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    the future of work for Professional: Quantity Surveyor

    The Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) defined a Quantity Surveyor as a professional who has a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of construction and construction methods, as well as the laws relating to construction projects and accounting, in order to provide cost and financial advice. Over the years, the changing dynamics of the construction industry has fine-tuned the profession into what it encompasses today.

    The t
    erm Quantity Surveyor emerged in England in the early nineteenth century. Prior to that time, the terms “measurer”, “custom surveyor” or “surveyor” were used. In those early days, the Quantity Surveyor worked for the master tradesmen (known as contractors/builders today), measuring their work after completion and frequently submitting partisan final accounts to the clients. As competition increased among master tradesmen, they realised that to stay competitive there was a lot of measurement and calculation to be done, coupled with excessive overhead cost. This gave birth to the emergence of the contractor/contracting Quantity Surveyor. The client and architect realised that they could benefit from such a professional, by employing the quantity surveyor as a construction economist and cost consultant. This gave birth to the emergence of the consulting Quantity Surveyor. In the early days up until the middle of the 19th century, Quantity Surveyor’s duties were limited to just measurement, that is measurement of quantities for proposed construction and measurement of quantities to arrive at the value of completed construction. They perform these duties using measuring tape, pencil and a piece of paper.

    In contemporary times, the roles and responsibilities of the Quantity Surveyor has broadened unlike that of the Architect which became specific with age. Quantity Surveyors have been seen to expand and adapt their scope of services to meet the changing industry demand. The profession hasn’t been left behind in the digitisation race as well. It started with the use of traditional methods then graduated to the use of Microsoft word and Microsoft Excel. Today, there are several enterprise software applications that facilitate the delivery of a Quantity Surveyor’s core responsibilities. Some of these include international players like QSCAD, MasterBill, QSPro, AutoDesk Quantity Take, etc., and local players like Workmate BillMaker. Despite the existence of several QS software, researchers noted that although 87% of Nigerian Quantity Surveyors use computers in their service delivery, communication-based software ranks the highest, followed by general purpose software before Quantity Surveying software. This was majorly attributed to poor software education in Nigerian institutions of learning, followed by return on investment concerns. With this slow pace of adopting digitisation by Nigerian Quantity Surveyors right from the grassroots, there is the risk of creating a society of young professionals ill-equipped with the requisite skills to remain relevant in the face of acute competition from fellow professionals and software alike. Prominent among the inherent threat to Quantity Surveyors is the Building Information Modelling Software (BIM).

    According to Marcel Frei and Jasper Mbachu (2009), every profession evolves in response to the ever-increasing changes in the global business environment. In order to remain relevant, globally competitive and successful, Quantity Surveyors need to constantly scan their business landscape to discern new directions and to adapt to imminent changes in their professional practice. The future of work in Quantity Surveying practise will be analysed under the following. Automation:
    There is a saying that “What got us here will not get us there”. Unlike the Architectural practise which is built upon conceptualisation, the Quantity Surveying practise is built on analysis of data, hence facing a greater risk of competition from digitisation. With the maturity of BIM from levels 0 to level 3 and the full harness and deployment of BIM dimensions all the way to 6D, digitisation of Quantity Surveying services is fast creeping upon the industry. Generally the traditional Quantity Surveyor’s service can be broadly categorised under 2 stages: the pre-contract stage and the post-contract stage. The pre-contract stage encompasses such duties as measurement, estimating, preparation of bills of quantities, tender evaluation, amongst others. The post-contract stage involves cost planning, management of claims, valuation, final account preparation, amongst others.
    A deep analysis of these tasks will bring to bear the fact that a fully deployed BIM system will perform about 90% of these traditional Quantity Surveying tasks. Using PWC’s 3 separate waves of innovation, the algorithm and augmentative waves of Quantity Surveyors have been attained. The autonomy wave will be attained when the full capacity of BIM in all its dimensions and levels have been fully harnessed and becomes operational. A survey of 12,000 Quantity Surveyors carried out by Market Tracking International for building, revealed that Quantity Surveyors are racked with anxiety about their future. The survey found that 58% of respondents think their traditional cost-modelling role is under threat and likely to be replaced with software packages. It revealed that Quantity Surveyors are concerned about the rapid erosion of their traditional role and the threat posed by acquisitive rivals, and by other professionals such as management consultants and accountants. That feared future is drawing close faster than anticipated with each passing day and technological breakthrough.

    Taking a strategic quote Charles Darwin left behind: “It is neither the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” This is a clarion call to Quantity Surveyors because there is the need to activate a unified effort and not just a factional one to ascertain the relevance of future generation of Quantity Surveyors especially in developing nations. The RICS (1998) QS Think Tank Report noted that many regular clients are critical of traditional quantity surveying services and are demanding a different and more comprehensive range of services that is proactive, customer orientated and supported by significantly better management and business skills. According to DISR (1998), the direct calculation of quantities from CAD files represents a serious threat to the traditional role of Quantity Surveyors. The future role of the Quantity Surveying profession will become limited as a result of threat from digitisation and other construction industry professionals. In an interview, Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS) Chief Executive Officer, Michael Manikas, stressed that the quality assurance aspects of the traditional quantity surveying role remain imperative, but added that greater efficiency in terms of bills of quantities measurement through tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) has freed up Quantity Surveyors to add more value and become a more integral part of the management of projects.

    A lot of professionals are being proactive and becoming more of a business advisor than a traditional Quantity Surveyor. David Mitchell, a partner of 5D quantity surveying firm, sees the profession having to confront a number of issues going forward. These issues include the prospect of the calculation of quantities and estimates being performed by algorithms or an alternative party within the construction industry. There is also the factor of a growing international competition – especially from countries which have mandated BIM such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK and USA as well as a number of European nations; and the potential for the value of a Quantity Surveyor’s local price libraries, knowledge and benchmarks to be eroded as information becomes more accessible and therefore more easily shared. Firms should be concentrating on high-fee generating services such as cost-planning, site-planning, and management and procurement advice. Life-cycle costing, arbitration and technical auditing are also growing markets. “What Quantity Surveyors used to do is fading. In the meantime, what they now do is growing,” says Davis Langdon & Everest senior partner Paul Morrell. Morrell thinks that traditional Quantity Surveying, especially calculating bills of quantities, is on its way out. To be relevant in this BIM era, Quantity Surveyors need to let go of their traditional tasks, study and embrace the BIM and become authorities in peculiar value-added services.


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