The role of a Quantity Surveyor

Managing the budget and contractual relationships of a building project

Known in the industry as a Construction Cost Consultant or Commercial Manager, their role is to keep a close eye on project finances and contractual relationships.

They make sure that the financial position of construction projects is accurately reported and controlled effectively. They manage the contractual relationships between the various parties involved in any particular building project.

What does a Quantity Surveyor do?

  • Advising on the potential of a site and working out what a client can afford to build, often termed ‘feasibility’.
  • Presenting detailed information on the cost of particular elements of work on a periodic basis to enable payment for those works carried out to date. This process is known as ‘valuations’.
  • Organising the division of a project into its component work packages, then awarding these work packages to smaller, more specialised construction companies (known as subcontractors) and, in that process, finding out who offers the best deal.
  • Dealing with contractual and legal matters.
  • Managing costs to make sure that the initial budget isn’t exceeded.
  • Arranging staff payments and, at the end of a job, settling the final accounts.
  • Acting as financial advisors and monitoring progress for the client.

What makes a good Quantity Surveyor?

Quantity Surveyors are the financial whiz-kids of the industry! They are highly numerate and typically control an entire project budget. To put that into context, on a new build high school the Senior Quantity Surveyor could be responsible for over £20 million of spend. They also know a great deal about building legislation, building materials, design etc. They are highly organised and great negotiators.

How do I become a Quantity Surveyor?

To become a quantity surveyor, you need a minimum of:

  • 5 GCSE’s (A-C Grade) or equivalent including maths (it’s also useful if you’ve taken subjects such as science, law, geography, information technology or design technology).
  • A BTEC in Building Studies, Building Engineering or Building Management or a HNC / HND / Degree in Quantity Surveying (including an industrial placement)
  • A minimum of three years experience of managing elements of construction projects.

Further qualifications include membership to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Many universities in the UK run courses in Quantity Surveying. The first year often contains a number of elements shared with other construction related courses such as construction management, building studies, building engineering, engineering management and building technology. Within the course you will learn all about management and the practicalities of it, whilst studying the intricacies of economics, cost accounting and computer systems.

Information technology is increasing with managers working on site and in the office so building up skills in this area is vital.

To develop your management skills, you will be expected to take on project work in small groups and get a feel for working in teams and communicating clearly and effectively.

Students often find out more about the role of a manager by doing some industrial experience as a part of the course. Industrial placements are a compulsory component linked to a subject option or piece of coursework.