The role of the quantity surveyor (QS) is a pretty clear one to those in the know. We, quantity surveyors, are known as brick counters. In a nutshell, we can be described as the accountants of the built environment. We quantify the scope of a building project, estimate and report on the costs associated with the scope. Cost control is a critical services we provide to a building project. The question is, how effective are our cost control initiatives? I guess the answer would be ‘It depends.’ One may ask why it depends and what it depends on. One response would be the client and how much leeway the QS has, to provide that service. The other could be the team the QS is working with and how cooperative they are with information required to facilitate cost control. Or perhaps it’s a little bit of both. In the example I am going to give, it was more the latter rather than the former that was a hindrance.
A few years ago, a QS started work on a refurbishment project which should have been completed within six months. One year, a terminated JBCC contract and a new contractor later the project was complete. During the course of the project, requests by the QS for copies of all site instructions issued fell on metaphorical rocky ground. At this stage the team is battling to justify certain costs that were incurred when design consultants, the project manager, user client and client representative gave instructions to the contractor for additional work to be done. These were mostly verbal instructions that the QS was at times unaware of. Requests for site instructions were not heeded which has resulted in non-payment for the work carried out. A year and a half after completion, some members of the team are no longer with the companies they represented on this project. The required information is lost with memories faded over time.
Everyone then looks at the QS, to make the problem disappear. To make it better. To justify the decisions they made without reducing it to writing. Essentially, to clean up the mess. This reduces the role of the QS to that of a glorified maid on a building project. Going back, lifting carpets, moving furniture to find dust, moulding food, broken glass. Sweep it all out and mop up the muck that has been left behind by others. It is clear from this example that regular dusting prevents a mammoth task later. A stitch in time….
Looking back one may ask what part the QS had in this whole fiasco. Perhaps the QS should have insisted more on effective communication. However, short of doing their work for them ones hands are tied. The commitment of the team to the successful completion of a project is critical for each part to play their role with excellence. The flow of information through the project manager and the dissemination of that information to the relevant members of the team is a deal maker or breaker.