Like any profession, Quantity Surveying has evolved due to the rapid development of technology over the past few decades. The development of BIM software has resulted in many believing that traditional methods of measuring for Bills of Quantities are now outmoded and can be put out to pasture. But is this really the case? Keelagher Okey Klein disagree. We believe there is still a strong case to be made for combining both new and traditional methods of measurement.

What are the traditional methods of measuring in Quantity Surveying?
Prior to any construction work beginning, one of the roles of the Quantity Surveyor (QS) is to measure the proposed works and produce a Bill of Quantities (BQ), an itemised document breaking down costs of building materials, plant and labour. In order to produce a BQ, the Quantity Surveyor measures the quantities based upon standardised rules and definitions. It’s not an easy job, but one that any experienced QS should be more than capable of, and it’s this experience that ensures that even items that are not shown on the drawings are measured.

What are the advantages of the traditional methods?
Because the criteria by which the quantities are measured are pre-determined, they are produced in a consistent manner, familiar to the construction industry and this makes costing, estimating, evaluating, valuing and varying the building works much easier to accurately predict, especially once the construction work has progressed.

What methods are replacing the traditional methods of measurement in Quantity Surveying?
Over the past few years, software solutions such as 3D modelling packages are becoming more commonplace, replacing the printed drawings and the use of scale rules to physically measure quantities. However, while producing faster results for QS’s, such methods can be inconsistent from program to program and less conducive to the practical application of initiative and experience making Bills of Quantities less accurate for the pretender estimates and for the tendering contractors. This also makes costs harder to predict and to accurately control, leading to avoidable disputes.

KOK use CAD software to measure digitally from drawings in order to extract quantities – this is relatively low-tech but is a legitimate form of BIM, which enables the QS to interpret or ‘read’ the drawing and decide upon the appropriate means of quantifying the work. Other commercial BIM software that extracts quantities straight from CAD drawings into a BQ come with the risk of smaller but cost significant details being missed and requiring interpretation from a QS, so whilst it may aid the QS with quicker quantification of the largest quantities it then incurs time picking through to spot the omissions. It is ideally suited to measuring large, repetitive bulk quantities such as concrete but even then, can be useless for measuring items such as the formwork. BIM cannot readily identify what has been missed off the drawings. It is also heavily dependant upon designs being fully developed and specified before being billed, which is rarely the case, whereas the traditional QS can use his experience, initiative and intuition to avoid any omissions.

But is measurement in Quantity Surveying really a “lost art”?
It might not quite be lost yet, but it’s going that way. An article published in the Journal for Education in the Built Environment in 2010 laments the diminished role of measurement in Quantity Surveying, claiming that “standards of measurement have decreased over the last ten years” and there is no sign of this improving. The article cites the increasingly demanding workload of the modern QS, such as a greater focus on project management tasks, as one of the reasons for eschewing traditional measurement methods. The amount of teaching time dedicated to measurement for Quantity Surveying students at university appears to have diminished as they reflect this trend, resulting in many graduates entering the profession deficient in their skill set, compounded by going to work for firms that do little or no measurement. Companies such as Keelagher Okey Klein (KOK) fit into a niche position where they can not only offer this skill to clients and contractors alike but can also train junior staff in the ‘art’.

What also appears to get overlooked though is that the same measurement skills are required at the early project planning stage. Estimating the cost of work in order to make a financial commitment to progress design work involves an increasing degree of measurement as outline design options are considered, in order to give a client, the confidence to proceed and such information is often critical when used as the basis of financial lending decisions. Further detailed measurement and estimation as design work progresses reduces the financial risk to both lender and Client. The onus on the Client to commission a BQ to then distribute to multiple tenderers may be on the wane, but without it, each tenderer will require the quantities to be accurately measured in an industry format order to price a tender, thereby creating additional overheads, potentially increasing tender prices or reduced profit margins and posing a major risk to the financial stability of the contractor should they make unrecoverable errors in their estimating but still win the work.

Why don’t all Quantity Surveyors offer traditional methods of measurement?
To save time and effort for themselves. Forgoing the traditional methods of measurement rarely, if ever benefits the Client. At some point in the construction process, the quantities need to be measured for procurement purposes, and measured correctly. So why not do it properly once and for the good of all. Why stand for less? Keelagher Okey Klein’s experienced Chartered Quantity Surveyors don’t believe in cutting corners. They pride themselves on ensuring their Clients receive nothing but the highest quality service, which is why we remain committed to producing Bills of Quantities by combining the use of appropriate software aids with traditional methods of measurement. This way, each job will be easier for you to confidently budget for, which is one less thing for you to worry about.

Learn more about our experienced, RICS Chartered Quantity Surveyors, Chartered Building Surveyors, Principal Designers and CDM Advisors at www.kok-surveyors.co.uk

Keelagher Okey Klein (KOK) offer a range of building and construction services, including Chartered Quantity Surveyors, Chartered Building Surveyors, Principal Designers, CDM Advisors, Principal Contractor and training.

For further information or to enquire about our services, please contact John Okey on 01925 654158, and to avoid and delay in procurement our listings on NHS Shared Business Service, Fusion21, Manchester City Council CAPPS etc could be used to obtain our services promptly.