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What Is Quantity Surveying?

What is Quantity Surveying?

At social gatherings people often ask what I ‘do’ and when I tell them I’m a quantity surveyor (QS) most people give me a blank look and an uncomfortable ‘Oh’. It is then that I realise they have no clue what that is.

I then proceed to explain what a quantity surveyor does in brief layman’s terms. These conversations are usually very short lived because the quantity surveyor is not a very well known professional. Most people haven’t heard of a QS and if they have, do not understand what a QS does.  I decided the best way to make my debut into writing for this property portal is to give our readers a little back ground into what it is that I do ‘to earn my keep’.

I have been called a brick counter on several occasions followed by a laugh to which I laugh along because that is part of what I do. Counting bricks and nails and doors and basins and toilets and… need I go on. As a QS, it is our role to quantify the scope of work to be carried out on a construction project. We work in tandem with Architects, Engineers and various other built environment professionals to ensure that a building project becomes more than just a dream or a design on paper. It becomes a tangible structure.

I have also been called an accountant for the construction industry. This is also true because our role goes into budgeting for construction projects, cost control, valuing work done on the project during construction, preparing financial reports for the project and reconciling the project cost against the budget upon completion. Essentially we are the financial manager of a building project. We advise on contractual matters concerning the building project at hand mainly because these usually have financial repercussions which we would need to take into account as the project progresses.

Where a property development is to be undertaken, we contribute to the process by advising on the financial feasibility of a development preferably before designs are prepared and the land is acquired. This is so that the design team works within the cost and space parameters that will ensure a healthy return on investment for the developer.

To conclude, I’ll run through the role of the Quantity Surveyor at the different project stages;


The inception stage where we establish the client requirements and preferences as well as defining the QS’s scope of work.


The concept and viability stage where we (the consulting team) prepare and finalise the project concept in accordance with the brief. Our contribution to this stage is the preparation of preliminary estimates and area schedules.


The design development stage is where the concept is developed based on the agreed budget. At this stage, the design is finalised, detailed estimates for cost are prepared, the programme is put in place and the financial viability is established.


At the documentation and procurement stage, we prepare the construction and procurement documentation, construction budget, evaluate tenders and prepare priced contract documentation.


The construction stage is where we manage, administer and monitor the construction contract and processes, including the preparation of cashflow projections, change control estimates, cost reports, interim valuations for payment certificates as well as progressive and final accounts.


At the close-out stage, we prepare the penultimate and final valuations for payment as well as the project final account.

South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession, 2009, 2010 Tariff of Professional Fees, SACQSP, Johannesburg, pp. 10-13.

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