Quantity surveyors (sometimes referred to as cost consultants or commercial managers) provide expert advice on construction costs. They help to ensure that proposed projects are affordable and offer good value for money, helping the client and the design team assess and compare different options, and then track variations, ensuring that costs remain under control as the project progresses. Quantity surveyors can specialise in a specific aspect of construction costs, or in a particular type of construction.
Tasks will vary depending on the nature of the project, but they might include:
- Helping determine the client's requirements and undertaking feasibility studies.
- Benchmarking requirements against similar projects.
- Assessing and comparing options.
- Helping define the project budget.
- Checking developing designs against the project budget.
- Assessing value for money.
- Checking designs meet legal and quality standards.
- Undertaking risk management and value management exercises.
- Preparing cost plans, estimates and cash flow projections.
- Advising on procurement strategy.
- Advising on packaging.
- Preparing bills of quantities.
- Preparing tender pricing documents.
- Collating and issuing tender documentation.
- Assessing tenders.
- Estimating the cost of variations.
- Preparing valuation statements for interim certificates.
- Assisting with the valuation of claims.
- Preparing regular cost reports, including out-turn cost and cash flow.
- Completing the final account.
Specialist activities might include:
- Allocating work to subcontractors (if working for the contractor).
- Advising on tax issues.
- Advising on facilities management.
- Life cycle costing.
- Obtaining funding.
- Advising on repairs and maintenance costs.
- Advising on specialist construction works and building types.
To become a Chartered Quantity Surveyor a degree or professional qualification accredited by the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is generally required, or trainees can study part-time whilst working in a technician role. Chartered Quantity Surveyor's must pass an Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) and become a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
NB: Whilst cost consultants on construction projects are generally quantity surveyors by profession, accountants and other professionals can also prove effective.
To see some of the modules studied as part of quantity surveying degree courses, see Commercial management and quantity surveying course essentials.
Cost plans evolve through the life of the project, developing in detail and accuracy as more information becomes available about the nature of the design, and then actual prices are provided by contractors and suppliers:
- Initial cost appraisal (studies of options prepared during the feasibility study stage).
- Elemental cost plan (prepared during the project brief stage and carried through to detailed design).
- Approximate quantities cost plan (from the end of detailed design through to tender).
- Pre-tender estimate (prepared alongside tender documentation).
- Tender pricing document (strictly speaking this is not a priced document, but is part of the tender documentation issued to the contractor for pricing).
- Contract sum (agreed with the contractor during the tender period and adjusted during the construction period).
- Contract sum analysis (a break down of the contract sum prepared by the contractor on design and build projects).
- Final account (agreed during the defects liability period).
Other than initial cost appraisals, these all relate to the construction cost of a project (rather than wider project costs that the client might incur, which could include; fees, equipment costs, furniture, the cost of moving staff, contracts outside of the main works and so on). It is important therefore that the client makes clear what costs should be monitored by the quantity surveyor and what will remain within the control of the client organisation.
Quantity surveyors rely on services such as Building Cost Information Service to help them determine accurate costs, and increasingly project information is generated from Building Information Modelling (BIM).
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appointing consultants.
- Bill of quantities.
- Commercial manager.
- Common arrangement of work sections.
- Comparison of SMM7 with NRM2.
- Cost and bonus surveyor.
- Cost consultant.
- Cost plan.
- Life cycle assessment.
- New Rules of Measurement.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
- Sustainability quantity surveyor.
- Whole life costs.
Featured articles and news
This article explains the Buildings Regulations completion certificate, what it is, and when its needed.
Graphene has many potential applications, but when will it start being used in civil engineering?
Increasing productivity – now more than ever as we lead up to Brexit – should be the sector’s number one priority in 2018.
Carillion's collapse causes Construction Leadership Council to delay the construction sector deal report.
Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability: international frameworks, national and local guidance.
What will the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) mean for you when they come into force in May?
Business Secretary chairs a new taskforce to monitor and advise on mitigating the impacts of Carillion’s liquidation.
Sir John Armitt is appointed the new chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.
High quality and high density homes - is it what we need or is it storing up trouble?
Government announces its intention to strengthen planning rules to protect music venues and neighbours.
National Audit Office reports that there is little evidence that PFI offers better value than other forms of contracting.
What is liquidation and how does it apply to contractors in the construction industry?