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What is a Quantity Surveyor?
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What is a Quantity Surveyor?

The quantity surveyor emerged in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, although the firm of Henry Cooper and Sons of Reading was established as early as 1785. Prior to the first recorded usage of the term "quantity surveyor" in 1859, the terms "measurer", "custom surveyor" or "surveyor" were used.

Quantity surveyors act in liaison with architects, consulting engineers and contractors to safeguard the client's interest. They are independent experts who operate in a specialised area of the construction industry

Quantity surveyors are the financial consultants of the construction industry whose training and experience qualify them to advise on cost and contractual arrangements and to prepare contract documents.

They are independent experts who operate in a specialised area of the construction industry. The title quantity surveyor was reserved under the Quantity Surveyors' Act of 1970 for exclusive use by those who had obtained the necessary qualifications and experience prescribed under the Act. In terms of it, such persons must register with the South African Council for Quantity Surveyors before they may offer their service as consultants to the public.

Quantity surveyors are required to comply with a strict code of professional conduct which includes responsibility to their employers or clients and to their profession having full regard to the public interest, conducting themselves so as to uphold the dignity and reputation of the profession and discharging their duties to their employers and clients in an efficient and competent manner with complete fidelity and without undue delay

The range of services offered by Quantity Surveyors
Firms generally offer a wide spectrum of services to their clients but naturally tend to gain experience or concentrate their services in specific fields.

Before commissioning the services of quantity surveyors, prospective clients are advised to investigate the particular experience and the services in which they specialise.

The services they offer could be:

Estimating and cost advice

  • Estimates and cost advice during all stages of the development of a project are essential if the correct decisions with full awareness of their financial implications are to be made.
  • Sophisticated techniques, extensive cost data banks and an intimate knowledge of building and construction economics enable quantity surveyors to provide reliable cost advice.

Cost planning

  • Clients want to know that they are receiving value for money, not only with regard to the capital cost but also in respect of the running and maintenance cost of a project.
  • Cost planning enables decisions on various design alternatives to be made with actual costs being constantly monitored against original budgets.

Property development advice

  • A building should meet the functional dimensional and technological requirements for which it was designed, should be aesthetically pleasing and meet the cost limits of the client's budget. 
  • A quantity surveyor is able to provide pre-design feasibility studies involving technical and/or economic investigations thereby enabling a client to decide whether, and in what form, to proceed.

Advice on tendering procedures and contractual arrangement

  • The choice of an appropriate form of contract for any given project will depend on the nature of the project, the circumstances under which the work is to be carried out and the particular needs of the client.
  • Quantity surveyors, in collaboration with architects are able to advise their clients on the most advantageous procurement methods available, including: Contracts incorporating bills of quantities, provisional bills of quantities and schedules of rates.
  • Negotiated, lump-sum, managed and cost plus contracts, Package deals, turnkey offers, etc. While Bills of Quantities are generally regarded as the most economical and best method of obtaining a competitive price, the alternative methods and types of tender documentation available need to be carefully examined in consultation with the quantity surveyor, architect, etc. before a final decision is made 

Financial control over contracts

Valuation of work in progress 

Cash flow budgets Final account in respect of the contract.

The quantity surveyor's duty is essentially one of cost control. They measure and value work in progress, determine the value of variations ordered by the architect or engineer and ensure that a fair and equitable settlement of the cost of the project is reached in accordance with the contract conditions. In conjunction with the architect and other consultants the quantity surveyor will ensure that the financial provisions of the contract are properly interpreted and applied.

Act in disputes, etc.

Quantity surveyors possess knowledge and expertise in the fields of costs and contracts which equip them to prepare valuations for fire insurance, to advise in the settlement of insurance claims and to be called as expert witnesses or act as arbitrators in any court or arbitration on building disputes. 

Material list and values

Quantity surveying services in respect of civil, mechanical, and electrical work

Property economics

Project management

Fast track construction


Quantity surveyors are remunerated according to a recommended scale of fees, set out in the Tariff of Professional Charges published by the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors. Fees are generally based on a percentage of the value of the work handled, varying in accordance with the type of work done or the scope of services rendered.