Vipattz Ratnarajah Vipattz Ratnarajah

In my last blog I said that a Quantity Surveyor is like an accountant/lawyer/engineer hybrid. 

In short, a QS, manages all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures.  Put simply, our job is to minimise the costs of a project and enhance its value for money while achieving the required standards and quality.  Piece of cake right? Well actually, imagine being given a picture of a cake and some money and using it to work out what ingredients and how much you need and what it costs to make and decorate it perfectly and on time for a special day where everybody gets a piece. That sort of sums it up!

My current project isn’t exactly a piece of cake, its a Design and Build high-rise apartment scheme, due to be completed in May 2017 after 2 ½ years.‘Design and Build’  is an arrangement where the main contractor is responsible for both the design and the construction work on a project, as opposed to separate contract arrangements for design and building. The £30m scheme consists of 300 units and infrastructure works.

In my role as a Main Contractor QS I have a range of responsibilities pre and post-contract – end to end on the project, in other words.  They include things like preparing design & build bills of quantities, which are documents that set out exactly how much of everything is needed to do the work specified in the drawings and plans in the project tender – a bit like the recipe book in our cake example. I also advise on procurement strategies – the best way to buy the ingredients; allocating works to sub-contractors – deciding who will help to make the cake; valuing completed works – checking we have we bought the right things (and the cake tastes nice!); arranging payments, analyse outcomes and preparing progress reports.  It’s a busy job. 

I’m stationed at the Site office, so that I can continuously monitor how the project develops in real time, and I visit the site every other day.  I need to monitor progress regularly so I know how much the project is costing against how the job is progressing.  I summarise this in regular reports and I produce things called Interim Payment Certificates, which are a way of paying the contractor or claiming from the client as the project goes along rather than after it is all finished.  

Periodic cost reporting sounds boring but its critical in helping us to quickly identify risks and potential job overruns and to deal with them before it is too late.  Likewise, the monthly progress reports I prepare for clients keep them informed of the current physical and financial status of the project so they can understand its progress to date and plan ahead for the next stage. Our organisation has its own reporting system and software for these reports making this work fast and efficient, thankfully! 

Being involved in my current project from the start means I understand the major construction stages reasonably well. I follow the RIBA Plan of Works 2013 protocol which is an established framework for design and construction that acts as a big project planner. It helps by segmenting building projects into key stages and it details the tasks and outputs required at each stage which may vary or overlap to suit specific project requirements. Like many in our industry, mine is a fast-track project aimed to complete within a set period of time.  

As construction professionals where time is absolutely critical we must always try to stay ahead of physical targets set at the start. If anything unforeseen occurs such as rain or other delays we need to find solutions to cover lost time, including working overtime and using more machinery. Our main commitment is to complete the project on time so we do everything reasonably possible to move forward without major postponements e so our stakeholders benefit.

While this can be very demanding it can also encourage creativity and innovation -  testing our capacity for good ideas and problem solving. 

Next time I’ll blog about professional development – including MCIOB.