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Rolling on course

10 June 2016

The value of a quantity surveyor for major projects cannot be over-stated, especially in the assessment of tenders; s/he will identify the differences between tenders — the cheapest may actually not be the best when you allow for the “provisional sums”.


For building works that are valued above a few thousand pounds the church should employ a quantity surveyor. For many grant-makers the surveyor will need to be independent from the architect’s practice.

At the outset of your planned works the surveyor will work with the architect to understand the brief: the type, extent, and style of the work. He or she will prepare an indicative budget, and meet the church and architect to review the potential costs. The quantity surveyor will prepare an indicative budget and then meet with the church (and the architect) to review the potential costs.

This meeting may start with an explanation of what s/he has included in the budget but, importantly, should discuss aspects such as whether there is a more cost-efficient way of achieving the same results. The cost of materials may be discussed, and the church might want to explore a simpler design that would be less costly.

When the way forward is agreed and the money has been raised, the surveyor will work with the architect to prepare material for going out to tender, and will assist in assessing the tenders when they are returned. As our correspondent writes, despite every builder receiving the same, very-detailed documentation, the way each firm responds is less than easy for making comparisons.

The quantity surveyor will check that there are no arithmetic errors in the detailed items, indicating higher or loser cost than should be, and that additions are carried forward correctly. Then as our correspondent points out, a hurried builder may not price out an item but instead put in a provisional sum. The danger with the provisional sum is that it is deliberately not fixed, it may go up or down during the building works without any recrimination, so could cause the church financial difficulty. Therefore, the surveyor may recommend another builder who has carefully calculated the costs, even though the sum presented as the total cost is higher than the previous builder.

During the building work, the quantity surveyor will attend the monthly site meetings and agree with the builder (and his/her quantity surveyor) the amount of the builder’s invoice for the past month’s work. This covers materials purchased, work completed and works that are partially completed against the prices on the tender and contract documentation.

The quantity surveyor will similarly be involved in negotiating the final payment to the contractor at the end of the work, including adjustments to costs that have resulted from the church’s side or the builder’s.

It the role invaluable? Probably. It’s a task that is undramatic and hidden from view, but it keeps the project rolling in a far more stable manner than otherwise.


Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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