Some Advice for Quantity Surveyors… from an Architect!

The fact that an architect is daring to give the QS profession any advice is enough to get a large proportion of the industry to read this article.

I have written previously about how I believe the quantity surveying profession is missing out on BIM. The term quantity survey even highlights the underselling of the profession. In a data driven world quantum does not need a profession. The computer can count bricks far more efficiently and accurately of any human being.

 

I can hear all of the surveyors out there shouting but were not quantity surveyors and more we are cost managers. No one calls themselves a quantity survey.

 

I understand the title cost manager but I think this undersells the potential. Managing cost is even in theory quite straight-forward. At its simplest level it is a single metric. You add up a list of numbers and it’s either too high or too low.

 

You report that it’s too high and suggest items that can be removed or reduced. You then report on a new number and so it goes on. Again I know this is oversimplifying the process.

 

The advice for quantity surveyors or cost managers is that firstly their professional title doesn’t do them justice and secondly in the energy world of lots of data there is huge opportunity to be very sophisticated in the integration of metrics.

 

My proposal would be the new profession would be called VALUE ENGINEERS. The term value engineering is much used and abused in the industry at present.

 

What value engineering means in our industry at present is that we over designed the building and the costs were not managed correctly and we need to reduce the cost via specification changes and re-design. This is a very wasteful process.

 

I am a huge fan of value. It is a much used and largely misunderstood term. The thing about value is it is different for everyone depending on your perspective. Is a Kia car better value than an Audi? Clearly it depends on your definition of value.

 

Value can be defined as relative worth, merit, or importance or in specific construction terms the balance between function and cost.

 

Engineering is the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences, as physics or chemistry.

 

If we put these two elements together I believe we have the making of what we need in the industry to understand the huge amount of data available.

 

Using the BIG BIM Four-Stage Lifecycle we should start every project by ‘defining and validating’ the requirements. In other words this is where we will define VALUE. The value engineer needs to find the balance or sweet spot for the client between cost and function. The metrics to define value need to be agreed.

 

For example the cost may have to be balanced with time, embedded carbon, cost in use, replacement and maintenance. We can now report on all of these aspects in real-time as we move into the ‘design and prototype’ stage.

 

Our new VALUE ENGINEER can report on the balance and the interrelationship between all of these elements. At present we have carbon consultants and lifecycle specialists. These skills and knowledge all need to be embedded and the interrelationship understood by the value engineer.

 

New software tools can be developed to help communicate and report on this balance through design, construction and operation. We can capture all of this data and feed it back into the database to improve future projects.

 

The Government has set high targets for us for 2025 to reduce cost by 33% and reduce greenhouse gases by 50%. The targets have to be achieved without an impact on quality and we will only achieve this by truly understanding what drives quality.

 

So my new professional body is called RIVE! The Royal Institute of Value Engineers. Sounds good.

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