the type of contract to be used in a project. An Estimator knows the right contract for a project, what it entails and how it affects you and the contractor. If you need protection from frivolous contractor claims, then you need a Professional Quantity Surveyor to manage your project.


Tender Management and Selection


Quantity Surveyors are skilled in the selection of building tenders also known as construction bids. There are a lot of factors involved in selecting a tender .It’s a critical process that can determine your project failure or success. While some home builders will hire a contractor through friend recommendations or town rumors, a smart client will hire a consulting Quantity Surveyor to manage the tender process. The consulting estimator ensures that the best contractor is chosen from a pool of participating firms. Once a tender is advertised, bids are received and after the deadline, the Quantity Surveying Technician begins to go through each bid, thoroughly checking the contractor’s rates, work experience, bank rating, credit rating, technical ability, labor resources, equipment schedule, financial resources and many other things. Up to 15 items can be analyzed and the contractor who scores higher in critical items will be considered for the tender. There are a lot of stories of people who hired a bankrupt contractor who couldn’t finish a project, leaving the client in a financial mess. A Quantity Surveyor will not only get you a professional contractor, but they will get you a contractor with a good standing.

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Valuations and Contractor Claims


A construction project is an ongoing process that begins from the early stages of a design cost plan. It develops further to the tender stage where a contractor is appointed, and then the construction phase begins. Throughout the project, a Quantity Surveyor is the Project Manager who deals with construction costs, finances and payments. The Estimator will do progressive measurements of works on site, measuring the percentage of work done, materials on site etc.Variation orders and any changes ordered by the Architect are also measured. These measurements are used by the QS to prepare valuation certificates. Payments cannot be released to the contractor before valuations are done. Since the QS is a cost professional, he or she can handle any claims by the contractor to see whether they are valid or not. The way a contractor measures work might be different from the standard method used in the system of measurement, so it is the Estimator’s role to guide the process according to the standard method, not the contractor’s way.


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