What is the role of a quantity surveyor?
Construction has a consultancy team ranging from an architect to a quantity surveyor, electrical/mechanical engineer, civil engineer and the contractor. A quantity surveyor's main role is to prepare a budget known as Bills of quantity for the whole construction project and then help in controlling the costs. He then prepares this from a detailed drawing/house plan designed by the architect. A quantity surveyor also prepares complete tender documents and is also involved in the evaluation process of bids.
When a contractor has been selected from the bid process, a quantity surveyor goes ahead to compile the contract documents and later carries out the contract administration. This involves the assessment of contractor's claims through valuation and preparation of financial appraisals and the preparation of a final account.
How can a prospective home owner spend less on his construction project?
It depends on how the client approaches it, whether it is a commercial or personal project. But the best way to minimise costs is to get proper guidance from qualified and professional people like an architect and a quantity surveyor. However, to be able to manage costs from the start, it is important that one gets the right design from the architect. An architect will advise a client on the best way to have a successful project. It is also important for one to have comparative preliminary cost estimates. The estimates are prepared by a quantity surveyor.
Does a quantity surveyor have a say in legal issues regarding construction?
A quantity surveyor is more like a legal advisor in construction given the fact that he compiles the contract documents. Quantity surveyors are also arbitrators in cases of litigation between an employer (a client) and a contractor. However, to be an arbitrator, a quantity surveyor has to study a special course in arbitration for a few months.
How much do you charge for a three-bedroomed house?
It is hard to set an exact figure because in most cases, the cost will vary depending on the client's demands. That is to say an estimate prepared for bank/loan purpose and an estimate prepared for actual construction. However, the cost may range from Shs500,000 to Shs2m. In Uganda, the fixed quantity surveyor's fee has not been fully developed unlike in Kenya where they charge a percentage of the total construction cost.
Do you undertake the project from inception to completion or there is a certain stage at which you back out?
This depends on the magnitude of a project because there are some clients who come when their projects have already started and require just a bit of advice. However, in most cases, a quantity surveyor is involved right from the inception of the project. An architect prepares scheme designs from which the quantity surveyor uses to prepare preliminary estimates. If the estimate is affordable by the client, the architect prepares detailed designs from which tender bills of quantities are prepared.
From that the contract documentations follow, and then contract administration and finally preparation of a final account. The process ends after the project has successfully undergone a defects liability period which normally runs for six months after completion of the building
What challenges are encountered in this job?
Because quantity surveying practice in Uganda is still developing, many people are not aware of the advantages of hiring the services of a quantity surveyor. Worse still, according to our code of conduct, we are not allowed to advertise our services therefore it is difficult to penetrate the market.
Also, clients are scared of the fees we charge and yet they are reasonable and worth the services we offer. There are also many quack quantity surveyors in the field who tarnish the name of the whole profession when they deliver poor quality services.
Stephen E. Ray, a quantity surveyor, ICM Consultants
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