THE QUANTITY SURVEYOR - Leading Construction and Building Group

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Quantity surveyors are the financial consultants of the construction industry whose training and experience qualify them to advise on cost and contractual arrangements and to prepare contract documents. They act in liaison with architects, consulting engineers and contractors to safeguard the client’s interest. They are independent experts who operate in a specialised area of the construction industry. The title quantity surveyor was reserved under the Quantity Surveyors’ Act of 1970 for exclusive use by those who had obtained the necessary qualifications and experience prescribed under the Act. In terms of it, such persons must register with the South African Council for Quantity Surveyors before they may offer their service as consultants to the public. Quantity surveyors are required to comply with a strict code of professional conduct which includes responsibility to their employers or clients and to their profession having full regard to the public interest, conducting themselves so as to uphold the dignity and reputation of the profession and discharging their duties to their employers and clients in an efficient and competent manner with complete fidelity and without undue delay.


Firms generally offer a wide spectrum of services to their clients but naturally tend to gain experience or concentrate their services in specific fields. Before commissioning the services of quantity surveyors, prospective clients are advised to investigate the particular experience and the services in which they specialise.

The services they offer could be:

  • Estimating and cost advice
  • Estimates and cost advice during all stages of the development of a project are essential if the correct decisions with full awareness of their financial implications are to be made. Sophisticated techniques, extensive cost data banks and an intimate knowledge of building and construction economics enable quantity surveyors to provide reliable cost advice.


Clients want to know that they are receiving value for money, not only with regard to the capital cost but also in respect of the running and maintenance cost of a project. Cost planning enables decisions on various design alternatives to be made with actual costs being constantly monitored against original budgets.


A building should meet the functional dimensional and technological requirements for which it was designed, should be aesthetically pleasing and meet the cost limits of the client’s budget. A quantity surveyor is able to provide pre-design feasibility studies involving technical and/or economic investigations thereby enabling a client to decide whether, and in what form, to proceed.


The quantity surveyor emerged in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, although the firm of henry Cooper and Sons of Reading was established as early as 1785. Prior to the first recorded usage of the term “quantity surveyor” in 1859, the terms “measurer”, “custom surveyor” or “surveyor” were used.

In those early days the quantity surveyor acted for the master tradesmen, measuring the work after completion and frequently submitting partisan Final Accounts to the building owner. As a direct result of these activities it increasingly became the practice of building owners to have work executed under contract and to call for tenders before any work was undertaken. A procedure therefore developed whereby building owners would approach an architect to design a building. Drawings and specifications were distributed to selected master builders, who would then submit tenders for the total price rather than a collection of prices from master tradesmen.

The task of arriving at an accurate estimate of cost or tender can be carried out in only one way - that of measuring the quantities of all materials and labour necessary to complete the work, i.e. preparing bills of quantities. As each builder had to prepare his own bills of quantities for each project, they realised that it would be more economical for them as a group to employ one surveyor to measure quantities for them all. They would thus share the cost of the surveyor, obtain an identical Bill of Quantities which ensured that they would all be tendering on the same basis.

The building owner subsequently realised that it would be to his personal advantage to appoint and pay the fees of the quantity surveyor.

Thus the independent professional quantity surveyor gained consultant status.


The choice of an appropriate form of contract for any given project will depend on the nature of the project, the circumstances under which the work is to be carried out and the particular needs of the client. Quantity surveyors, in collaboration with architects are able to advise their clients on the most advantageous procurement methods available, including: Contracts incorporating bills of quantities, provisional bills of quantities and schedules of rates.

Negotiated, lump-sum, managed and cost plus contracts, Package deals, turnkey offers, etc.

While Bills of Quantities are generally regarded as the most economical and best method of obtaining a competitive price, the alternative methods and types of tender documentation available need to be carefully examined in consultation with the quantity surveyor, architect, etc. before a final decision is made. Financial control over contracts.

  • Valuation of work in progress
  • Cash flow budgets
  • Final account in respect of the contract

The quantity surveyor’s duty is essentially one of cost control. They measure and value work in progress, determine the value of variations ordered by the architect or engineer and ensure that a fair and equitable settlement of the cost of the project is reached in accordance with the contract conditions. In conjunction with the architect and other consultants the quantity surveyor will ensure that the financial provisions of the contract are properly interpreted and applied.


Quantity surveyors possess knowledge and expertise in the fields of costs and contracts which equip them to prepare valuations for fire insurance, to advise in the settlement of insurance claims and to be called as expert witnesses or act as arbitrators in any court or arbitration on building disputes.


Quantity surveying services in respect of civil, mechanical, and electrical work
Property economics
Fast track construction


Quantity surveyors are remunerated according to a recommended scale of fees, set out in the Tariff of Professional Charges published by the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors.

Fees are generally based on a percentage of the value of the work handled, varying in accordance with the type of work done or the scope of services rendered.


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