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The Quantity Surveyor

Planning your construction

Quantity surveying

Quantity surveying and the prepartion of a Bill of Quantities (BoQ) is the single most effective way of protecting ourselves when we ask a contractor, builder or developer to carry out a project for us. The Quantity surveyor defines exactly what will be done, what the quality will be and how much it should cost, this can be used to prepare a schedule of payments and make sure we pay the right price and only when the work is complete.

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The need to protect ourselves in building projects

There are many dishonest people in the construction industry. Hardly a days goes past when we don't hear some tale of woe of someone who has been badly treated when building, buying or carrying out work on their property. Sadly, in spite of there being many highly professional experts working in the building industry there are many others who are opportunists, who don't know what they are doing and others who are downright con artists ready to cheat some poor soul out of there life's savings.

Some people involve themselves with expatriates, people who speak their own language, assuming that this will somehow be a safer option. Make no mistake people are probably more likely to be taken advantage of by expatriates rather than by local people and some of the more serious cases I have come across have been perpetrated by expatriates.

It all sounds depressing, even frightening doesn't it? In fact there are very effective ways that people can protect themselves, by following the correct way of carrying out a project all the necessary checks and balances are provided for and there are professionals available to help you through the process.

Underpricing may be an honest mistake

While people may be very quick to start saying they have been cheated or ripped off in fact in many situations this may not be the case. It is important to remember that the average Balinese building contractor does not have an academic education, he puts together a price that he and his friends have agreed to that may very well not be based on a full understanding of the work to be carried out and a detailed costing of that work. The price sounds really good and is accepted but, as the job proceeds, he realises he is going to have to reduce his costs to make any money at all (or avoid a loss). He reduces the amount of steel and cement he uses, uses cheaper wood, etc. He is not really cheating, he is working within the price that has been agreed. To avoid these problems it is important to follow standard procedures for managing a building project. We'll come to that in a minute.

There are of course others who are, as I said, opportunists who set out with the intention of being dishonest to extract money. To guard against these people make sure you only deal with qualified people, check their reputations and set a few tests for them to make sure they are looking after your interests.

Employ a Project Manager to manage construction

A good first step is to engage a professional Project Manager to act as your advocate and deal on your behalf with all the specialists and contractors that will be involved in your project.

The next thing to do is to check that the professionals who will be engaged on your project are fully qualified in their fields of expertise.

It is important that when putting together your team that there are no conflicts of interest that will encourage cheating. The most common such conflict here is the situation of architects taking on the roles of the Project Manager and building contractor, who is going to keep the builder honest?

Separate the roles and engage professionals.

The Quantity Surveyor and the Bill of Quantities

Among these professionals is one person who will contribute more than any other to protecting your interests, it is a role you will rarely hear of here in Bali - the Quantity Surveyor.

The Quantity Surveyor will prepare a BoQ (Bill of Quantities) that will clearly define exactly what will be delivered in the project including all the services to be provided, payment of specialists and a fully comprehensive breakdown of the labour and material costs of every single task to be completed to finish the job.

The Bill of Quantities is very detailed

It is a good idea to check this bill of quantities which should be included within the contract documentation and signed by the builder. It should state thing such as:

The sizes and quantity of steel to be used in the reenforcement, the specifications of the concrete mixes, the quality and brand of tiles used on the floors, the type of rock to be used for decoration, the species of wood to be used for window frames and doors, the quality of roofing tiles, the number of paint coats and the paint quality and brand to be used, square metrage of all these items, the brand and item numbers of equipment and fittings such as air conditioners, pumps, taps, toilet bowls etc. The fees to be paid to the architect, structural engineer MEP design engineer, project manager, the pricing should also include understandings of the series of progress payments and the maintenance period.

Just a minute this sounds very exhaustive doesn't it, well yes it does. The quantity surveyor must have the skills and experience to read and fully understand the architect's, structural engineer's, the MEP design engineer's and the landscape architect's drawings. He must be able to read and understand the specifications of the technical equipment, he must go through all the dcuments with a fine tooth comb so he fully understands how the building will proceed and hwo particular problems are going to be solved.

He needs all this information so he can fully and in great detail state exactly what materials and services will be needed and so he can work out how much labour and time will be involved. Allowance may be made for adjustments (It may not be know at the outset how deep the bore will have to be drilled to reach good water so he may quote a price per metre for the drilling and sleeving.

The bill of Quantities will also tell you if the builder is underpricing himself, the important thing is to determine the right price for the building not the cheapest.

How the Quantity Surveyor's work will protect you?

  • Firstly it defines exactly what will be provided in the project and becomes part of the contract documentation.

  • Secondly it provides an objective and independant statement of what the costs of a project should be. This is used to compare with quotations submitted by construction contractors who tender to constrcut the project. Contractors proposals can be examined to make sure that everything is included and that pricing by the contractor is neither too great nor too small.

  • Thirdly the Bill of Quantities is used to track progress as the project proceeds and to determine progress payments that will be due to the contractor.

  • In the final completion of the project the Bill of Quantities provides a definition of the project which is used by inspectors to ensure that the project has been completed according to the agreed contract.

  • The Bill of Quantities also provides a clear statement of the cost of construction that can be used for valuation and insurance purposes.

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Copyright © Phil Wilson January 2012
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