Oh No, they have brought in a Quantity Surveyor

Budget Meeting

Builders hire external quantity surveyors only as a last resort. Usually after months of trying to convince themselves that the project bottom line will improve, they realize that they are in for a contractual fight with the client and any straw needs to be grasped.

Month after month of cost reports with ever diminishing margin, force them to consider the battle ahead. That means finding every conceivable error, ambiguity, inference in the contract documents or any slip by the client’s representative. Project managers think they are experts in construction law, directors look for blame, and the site based project team convince themselves they have a cas against the client. Delusion has set in.

Wonderful expressions are uttered, “global claims”, “unfair enrichment”, deceptive and misleading conduct” All are bandied about with as much abandon in the site office as in the boardroom. Sight is completely lost of the simplicity of contractual claims:

  • What did the client do or not do?
  • Did this cause us costs?
  • Is it recoverable under the contract?
  • What are those costs?

The client’s quantity surveyor has  either dismissed or taken a blow torch to variation claims and because builders are not in the quantity surveying club, they are forced to seek the services of an external professional – the QS.

by Gerry Keating

So we go through the very expensive exercise of our people talking to their people and if we are lucky end up with a compromise on the steps of the court.

The alternative is to start the process from the day the first variation is carved up by the client’s QS, not wait until the dire cost report forces the issue. Get in early, don’t get time barred, and do not put up with any nonsense from a QS who probably created the errors or ambiguities in the first place.

Goodbye Quantity Surveying

Monitoring and Control project activities

The other evening I met an old friend of mine newly arrived from the UK. He is a quantity surveyor who used to work for a large building contractor in the south of England. He is looking for a job in Brisbane and asked me to explain to him what a contract administrator does as the job does not exist back where he hails from.

So I gave him all the details of what a contract administrator does for their $140K per annum. I then went on to talk about the role of the project control manager. This role is widely understood in engineering in Australia and is prevalent on construction/engineering projects in the Middle East. The term is gaining widespread use in Australia especially in the mining/resources sector with salaries pushing $200K. That sort of salary equates to £130K sterling which is far more than a quantity surveyor would dream of earning.

How do you define project controls. A simple definition is “The skills in the project control disciplines provide the “eyes and ears” of good project management.”


Project Controls encompass the people, processes and tools used to plan, manage and mitigate cost and schedule issues and any risk events that may impact a project. Project Controls are a necessity for the business to get paid for what we do, deliver projects on time and on/under budget. The key duties are:

  • Planning, Scheduling & Project Reporting
  • Earned Value Analysis & Management
  • Cost Engineering & Estimating
  • Change Management & Controls
  • Risk and Delay Claims
  • subcontracts and supply Management

My friend is now applying for a job as a project controls manager and never wants to be known as a Quantity Surveyor ever again, especially here in Australia because most people do not understand what that means.