Architects & Quantity Surveyors Event Report

Ian Hore , 8 October 2014

Continuing the theme of fostering conversation with the wider construction industry, the September ACA – SA Round Table brought together architects and quantity surveyors.

The wide-ranging conversation covered many topics of mutual interest and concern.

DPTI Prequalification 

The quantity surveyors at the table are interested to use the DPTI Construction Professionals Forum to discuss the prequalification of building contractors. They commented that there is currently no category for a project between $10M to $500M, yet many builders who can competently handle a $10 – $20M project could potentially struggle with a larger more complex $50M plus project.

The quantity surveyors also would like to discuss how cost managers are appointed by DPTI – and would seek more transparency and additional information on this process. 

Project Review

The meeting agreed that in the current marketplace many more variations are being submitted on projects as builders and subcontractors chase cash flow as a result of low tender prices. The quantity surveyors noted that risk has been shifted in recent years, with clients pushing more risk to builders. In turn, the architects noted that many clients are now taking a different view of contingency. Clients are tending to instruct the use of contingency for their own items. By not accepting that all documents have some discrepancies, clients are increasingly considering changes arising from other matters to be the fault / cost of the project team or builder. However, it needs to be acknowledged that no document is ever 100% correct and contingency should cover these items.

All noted that generational change means a loss in on site management skills in organising the site / trades, finishing and commissioning.

There was also wide agreement that the tender process is not as rigorous as it should be, and that building estimators do not scope the works correctly and do not review and assess trade submissions rigorously to ensure that total project scope if covered. This is another reason for the increased in claims being submitted.

Finally, the meeting noted that the extremely tight marketplace in recent years has put considerable financial pressure on the subcontractors, who are struggling with cash flow. Unfortunately there are still subcontractors going into liquidation.


The quantity surveyors noted that BIM models are not accurate early enough to take quantities for project estimates, while the architects felt that, in order to get better BIM protocols, quantity surveyors need to engage with the process.

The meeting also discussed the builders’ role in BIM environments, observing that builders like electronic tendering as they can issue everything to everybody. However they may also reduce their work by not scoping the trades correctly. Larger builders and subcontractors understand 3D documentation and are using it to their advantage.

A quantity surveyor expressed an opinion that multi-disciplinary firms with all services in-house may become more attractive in the BIM market, and there was general agreement that it is hard to identify what the market will look like in 10 years.

Differing Contracts

The meeting discussed a range of contact types, with the quantity surveyors noting that at the end of the project there is not a lot of difference in the overall project cost between various models – for example, lump sum tendering, managing contractor, GMP, design and construct, and so on. It was also observed that different contracts have different advantages regarding programming and risk, but in the end project cost are similar for the same scope.

Educating Clients

The meeting as a whole agreed that there must be a continuing education process for clients, especially those that do not undertake a building project very often. The quantity surveyors noted that they track fees and have observed that the current marketplace has considerably lowered fee expectations. They are in a position to  support all professions in terms of fee through providing clients with historical data on real projects costs, the value of fees, actual program, actual contingency expenditure, builder’s margins and other matters. Despite this evidence base, it is hard to convince clients of the value of an appropriate fee when the marketplace provides below average fees.

Services Engineers

There was general concern from everybody that services engineers fees are extremely low, do not cover the scope of services required and that the construction industry is looking more often to getting subcontractors to document services work. Participants expressed frustration expressed regarding services engineers cost estimates of their work, as well as the accuracy and depth of their estimate.

Overseas Documentation

Interestingly,  quantity surveyors noted that they have trouble picking which work is documented overseas.

Once again the conversation between different participants in the construction industry was productive and informative. ACA – SA hope that by continuing to facilitate discussion in a collaborative Round Table environment we will build understanding and enhance cooperation.

Ian Hore is a member of the ACA – SA Committee and a director of Walter Brooke and Associates.