No longer are most QSs prepared to quantify a project, says a young estimator

It’s the new age of responsibility. Nobody wants to be responsible for anything anymore just in case they get something wrong. So who is responsible now?

Well it seems that all construction professionals have decided to get together and push all responsibility on to the contractor. This, in turn, pushes up the cost of building and the client, unwittingly, has to pay a premium for this extra responsibility.

Having spoken to estimators who have worked for 40 years or more I hear tales of how tender enquiries used to be. Drawings were not always required to price a project as the bills of quantities were so detailed.

So what happened to the QS who used to produce these detailed bills? Well, there are a few still out there, but when we receive an enquiry from one of the few QSs prepared to quantify a project, we seem strangely happy that they have taken the time to put it together. I can’t understand why we should be so pleased - isn't it their job to provide quantities?

Most of the time, instead of receiving bills of quantities and a set of detailed drawings you now receive a few drawings missing vital details and a schedule of works that is missing items and finishes with the statement: “It is the responsibility of the contractor to check the drawings and make sure all items are included.”

It makes me laugh sometimes when you receive a schedule of works from a QS and a set of drawings from the architect and you have to think what has the client paid the QS to do.

In order to price the job I would need to measure the items so why not just cut out QSs all together? Are they really required if they are not going to measure anything? Surely as skilled professionals QSs should be doing more. Anyone capable of reading and writing can copy items straight from a drawing that an architect has produced.

Architects are just as good at dodging responsibility. Why on a scaled drawing do they put a statement: “Do not scale from this drawing. All dimensions to be checked on site.” Is the drawing to scale or not?

When you price a bill of quantities you know what you are pricing. There is a description and a quantity. A schedule of works is not as clear, and as estimators you find yourself thinking: “Well I’m not quite sure about this item. I better add a bit more to it just in case.”

If all contractors are doing the same thing, you are not getting the most competitive quotation. For example, if I gave five people a big jar full of sweets and told them there were 200 sweets, they know that each sweet cost 5p so they could estimate how much the jar of sweets cost.

However, if I gave five people the jar without a quantity you would get vastly different answers. Some may miss count the number of sweets, some may think they have counted enough but add a bit more on just in case they have missed a few and this is how estimating in construction works.

Without a bill of quantities all contractors will look at a project slightly differently. Therefore the client is not always getting quotations that are like for like. Is this value for money for the client? I don’t think so.

I am sure that the many QSs that are out there are all saying: “We don’t get a big enough fee to spend the time producing a bill of quantities” or “We don’t get enough time to produce a bill of quantities.”

Well I can believe that. As contractors we too are coming under constant pressure to produce more for less. However does the client realise that by paying less to the QS they are actually paying more for a project. Collectively, QSs should be advising the clients of this before the art of quantity surveying is lost.