Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
News & Press: 2019 News Items

Dr Corné de Leeuw – A Tribute

Monday, 15 April 2019  
Posted by: Bert vd Heever
Share |

Prepared and read by Martin Smith

On request by the ASAQS Western Cape Chapter

At their 2019 AGM on 11 April 2019


Good morning, I am Martin Smith and I have been requested to pay tribute to Dr Corné de Leeuw this morning. It’s an absolute privilege and honour

A great cedar has fallen

Many of you may not know off him or realize the impact he had on your daily professional life

I knew Corné well as we worked for more than 30 years together at C P de Leeuw Quantity Surveyors, as junior QS and later as one of the senior partners

He had a passion for Building and Property Economics. What we have in “The Guide to elemental cost Estimating” and “The Guide to co-ordinated economic viability studies for commercial property investments” are to a large extent the culmination of all his work, vision, etc. over the years. I was fortunate enough to assist

We spent many “all-nighters” together developing viability studies calculations, formats, presentations, etc

When I joined the C P De Leeuw group as a third year student we were in awe about this Corné / Tiger De Leeuw managing partner. Yet he was as human as we all


Professional career

From 1953 to 1957 Dr De Leeuw worked part time as a student for the quantity surveying firm of Borckenhagen and Louw in Pretoria.

He graduated in 1957 from the University of Pretoria with a BSc (QS) Cum Laude

In 1958 he established his own quantity surveying practice in Pretoria (a year after graduation!)

Up to late 2000 he was the executive chairman of the C P de Leeuw Group of quantity surveyors, property managers, property valuers and property brokers

By the time Dr De Leeuw retired from the C P de Leeuw Group it had eleven offices in South Africa, one in Namibia, two in the United Kingdom and one in the United Arab Emirates with fourteen associated offices worldwide. At some stage the C P de Leeuw group was the sixth largest QS company in the world

He actually did not retire. He continued with his professional career

On leaving the C P de Leeuw Group Dr De Leeuw and his son Gerhard established DelQS in Johannesburg.

In 1988 he obtained a DSc (QS) and in 2002 a Honorary Doctorate (for outstanding services rendered in the Quantity Surveying profession), both degrees from the University of Pretoria

The title of his theses is:

“Vooruitberaming van vergoeding betaalbaar ingevolge die bounywerheidadviesraad se kontrakprysaanpassingsbepalings”

He determined a method / formula to predict the escalation payable on construction projects subject to the Haylett formula

As by-product of his research he created a construction cost cash flow formula widely used in the profession today

He passed away on 29 January 2019 at the age of 83 doing what he loved to do

Professional and other bodies

Past President / Chairman of:

Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS)

South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession (SACQSP)

Africa Association of Quantity Surveyors (AAQS)

South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA)

Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS)

Fellow of the South African Institute of Valuers

Member of the Association of Arbitrators (Southern Africa)

For many years a member of the Model Preliminaries Committee of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors.

For some years chairman of the preliminaries subcommittee of the JBCC

Up to his death the chairman of the preliminaries committee of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and a member of the Professional Services Committee (PROCSA) representing the Africa Association of Quantity Surveyors (AAQS) and the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) on that body


Gold medal of the Chapter of South African Quantity Surveyors (now the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors) for outstanding academic performance (1957)

Gold medal of Honour of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors for his contribution to the enhancement of quantity surveying and property development practice in South Africa (1999)

Regional Director’s Award of the International Cost Engineering Council (ICEC) for his contribution to the cost management profession in Africa (2006)

Distinguished International Fellow award of the International Cost Engineering Council (ICEC) in recognition of significant contributions to the cost management profession (2008)

Award from the Africa Association of Quantity Surveyors (AAQS) for contributions to quantity surveying in Africa (2008)

The person

He was a visionary; his practice was the first firm of quantity surveyors to make use of computer technology in the preparation of bills of quantities

Size of Sperry Univac

Punch card / magnetic tape

Corné dedicated a vast amount of his time to our profession sometimes to the detriment of his own family life

He was a gentleman through and through with a firm belief in being firm but fair and doing the right thing

His compassion and acts of kindness went mostly unnoticed. Not many are aware of it.

He was pedantic about the quality of estimates, bills of quantities, etc. No matter what time of the day or night he would always take the time to ensure that the documents are the best we could produce.

Sometimes you would try your best and preempt everything he could possibly want in the report or us to consider. Most of the times he mentioned something which we never would have thought about. Subtly he made us think more and more and improved our ability as QS’s

He had the knack to open a report, etc. on the page where there is a typo, setting out problem, etc.

Wrap up

My condolences go out to his wife Judy and two sons Carl and Gerard

He was a phenomenal influence in my life and made me the Property Economist I am. For this I am forever grateful

From our (ASAQS) web-site:

Possessing an incredibly astute intellect, business acumen and management skill, Corné combined these formidable qualities to rise to the top as a respected leader within the built environment being recognised and respected both locally and internationally as an icon within the quantity surveying, property valuation and property development professions.

His immense contribution and devotion to the QS fraternity and construction industry over the course of many decades, has left a technical legacy that would have come into contact with every professional within the built environment in one way or another

He was truly a servant of our industry and our profession and was always extremely and sincerely humble in recognising and acknowledging his vast contribution.



By Dave Lindenberg



Martin Smith presented a worthy tribute to Corné de Leeuw at the recent 2019 AGM of the Western Cape Chapter of Quantity Surveyors.

Having known Corné mainly through my ASAQS involvement with him over an approximate twenty-year period, I wish to honour his memory by sharing a few anecdotes of my personal experiences as a mark of respect to him and also to his wife and family.



In January 2019, Dr Cornelius Pieter de Leeuw died suddenly at the age 83. Known as Corné de Leeuw and also as Tiger de Leeuw, he could be described as an icon in the South African and African Quantity Surveying profession and property fraternity. I would venture to say that “we” have lost one of South Africa’s most valued Quantity Surveyors. Corné never retired from professional practice. His son and Quantity Surveyor partner, Gerard, told me that he was on his way to a meeting when he collapsed and died.



At the start of my QS career in the 60’s the estimating systems in use were rudimentary and highly inaccurate as an effective cost planning service to building clients in the pre-tender stages of project development. In the early 70’s I was introduced to an elemental estimating system which was pioneered by Corné de Leeuw. This resonated with my own “home-made” elemental rough quantities estimating method developed when preparing quotations off-plan while working briefly for a contracting firm early in my QS career. My own goal to provide more accurate project estimates for building clients and to enable structured cost engineering benefits was greatly encouraged and enhanced by the De Leeuw ground-breaking, avant-guarde elemental estimating system which today is used widely throughout the South African QS profession and further afield.


In the early 80’s my then QS partner, the late Llewy Jacobson, attended a SAPOA property course at the UCT GSB. When he returned to office he was extremely enthused about the advanced course material and lectures on Financial Feasibility Studies presented by Corné de Leeuw. Since there was not much guideline material available on the subject at the time we debated in the office why Corné would share his expert knowledge so freely with others when he clearly had the edge on his professional competition, especially when his expertise had cost him and his practice time and effort to research and develop. We came to the conclusion that Corné had confidence in his own success potential, that he did not fear healthy competition by others who had the necessary expertise and was dedicated to empowering the profession to which he was committed by raising the standard of service.

This attitude had an extremely positive impact on me and my colleagues as young professionals. In this regard I am reminded of a quote by Raymond Ackerman in his book, A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel, when he stated: “Knowledge is important, but there is nothing so secret in this world that someone who is prepared to listen and learn cannot discover it.” I have no doubt that this statement encapsulates Corné’s attitude.


At my first ASAQS Board meeting in the mid 90’s, I was rather outspoken about some of the issues I believed needed changing in our profession. As a younger Board member I received a rather negative response from many of the senior more conservative members. Corné was chairman at the time and rather than show me a cold shoulder he willingly listened to some of my comments with genuine interest and invited me onto the Fees Committee, which was where my main interest was at the time. Although some of my initial criticisms of the profession were rather injudicious, Corné’s willingness to listen to my positive concerns and enlighten me on my misguided comments. He assisted me greatly in my ASAQS and Fees Committee participation.


During the approximately 20 years that I served on the ASAQS Fees Committee, firstly under the chairmanship of Corné and later, by his request, as Chairman of the committee, I found him to be highly objective in reviewing the existing Tariff of Fees clauses and extremely meticulous in drafting and editing new and revised clauses. His attention to detail was admirable. Nothing passed by him without careful scrutiny.

He was exceedingly patient in explaining to me, a much younger professional, the background to why certain principles and clauses had to remain, but he was always keenly receptive to other opinions and new suggestions that would improve the Tariff of Fees. His attitude to the Tariff of Fees was that it should serve as an effective and unambiguous document for QS clients, and that it should cater for as broad a range of services as possible that QS’s could offer. Corné never retired from the ASAQS and SACQSP Fees committees and his “labour” in that area alone deserves laudable recognition and a prudent approach by “others” to any future changes to be made.


My experience of Corné was that he always conducted himself with respect for others and open-minded deference to younger professionals. Although he was a busy and successful practitioner, he devoted himself massively to the Quantity Surveying profession in his commitment to upholding and advancing standards and systems. These efforts extended beyond the QS profession to the greater built-environment sector. He presented himself in manner and appearance as a worthy professional. He also served on many committees and industry boards and did not cease his effort and contribution until the day he died.

Corné de Leeuw left huge shoes to fill for those who follow. The QS profession has been blessed with many past and present outstanding leaders who have contributed greatly to the standards, systems, documents, etc., which we all benefit from today, perhaps without full appreciation for their willing sharing of expertise and generous sacrifice of time and effort. Corné stands head and shoulders above most of our eminent professionals. He has left a huge legacy for us and deserves our highest acclaim and appreciation.


Corné was a great encourager and one to spur fellow professionals on to a higher level. All that is, and can be said about him is not just to honour his life and work but, much more than that, it serves to be a tacit yet powerfully compelling exhortation to all of us who remain to:

·       strive to “raise the bar” in our practices and businesses to a greater, more effective and more indispensable service as Quantity Surveyors, and…

·       even more so, to make a meaningful contribution to our professional associations who are essential to our continued sustainable and effectual existence.

John F Kennedy, former president of the USA, sounded this clarion call at his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

So many of us look to what we can get out of our profession for our own good but do not offer much back. We have documents, standards, practice material, intellectual property and more that have been put there by the personal contribution and generosity of our eminent “forerunners.” How do we thank them? How do we honour their invaluable legacy?

Having been blessed by my own professional involvement with Corné and other leading professionals, I believe their example and legacy is a challenge that speaks loudly to us all:



With much appreciation,

Dave Lindenberg