Why You Need to Hire a “Brick Counter”

By Eric Obwogi

Construction projects range from small residential extensions to mega-money projects involving large teams of stakeholders. In all these, the process of delivering the structure demands that funds be efficiently handled to cost-effectively get the job done.

The services of a quantity surveyor have with time-proven to be crucial to virtually all types of construction projects which also include infrastructural jobs.  Attempting to implement a project without the services of a quantity surveyor will leave you groping in the dark on matters cost and quality of work.

Quantity surveying is a specialist area, whose complexity is often taken for granted. QSs also referred to as construction economists, project managers, and cost engineers are more known for their work in large-scale commercial projects. Some developers of smaller-scale jobs actually avoid these consultants altogether in their budgeting. They may actually get away with it in small, straightforward apparently low-risk projects, but on the larger, intricate, high-risk undertaking, the appointment of an experienced QS is an imperative to the wise investor. 

Jobs with larger financial outlays demand careful planning, costing and tracking. A quantity surveyor is the team member who will manage the overall project’s funds; including overseeing the budget and ensuring it matches the timeline for the project. Due to their central role in managing the project resources, the responsibility of ensuring that the client gets maximum value falls mainly on the QS’s shoulders.

A QS not only possesses a strong background in finance but must also bring aboard experience in the construction industry, dealing with contractors in various projects, which forms the foundation for understanding construction costs and contracts.

“It would be unwise not to seek the services of a QS in any construction work because this will expose a builder to the imminent risk of losing money as a contractor can exaggerate costs,” says QS Joseph Kung’u, Managing director of Towercost Consultants, a leading quantity surveying consultancy Nairobi.

“You also risk underpaying a contractor, which generates new problems that are also costly as they might end up compromising the quality of work,” adds QS Kung’u. He adds that contractors give priority to projects that are promptly and well paid.

For a Contractor, a Quantity Surveyor will prepare the tender, negotiate the contract sum and form of contract and manage the entire cost process from Valuations and Change Instructions right through to the Final Account.

Some property owners and construction firms refrain from hiring these professionals because they see it as an addition to the overall project cost.

Ideally, you should appoint an independent quantity surveyor at around the same time that you hire an architect. In this way, the costing will be done in tandem with the project design.

“As independent surveyors, we bring to the table value from beyond the in-house experience as opposed to the internal setting,” says QS Kung’u.

“The wider experience we offer is based on studies on various technologies available both locally and internationally, and can advise on systems – what can work in specific situations and what can’t,” he says.

QS Joseph Kung’u, MD, Towercost Consultants Ltd: We bring to the table experience beyond the in-house setting

He adds that an independent surveyor will act as the client’s representative and can prove to be an invaluable ally in situations where conflicts arise between the builder and the property owner.

For an Employer or Bank, a Quantity Surveyor will produce Feasibility Studies, Budget Costings, Tender Documentation and manage the cost process from Invitations to Tender and receipt of Tenders right through to the End of the Defects Period with all that this entails.

QSs look at building materials used at every stage of the project, thereby boosting the quality of the finished product. A fee of 3.5 percent fee of the project cost is charged for full service. However, one is allowed to charge depending on man hours spent on a project. Rates range between Sh3,000 to Sh10,000 an hour, depending on a consultant’s experience and specialization.

In a part of the world that has been notorious for collapsing building tragedies, the QS is becoming an increasingly indispensable member of the project team. With expectations to conduct a technical audit of the finished structure, and present the report on to the building owner with an assurance on its compliance with all processes, the QS guarantees the safety of a premise before occupation.

Investing in real estate development is a serious undertaking often comes with substantial financial involvement and set budgets.  Hiring a quantity surveyor is a sound investment.