Building a Strong Foundation: How Clients and Architects Benefit from a Quantity Surveyor’s Expertise

Author: Bart Kolosowski
Published: July 12, 2023

Building a Strong Foundation: How Clients and Architects Benefit from a Quantity Surveyor’s Expertise

The subject of this article has been suggested by Susan Price, Director of BB Partnership Chartered Architects. Thank you, Susan, sometimes the most difficult part of creating this content is to come up with subjects.

The Multifaceted Role of a Quantity Surveyor in Construction Projects

As the worlds of cost consultancy and quantity surveying often intersect, we will, for the purpose of this article, refer to both roles simply as a Quantity Surveyor (QS). At its heart, the role of a QS is about bridging the gap between the artistic vision of architects and the economic realities of construction. A QS, therefore, is a key player in managing costs, ensuring value, and ultimately, making sure a project is financially feasible.

Involving a QS at the onset of a project can bring significant benefits. These include improved budgeting, efficient cost control, risk management, and the enhancement of communication among stakeholders. It’s important to realise that the role of a QS isn’t just about cost management. Their expertise also extends to advising on contractual matters, suggesting suitable procurement strategies, providing project management support, and even offering guidance on sustainability issues.

Navigating the Project Journey: An Overview of RIBA Stages

To help understand the broader context of the QS’s role, we’ll use the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work as a guide. This well-recognised framework sets out each phase of designing, planning and building a project, broken down into a sequence of key stages from 0 to 7. For the purposes of our discussion, we will focus on stages 1 to 6 – starting from the early project conception (stage 1), through to the design phases (stages 3-4), the construction phase (stage 5), and finally to the post-completion final account settlement (stage 6).

A QS’s involvement at each of these stages can add immense value. Whether it’s helping clients make informed decisions about their projects or supporting architects in marrying design and function with budget and schedule, the input of a QS can be transformative. In the sections that follow, we will delve into each of these stages and highlight the role and value that a QS brings to both clients and architects.

QS at RIBA Stage 1: Early Engagement and Feasibility

The Impact of Early QS Engagement

At the earliest stage of a construction project, the expertise of a Quantity Surveyor (QS) can be pivotal in setting a solid foundation. From the outset, QS engagement enables accurate cost parameters to be established. By working closely with both client and architect, a QS can offer guidance aligned with the client’s budget, ambitions, and project feasibility. This proactive approach ensures that the project begins with a clear end in sight. A QS’s early understanding of project objectives allows them to tailor their advice and services to the unique needs of the project, ensuring a bespoke solution that’s finely tuned to project success.

QS Role in Feasibility Studies and Cost Modelling

The involvement of a QS in the project’s feasibility studies and cost modelling can be instrumental in guiding its strategic direction. Through these tasks, a QS contributes crucial data for informed decision-making. For instance, cost modelling provides valuable insight into the initial project budget, cash flow forecasts, and the overall viability of the investment. While a more comprehensive overview of this process is available in our Learning Centre, it’s worth mentioning that this early-stage analysis is vital to setting the project on a course for success.

Benefitting Clients and Architects through Early QS Involvement

When a QS is involved at the earliest stage of a project, clients and architects both benefit significantly. From the client’s perspective, they receive more accurate budget guidance, which directly contributes to setting realistic and achievable design objectives. Furthermore, a QS can proactively manage and mitigate financial risks, resulting in a smoother, less disruptive project life cycle.

The architect also benefits from the QS’s expertise. The QS can advise on sustainable materials and construction techniques that align with the client’s budget constraints, thereby enabling the architect to create a design that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Lastly, but by no means least, the early involvement of a QS fosters enhanced communication and collaboration between the client and architect. This promotes a unified understanding of budget and project objectives, ensuring that all parties are ‘on the same page’ from the start, paving the way for a successful project outcome.

QS Involvement in RIBA Stages 3-4: Planning and Detailed Design

Delving into the Quantity Surveyor’s Role in RIBA Stages 3-4

The Planning and Detailed Design stages, as per the RIBA plan of work, encompass a broad spectrum of crucial tasks, and this is where a Quantity Surveyor’s expertise comes to the forefront. In these stages, the QS is entrusted with the responsibility of detailed cost planning, assessing various design solutions, evaluating different construction methods suitable for the project, carrying out value engineering, and formulating the most efficient procurement strategy. Through this in-depth involvement, the QS ensures that financial considerations are intrinsically tied to every design decision, every method selected, and every procurement approach adopted.

An Insight into the Practice: Case Studies

At Multiproject, we regularly involve ourselves in preparing cost plans for various methods of construction. To illustrate this, let’s delve into an instance from last year. We were engaged in a £12m residential development where we critically reviewed potential costs for traditional cavity wall construction, RC frame, steel frame, and timber frame. This thorough examination enabled us to identify an impressive £1.5m saving on the shell and core part of the build.
Another significant role we play at this stage is in value engineering. By exploring and providing alternative design options, we ensure that the highest value is extracted within the project’s budget constraints. Furthermore, we step in to advise architects even before design options are presented to the client, ensuring that every proposal put forward is both creatively stimulating and financially viable.
We also offer our expertise in shaping the project’s procurement strategy, ensuring that the most suitable and cost-efficient approach is selected.

Benefits that Permeate: Advantages for Architects and Clients

Our proactive involvement in these stages grants architects the freedom to make informed design decisions, fostering an equilibrium between creativity and cost-effectiveness. We further facilitate smooth communication between the architect and client, nurturing mutual understanding and collaboration throughout the project’s journey.
From a client’s perspective, our involvement guarantees effective cost control throughout the design and planning stages, empowering them to make informed decisions backed by robust cost plans and value engineering exercises. Our guidance instils confidence in selecting the best procurement strategy. At this stage, we have the most scope to reduce the development cost and enhance the client’s ROI, thereby creating a win-win scenario for all involved parties.

QS and RIBA Stage 4: Preparation of Tender Documents

Essential Role of QS in Tender Document Preparation

A QS assumes critical responsibilities during RIBA Stage 4. One of the crucial tasks being the meticulous preparation of tender documents. This process involves developing accurate bills of quantities, preparing comprehensive contract particulars, and collating all relevant project information that contractors need to formulate a robust bid. A QS also undertakes the thorough cross-checking of design information, ensuring all aspects are covered and any potential errors or omissions are spotted early and rectified.

The Power of Well-Prepared Tender Documents

A comprehensive and well-structured tender document is the key to attracting competitive and detailed bids from contractors. Clear, detailed tender documents ensure that contractors fully comprehend the project requirements, which reduces ambiguity and enhances the accuracy of their bids. Consequently, this clarity leads to fewer variations and disputes during the construction phase, ensuring a smoother project delivery.

Delivering Unparalleled Value to Architects and Clients

The involvement of a QS in the preparation of tender documents delivers a streamlined tendering process, saving both architects and clients significant time and resources. A well-prepared tender sets the stage for better quality bids, empowering clients to choose the most cost-effective and competent contractor. Furthermore, a detailed tender document mitigates risk, helping to prevent misunderstandings or disputes during the construction stage.

To highlight this, consider a recent project handled by Multiproject. Our QS team was instrumental in the tender document preparation for a mixed-use development. The result was a highly competitive tendering process that attracted comprehensive bids from leading contractors. The client could choose a contractor offering high-quality service within the budget parameters, and the architect was assured that their design vision could be realised within the project constraints. This case perfectly encapsulates the value a QS brings during RIBA Stage 4.

QS Involvement in RIBA Stage 5: Financial Management During Construction

Navigating Financial Complexity: The QS’s Role in RIBA Stage 5

The construction phase, or RIBA Stage 5, is often the most challenging part of a project due to its complexity and many moving parts. It’s during this stage that the expertise of a Quantity Surveyor becomes increasingly vital. The QS’s key role is in financial management and cost control, helping ensure that project costs remain within the approved budget. They accomplish this through continuous monitoring of project expenditure, keeping a close eye on cost variations, and regularly reporting the financial status to the client and the architect.

Examples of QS at Work During Construction

A QS is deeply involved in several critical activities during the construction phase. For instance, they play a central role in contract administration. This responsibility involves managing communication between parties, facilitating resolutions to contractual issues, and ensuring all involved adhere to the contractual terms. When design or construction changes occur, the QS is there to value these changes. They expertly calculate the financial implications of these alterations and ensure that costs are fairly distributed between parties. In addition, QSs manage payments throughout the construction stage, preparing and verifying interim payment certificates, ensuring that all project invoices are correct and justified, and diligently working on the final account settlement.

The QS Advantage: Benefits for Clients and Architects

The presence of a QS offers a wealth of benefits to both clients and architects. For clients, the QS provides improved budget control, reduced financial risk, and heightened transparency in cost management, offering them peace of mind. Architects, on the other hand, are supported by the QS with timely cost updates, guidance in managing design changes from a cost perspective, and ultimately, more freedom to focus on design and construction supervision.

To illustrate this, let’s consider a recent project at Multiproject. A QS was instrumental in managing the financial aspects of a large residential development during its construction stage. Through rigorous cost control and efficient management of contractual changes, the QS ensured the project was successfully delivered within budget. All design changes were assessed against the budget before being instructed to the contract, on a number of occasions we were able to advise the architect on potential value engineering and managed to bring the project in below the initial contract price. This example showcases how a QS’s expertise can lead to substantial financial benefits and a smoother construction process for all parties involved.

QS Post Completion: Swift Final Account Settlement

The Role of a Quantity Surveyor in Final Account Settlement

The conclusion of a construction project is a critical phase where the Quantity Surveyor (QS) comes to the fore, undertaking the responsibility of final account settlement. This process involves not only verifying final project costs but also a thorough review of any changes or adjustments made throughout the project’s life cycle. It is a process that reconciles the originally agreed-upon contract sum with the actual final costs, ensuring all parties involved have met their contractual obligations.

A QS’s role in this process doesn’t stop at accounting for all costs, including any variations. Their negotiation skills are key when settling any contentious cost items. Their aim is always to facilitate an amicable resolution that satisfies all parties involved.

The Importance of Final Account Settlement

The importance of the final account settlement goes beyond marking the end of a project. It’s a crucial phase that brings closure to the project by wrapping up the financial commitments of all parties involved. When led by a QS, the final account settlement process becomes an effective tool in minimising disputes and potential litigation. This, in turn, fosters healthier and more amicable relationships between the client, the contractor, and the architect.

Benefits to Clients and Architects

The benefits of a swift and effective final account settlement process, facilitated by a QS, are manifold. It allows for a quick closure to the project, reducing lingering disputes, and enabling clients and architects to shift their focus to future projects. Furthermore, the final account settlement offers a moment of reflection, allowing clients and architects to evaluate the project outcomes against their initial goals and gather invaluable insights for future projects.

A Case Study in Effective Final Account Settlement

In one notable instance, a recent £8m mixed-use project undertaken by Multiproject perfectly demonstrated the proficiency and value of our QS team in the final account settlement process. The final account was agreed upon within just six weeks of the project’s completion, an impressive feat that significantly shortened the usual timeline.

This swift settlement was not the result of rushed negotiations post-project, but rather a consequence of meticulous management throughout the project’s life cycle. Key to this successful outcome was the regular assessment of variations as the project evolved. Changes in design and their corresponding costs were proactively managed and agreed upon with the contractor on an ongoing basis.

This strategic approach not only eliminated any surprises at the end of the project but also facilitated the quick resolution of the final account. It stands as a testament to the benefits of engaging a QS from the early stages of a project through to completion, highlighting the significant value they bring in ensuring the smooth, efficient, and financially sound delivery of a construction project.

Conclusion

Reaping the Benefits: The Key Role of a Quantity Surveyor

Construction projects, regardless of their size or complexity, can greatly benefit from the expertise of a Quantity Surveyor. From the inception of a project through to its completion, a QS is an indispensable asset that can ensure cost-effectiveness, efficient communication, accurate budgeting, and rigorous risk management.

The significance of a QS’s role is particularly evident in the planning and detailed design stages (RIBA stages 3-4). Here, their proficiency in cost planning, value engineering, and procurement strategy formulation proves instrumental. Through the tender process, a QS ensures it is streamlined, competitive, and fair, attracting quality bids for the client. During construction, their active financial management allows for smooth project progress, with budget control and risk reduction at its core.

Closing a project financially is just as important as its physical completion. A QS makes certain this final phase is conducted swiftly and amicably, tying up all financial commitments and reducing the potential for disputes.

Early Engagement: A Strategic Move

The early engagement of a Quantity Surveyor is a strategic move that can set the tone for the success of the entire project. From the get-go, their involvement in feasibility studies and cost modelling provides direction and clarity. The accurate budgeting, comprehensive risk management, and improved communication they facilitate from the onset are unparalleled advantages that persist throughout the project’s life cycle.

Engaging a QS from the early stages through to completion and final account settlement is not just beneficial; it’s a crucial factor in ensuring successful, cost-effective project delivery. We, therefore, urge both architects and clients to consider it a strategic priority in their upcoming ventures.

Looking Ahead

As the construction landscape evolves to accommodate increasing complexities and sustainable practices, the role of a Quantity Surveyor is set to become even more crucial. It is a role that will continue to adapt and respond to future industry trends, further enhancing the value it brings to construction projects. For all stakeholders in a project, the QS will remain a key ally in the journey towards successful, cost-effective, and sustainable building.

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