Now, it has been argued that as QSs are already catered for by the RICS, the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, the Chartered Institute of Building, the Institute of Cost Engineers and no doubt others – there is little point in establishing another. The RICS has said that if the reason for the new institute is dissatisfaction with the RICS' service, then surely the answer is to work with the RICS to ensure problems are resolved.
The team that started the QSi no doubt have their own reasons for becoming involved. There is, however, a general feeling that QSs are in danger of losing their identity within the industry. For many years, the idea has been bandied about that QSs should undergo a name change, as the title "quantity surveyor" does not reflect the role of many. If the title is to be changed, then what would be an appropriate title? And would there be a need for another name change in a few years' time? Better, it was thought, to publicise the skills that quantity surveyors have to offer now and the roles they are able to fill. So, one of the tasks of the QSi will be to raise the profile of the quantity surveyor, which should be of great help to its members.
Another area where the QSi will be involved is construction procurement. One of the scandals to have hit the industry has been the astronomical cost of tendering. A recent study undertaken by Reading University concluded that a contractor spends, on average, 1.5% of the contract sum on prequalifying with a further 3% expended to secure the work. This is hardly surprising when, on design-and-build projects, it is a common requirement for two or even three bidders to produce a fully designed scheme before a submission is chosen and a contract drawn up.
The whole procurement system is a hotchpotch; there is a vast array of alternatives with little or no common thread, and there is a dire need for review. QSs have long prided themselves on their skills relating to tendering using standard documents, and this is what the QSi will promote and, hopefully, implement.
But the institution's commitment to improving procurement does not stop there. There has been a great deal written about "best value" but many people are asking how it actually works. Issues such as how targets are fixed and adjusted, the need for a system for contractors' open-book arrangements and an independent verification process for KPIs are all crying out for attention. This is another fertile area for a forward looking body such as the QSi to address its efforts.
It is a mystery as to whom the government looks to for advice on procurement. The latest edict to come forth from the Office of Government Commerce is that online reverse auction system is compatible with best-value principles. It is clear that advice from bodies such as the QSi is desperately needed if the industry is to be prevented from going into reverse.
So it seems to me the answer to the question "Why start a new institute for quantity surveyors?" is simply that one is clearly needed. None of the other organisations that cater for QSs does anything to raise their profile. There seems to be nothing being done to reduce tendering costs or standardise procurement methods. Government policy has gone off track and sound advice is clearly required to correct the situation. And if existing bodies won't sort this lot out, then we need a new one that will.
Roger Knowles is chairman of James R Knowles.