Life as a quantity surveyor is changing once more – but there are still issues that must be dealt with

Richard Marriott

With quips such as ‘money makes the world go round’ and ‘cash is king’ firmly embedded into our psyche it is no wonder that the quantity surveying profession and the merits of its cost skills remain consistently under scrutiny.

We are well used to warnings of our demise. In the 1980s we were told that the profession was facing a precipice as bills of quantities fell out of favour and in 1999 Sir John Egan told us that we must “change or die”. Of course we did not sit still, we evolved to ensure we remained fit for purpose. Once considered ground breaking for the profession, the QS has taken a lead role in the areas of project management, facilities management and collaborative working principles which are all now part of the RICS examination.

Life is all about change and the profession is in the midst of evolving once more. We are very much following in the footsteps of other professional services and positioning ourselves as multi-disciplinary business advisers with our core competencies underpinning everything we do. We are ably equipping ourselves by first recruiting industry specialists to work in parallel with the technical teams to maximise understanding of what actually drives value and reduces risk in a particular sector; the second is by upskilling ourselves to achieve the same end goal.

Each time we face change, the same two issues crop up. The first is the longstanding practice of introducing the quantity surveyor to a project once initial steps have been agreed. This late arrival does not save on costs, in fact it has the opposite effect, and we continue to push this message home to everyone we encounter.

The second lies in the education of the next generation. To help us evolve into the strategic business advisers we need to be, the universities and other training organisations need to include more modules within the technical courses that will teach more in-depth commercial and business skills and create greater commercial awareness.

And so to address our critics: we are not economists nor are we fortune tellers. Our skill lies in providing advice that positively influences the outcomes based upon an in-depth understanding of the value drivers which underpin the business case for construction. This wider business understanding is the key to successful evolution of our profession.

Richard Marriott is director at property and construction consultancy DBK