What is a Quantity Surveyor (QS) and What Value does a QS Offer?


Quantity Surveyors are qualified building and construction professionals who specialise in building measurement, quantification and estimating of the value of building and construction and property assets.

Briefly, let’s clear up some confusion in the ‘Surveying’ profession.

Being in a profession that most people haven’t heard of or frequently gets confused with other industry professions has its challenges.

What is a Quantity Surveyor? I am a Quantity Surveyor. QS for short.

Not to be confused with other building and construction industry surveyor professions including i.e.

Building Surveyor or Land Surveyor in like manner, all ‘surveyor references above’ it is true that each one of the above professions does indeed survey data, land, building and construction projects; but for different purposes. In the general sense, they are indeed all Surveyors.

What service do they provide?

During the design or construction stages of projects, qualified quantity surveyors are concerned with quantifying building and construction-related costs and adding value to the bottom line.

quantity surveyors provide advice at the design stage of projects

quantity surveyors provide advice during the construction stage of projects

In the post-construction phase, specialist quantity surveyors also provide depreciation services in order to minimise clients tax liabilities (i.e make it possible for the client to write-off significant taxes).

quantity surveyors provide tax depreciation advice at the post construction stage of projects

For a more extensive list, refer to the duties and roles, below.

The traditional service of a Quantity Surveyor

The traditional service of a Quantity Surveyor (QS) involves the undertaking of a Bill of Quantities (BOQ) for building and construction projects.
BOQ work is fundamentally their ‘bread and butter service’ if you will. This service involves mostly measuring and quantifying the number of materials required for the project and expressing the information in a standard format to distribute for pricing/tendering purposes. This activity is very resource hungry and measuring and compiling of BOQ work is usually undertaken by very large, traditional QS firms.

The initial quantification of the materials including measurement information is extracted from the contract documents. The contract documents for measuring and quantification purposes include architectural plans and drawings, services and engineering drawings.

quantity surveyors measure and quantify the number of materials required for the project

The BOQ sets out to provide a level playing field to head contractors and contractors to price. Going further, it all provides all tendering parties with a common base. to price from. This, subsequently, leads to better analysis, comparison, the award of the contract to the right tendering contractor and the best outcome with cost and quality in mind for the client. During this entire process, the QS would be engaged for the best outcome.

A tongue in cheek answer to what a Quantity Surveyor does, by some, includes “they count bricks”. This has come about from the above mentioned BOQ service of a Quantity Surveyor. Yes, quantity surveyor’s do ‘count bricks’. Accounting for and quantifying for many, many bricks (as well as the multitude of other building and construction materials and cost-sensitive items required for a project and allowances etc.).

quantity surveyors do count bricks

A ‘Quantity Surveyor counts construction costs and adds value to building and construction projects. A specialist Quantity Surveyor can also provide in specialist areas, such as depreciation (of investment properties).

The skillset of a quantity surveyor

  • measuring,
  • quantifying and
  • advising on building, construction matters that directly impact cost

The duties and roles of a quantity surveyor

The QS requires detailed knowledge and experience of building, construction and the building process across a diverse range of industries i.e residential, commercial, industrial etc.)

duties and roles of a quantity surveyor

Their duties include are as follows:

  • Cost estimate, cost planning and cost management
  • Analyzing terms and conditions in the contract.
  • Predicting potential risks in the project and taking precautions to mitigate such.
  • Development of independent financial advice for financiers for funding approval, via quantity surveyor reports
  • Forecasting the costs of different materials needed for the project.
  • Prepare tender documents, contracts, budgets and other documentation.
  • Take note of changes made and adjusting the budget accordingly.
  • Tender management including preparation of bills of quantities, contract conditions and assembly of tender documents
  • Contract management and contractual advice
  • Valuation of construction work
  • Claims and dispute management
  • Project manager
  • Tax Depreciation (depreciation of the effective life of property and property investments)

Specialist Quantity Surveyors

The QS profession is broad and they are can be highly effective and valuable through-out the whole life cycle of construction and property (refer to their duties and roles above). Some choose to use their extensive expert knowledge and relevant work experience to specialise.

On such area of specialisation includes tax depreciation by providing residential and commercial property investors (and bricks-and-mortar business owners) the means to write-off significant taxes on their property investments or income-producing properties (e.g. residential, commercial etc).

tax depreciation and quantity surveying

This is a specialist area and also requires up-to-date knowledge on current ATO Tax Rulings as well as being needing to be registered tax agents with the Tax Practitioner Board. These tax depreciation experts are a highly valuable asset to the property investor.

You will find most, very large traditional QS firms do not partake in tax depreciation though, as they typically focus on the very large fee-paying service contracts, bigger client and government project jobs etc., that require many resources and a very large dedicated team to focus on a select few ongoing projects at a time. Often such large projects can run for years.

Awareness (lack thereof) of Quantity Surveying. Personal Insight

From a personal point of view and revisiting the opening of this article. I am often greeted with confused expressions when I mention the term Quantity Surveyor to others. My personal experience and feedback support that ‘the general public does not know what a Quantity Surveyor is’.

Moreover, in 2003 I undertook a thesis regarding the ‘Future Threats and Opportunities Facing the Quantity Surveying Profession. This thesis highlighted a factor that there was a lack of education and awareness on what a Quantity Surveyor is and does? At the time, the thesis was directed at Quantity Surveying Firms. However, there was evidence and expression supporting ‘the lack of awareness and education concerning the benefits of and what a Quantity Surveyor is’ from the general public.

Furthermore, even at a university level for related building and construction undergraduate courses, there is also a lack of awareness. Whilst working with a large international Quantity Surveying firm, I was in a position to promote the profession at university information sessions and trade shows.

Why should The general public) care about Quantity Surveying??

QS’s have extensive knowledge of construction and building & construction matters that directly relate to initial advice of affordability, cost, cost management and the success of property developments and returns of property investments (via depreciation). Engaging a QS could therefore be a very good investment.

If one is developing property, owns property, or is using property for income-producing activities. The lack of awareness could be costing them tens of thousands of dollars each year.

It is true that there is a general lack of awareness too (partly due to education), but without the understanding of what a QS is and does, the general public may not be able to benefit from the extensive value and expertise that they add and offer. Please refer to the duties outlined (of a quantity surveyor above).

Ignorance is not bliss, when there is a hefty financial omission or lost significant monetary opportunity at risk. After all, property and construction have large initial capital outlays. Naivety in this regard can also cause significant mental distress for all invested parties if and when it goes wrong without the right advice from a quantity surveyor.

Sure, this article has barely scratched the surface of all the services of a QS (only mentioning their traditional role of compiling Bill of Quantities), but to name but a few they offer replacement cost reports, tax depreciation schedules, property development estimates and feasibilities etc.

BWK Group offers these services and more.

In Summary

In short, a quantity surveyor QS) can help save millions of dollars for clients (governments, large and small businesses, property developers, property investors large and small, owners corporations/body corporates etc.) in relation to the building and construction projects, property development plans and improve their tax returns i.e. earn tens of thousands of dollars extra. To name but a few scenarios.

Well, “What is a Quantity Surveyor? Service of a Quantity Surveyor?” What can a specialist quantity surveyor offer?

To paraphrase… ‘a Quantity Surveyor counts costs and adds value to both building & construction projects as well as to property assets‘.

quantity surveyors count costs and add value to both construction projects and property assets

Consider how and where a Quantity Surveyor or Specialist Quantity Surveyor would be used and the value that can be obtained from engaging one.

Perhaps you own an investment property that needs depreciation (and require a tax depreciation schedule)?

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