Public sector and contractors drive bills production growth as they seek to avoid risk

Bills of quantities are making a comeback due to demand from contractors and public sector clients.

Birmingham-based consultancy DBK Back has reported a threefold increase in demand for B of Qs in the past 12 months. It also claims to have seen a 25% jump in turnover from bill production services in the past two years. The service now accounts for a significant 10% of DBK’s revenue.

The firm plans to double its B of Qs team, which is currently five-strong and based in Birmingham. DBK would like to add the extra experts to its London and Manchester offices.

Duncan Berry, DBK director, said: “A lot of this work is being driven by contractors. They are pricing design and build contracts so they need bills. Some think it’s better to outsource this job... as they would rather ensure that their potential risk is thrown to a consultant.”

Public sector clients were also driving demand, he said. “Local authorities want surety in terms of the quality and components of a building. With B of Qs this is spelt out to the nth degree.” Public sector clients were also driving the growth of design and build contracts, he said, as this approach allowed them to pass more risk to contractors and frequently to tie them to a guaranteed maximum price.

Local authorities want surety in terms of the quality and components of a building. With B of Qs this is spelt out to the nth degree

Duncan Berry, director, DBK

Berry said the problem with the resurgence of bill production services was finding the staff with the requisite skills. He said these people tended to be “grey-haired”. He added: “We find that younger people coming out of universities haven’t really got these skills.”

Berry’s view was backed by Stoke-on-Trent QS Allan Mountford, who runs his own firm. He said major contractors were now demanding bills expertise from QS practices. Mountford said disastrous overruns on jobs like the Scottish Parliament underlined the argument for using bills of quantities. “For an average £10m job you will probably pay fees of 1% for B of Qs work. That can probably save a client four to five times that when you get to the final account. A lot of clued up clients realise they might as well go down the B of Qs route.”

One leading QS claimed that the big QS practices were still not doing B of Qs, particularly in London, where he said “you would be hard pressed to find a single firm doing bills”. Instead, he said, London companies outsource the work to regional practices and even further afield to countries such as Indonesia.

• Corderoy has set up a quantity surveying academy at its Birmingham office. The academy is training five new recruits, three of whom are school leavers. The academy’s