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21-Aug-2

Focus on…quantity surveyors

Continuing our regular feature focusing on some of the most popular small businesses, we take a closer look at quantity surveyors.

What do they do?
A quantity surveying firm calculates initial costs and manages all on-going costs on construction projects from building to infrastructure developments.

The aim of the firm is to find ways to save money while meeting the client’s needs and also sticking to statutory building regulations.

They will prepare initial estimates for tenders and contract documents, keep track of costs along the way, advise on procurement strategies, and often allocate work to sub-contractors.

Some firms specialise in types of projects or areas of the industry from property taxation and facilities management to maintenance costs.

Getting started
While a degree in quantity surveying, accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), is a good starting point you don’t need an official qualification to enter the industry. Though chartered surveyors – those who are members of the RICS – tend to earn more and get more business.

Many move into surveying from other related sectors such as the building and construction world, economics and business, and even subjects like geography and mathematics. Though they would need to take a conversion course.

An RICS-accredited qualification can take up to 3 years, with the option of a year in industry stretching it to 4 years. After that, a post-grad course can add a further 2 years, if taken part-time. To become a member of the RICS, which is highly recommended, you’ll need to study further.

Early on, try and get as much on-the-job experience as possible. This not only makes it easier to make the transition into the real world and show future employers you’re serious, it also allows you to network within the industry – vital if you want to set up your own quantity surveying firm down the line.

When setting up your own firm, you’ll need to have professional indemnity insurance in place that complies with the requirements of RICS’ Rules of Conduct for firms.

Industry challenges
The main challenge within the quantity surveying sector is the lack of skilled workers. Figures from RICS say the skills shortage is at its worst since 2008.

A study by the RICS found that 65% of construction firms reported a lack of availability of quantity surveyors, while 67% said they weren’t happy with the quality of current quantity surveyors.

Adapting to technical changes is also becoming a big issue with advances in 3D technology and building information modelling (BIM) meaning that it’s become easier for non-quantity surveyors to do some of the tasks only done by quantity surveyors in the past.

And, of course, Brexit is an issue. With the downturn in UK construction and the removal of a large part of the affordable European construction workforce, belts will be tightened and quantity surveyors will be tasked with delivering lower cost projects.

Personal challenges
The life of a quantity surveyor is often split between the office and site. This means lots of travel, as the sites aren’t often local. If you’re working on site, you need to be there as long as the site is open – which could be from 7am to 6pm. It could also mean some weekend work.

Working on construction sites can be dangerous and construction has one of the highest accident rates of any sectors.

But apart from that, you should earn a good wage and have a decent quality of life.

Industry facts
• The average quantity surveyor salary is £51,943, according to adzuna.
• There are around 53,000 quantity surveyors in the UK, according to Statista.
• This is a rise of 18,000 since 2012 when there was just 35,000.
• Surveyors who are experts in 3D laser modelling generated £1.4bn in income, according to the RICS.

Case study: director-led approach to quantity surveying
As with many business, once the key figures rise to the level of directors they tend to take a step back from the day-to-day work and instead see themselves as overseers of the company.

But at Hargreaves Jones, the opposite is true. The quantity surveying firm prides itself of having its directors on the front line.

Founded in 2005 by Peter Hargreaves and Glynn Jones, the group expanded with the appointment of Laurence Rimmer, Eric Allan and Adrian Coppin – all being primary service providers and points of contact for its clients.

This simple yet effective approach means all the clients receive the directors’ years of expertise and experience. The company also offers director-led mentoring and support to its employees.

So if you’re setting up your quantity surveying firm but still want to be hands-on, then follow the lead of Hargreaves Jones.