So what contribution does a Quantity surveyor make to the design team? What are the roles of a QS?
“If you have a project and your quantity surveyor is (incompetent), you are finished. Architects sometimes give the QS drawings with no details. What do you do with an elevation with no levels? No dimensions? No material details? Then the quantity surveyor has to figure out what the architect might have wanted to put on a floor or a wall?”
But what makes the quantity surveyor invaluable in an architecture firm?
Cost planning: Where the client sits with the architect and QS and tells them he wants a 6 bedroom house with a pool at the backyard, and the consultants say it’ll cost about Ugx.600m, but he says he has only Ugx. 40m so they advise that for that money he can get a nice 2 bedroom house and further inquire if the client has a way to get some more money so that they can give him a 3 bedroom house.
“(But you) Architects, why should you design something that costs Ugx.100m when we can do it at Ugx.50m? If it serves the same purpose, then why not? You architects just like funny designs. I once did a design for a library and the concept was a car tire. So when it came to putting the sunshades, it became difficult, because the architect had neglected to indicate what material he wanted them to be made of. We are trained to make assumptions, and I assumed they were made of steel. I do not know if the project was implemented like that. ”
Procurement Advice: When contractors have been invited to bid, QSs sit and evaluate the tenders. Say one of the contractors has made a bid of Ugx.40m, the other Ugx.70, and another Ugx. 80m, yet my cost (the consultant’s QS) would be about Ugx.60m. When it comes to procurement, we get the best evaluated bidder. It’s not always that the one with the lowest bid wins the project contract, because if you give the contract to the one that bided Ugx.40m, he might fail to finish the project.
Single rate approximate estimate: This is where a client approaches you and says they need to put up a house of so many square metres, and judging from the proposed material palette, you evaluate that such a building might cost Ugx. 400,000 per square metre times the square metres of the proposed building. Then after the consultants do the design, the QS can then prepare a detailed cost estimate called the Bills of Quantities.
Interim valuations or preparation of Interim certificates: Every month, the QSs measure the quantities of works done on site, and then prepare the interim certificate of payment. The conditions of contract says, you are supposed to pay the contractor within 14 days of submission of the certificate, and beyond that, you are supposed to pay interest for the days that follow (liquidated damages).
Preparing financial statements: At the end of the project, the QS is supposed to prepare a statement that says how much the project has cost.
Statement of contractual claims: When the contractor is claiming that he has done more work than was stipulated in the Bills of Quantities, it’s usually the QS who settles such situations, or a compromise can be made and both the contractor and the consultants’ QSs can go do a joint measurement so that they come to an understanding.
Cost control: Now this is where the architect starts telling you: let’s change from iron sheets to tiles. The cost per square metres of iron sheets and tiles varies greatly. Or, when an architect suggests use of aluminium cladding, yet we could use plaster and paint. Even if you argue that long term, aluminium cladding is more effective, its cost per square metre is about Ugx. 450,000, while that of plaster and paint is about Ugx. 30,000. Even if the house is repainted every 4 years, that argument of long term savings doesn’t hold here.
The QS also does: Technical auditing, valuation for insurance purposes among other things.
“The best people to work as project managers are architects and QSs because project management is basically about handling the team, and those are the two professions trained to do so.”
“If from inception, the architect, QS and the structural engineer are there while the team is getting the client’s needs, I think that will alleviate some issues that would arise further down the road. Those 3 professionals should work in proximity at least during the scheme design phase so that queries are answered as they come up. It’s even worse in those firms that outsource the quantity valuations to outside QS firms. An architecture firm should ideally have an in-house QS.”
This piece is a transcribed interview with Okello Thomas, a quantity surveyor that was formerly practicing at Joadah Consult and currently lectures at Kyambogo University, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Lands and Architectural Studies.