The Quantity Surveyor
Matt Weber, AScT, PQS, is the current president of the Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors - British Columbia (CIQS-BC). He is also the vice president of Concosts Management and the general manager of Concosts Consultants in B.C., a...
Matt Weber, AScT, PQS, is the current president of the Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors – British Columbia (CIQS-BC). He is also the vice president of Concosts Management and the general manager of Concosts Consultants in B.C., a company that has been in business since 1968.
Q. What materials and equipment are the most difficult to estimate, or “take off”?
Site Work has always been the most difficult to estimate with certainty due to a great deal of unknowns. We don’t know what is under the ground. The issues could be artesian wells, boulders, soft soils, environmental issues, and ultimately finding hard pan by over excavating.
A second area where I am seeing cost escalations is in Mechanical and Electrical Systems. Mechanical systems can be very complex, so they have their own discipline in quantity surveying. It’s an extensive amount of work to count all the piping, equipment and material, and you have to take it down to that level.
The other area that always seems to be an issue is the General Conditions or General Requirements. These are time-dependent costs involved in completing the project, so you need to have an outstanding working knowledge of a construction site and how to build something to be able to estimate how much labour is going to be required, how much supervision, the crane usage, the security, power consumption and the like.
Q. What kind of margin of variance do you see between cost estimates and the reality?
A lot of what we do at Concosts is verifying budgets by developers or contractors and I sometimes see budgets in the range of 25% to 50% below what they should be. Constantly we find the errors after owners have given the cost to the bank or to their investors. The key is to have a budget verified by a quantity surveyor before submitting it to a lender or owner or to whomever your client is.
Q. You would think that owners would ask for an independent costing. Why don’t they?
One of our biggest problems is that owners don’t know what quantity surveyors are. They just think that the contractor will give them a quote and then they’ll have a piece of paper so that’s all they need to worry about. The clients forget that the contractor has a vested interest in obtaining the work.
Q. What about the impact of Building Information Modeling (BIM)?
Obviously it does take out a function of quantity surveying in that you can do nearly all of the take-offs within the program.
But I think that BIM will actually raise appreciation of the profession to another level because estimating is not just as simple as “count this many 2 x 4s, and price by this unit rate.” There are also elements to constructability to consider, such as cut-offs and wastage, movement to the site, etc. It is my belief that BIM will streamline estimating work allowing quantity surveyors to focus on the broader picture of a project.
Q. It’s odd that we still call it quantity surveying, the old English term. Maybe that’s why people don’t know what it is.
Constantly people say, Oh you’re the ones who look through the surveying stations and measure roads. I say, “No, we don’t do that… It’s confusing I know.”
In the early 2000s before I started in this company even I had no idea what a quantity survey was. We just called it “estimating.” cce