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Quantity Surveyor

Quantity surveyors are involved in the pre-planning stages of a building project right through to its completion. From producing the initial Bills of Quantities for tendering to ensuring that the actual construction delivers on its contractual agreement, a quantity surveyor is responsible for the project’s cost, budget and quality.

A day in the life of a Quantity Surveyor…

A Quantity Surveyor

Cheryl Lai, KPK Quantity Surveyor

 

Success stories

Read about the motivations, inspirations and achievements of some of Singapore's practicing architects.

 
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A chip off the old block, Allan was inspired by his father who worked in the built environment sector. He pursued a Bachelor of Science (Project and Facilities Management) in the National University of Singapore after graduating from Temasek Polytechnic’s Diploma in Intelligent Building Technology with Merit.

Now, he works as a Quantity Surveyor (QS) in Rider Levett Bucknall LLP, an independent, global property and construction practice. His core competence is in cost management throughout the project delivery process. In other words, he is the person keeping a close watch on every dollar that is spent in a construction project.

 “As a Project QS, my greatest job satisfaction comes from delivering a successful project within budget, cost and the stipulated timeframe”, he says.

Leveraging technologies at work

Apart from his role as a QS, Allan is also spearheading the Building Information Modelling (BIM) Research & Development (R&D) and deployment in his company, to augment and enhance conventional cost management tasks.

In essence, BIM is a digital representation and information repository of physical and functional characteristics of a building. Think of it as a 3D software that details every characteristic of a building without having to actually build it. It is a shared knowledge resource that can be used by various project stakeholders such as architects, civil and structural (C&S) engineers, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers and quantity surveyors. BIM can be used to enhance the efficiency and productivity of various construction processes, such as design and construction, through active collaboration between project stakeholders.

Allan’s first foray into BIM was in 2012, when he participated in the Singapore BIM Competition organised by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). His team emerged as Champions of the multi-disciplinary (education) category. He was inspired by his senior colleagues who implemented and test-bedded innovative BIM technology tools for school and industry projects. He was later tasked to drive BIM R&D and implementation in cost management, quantity surveying and procurement, and to develop training materials for local and regional offices in Rider Levett Bucknall LLP. Allan and his team also managed to win a BIM Gold Plus Award for his company in the BCA BIM Awards 2015 (Organisation Category), an annual award to recognise BIM adoption efforts.
 
Constantly innovating

Allan is currently the head of the BIM workgroup - which comprises a few other Quantity Surveyors, senior management and a Managing Partner – in the company.

“We adopt a collaborative, innovation-driven workflow where team members are encouraged to contribute ideas and creative solutions. This workflow is conducive, advocates learning and iterative development”, he says.

And adds: “The younger staff are always keen to explore and test-bed new innovations and approaches, while the experienced staff are very proficient and knowledgeable with current industry practices. Thus, there is a good mix of creativity, innovative drive and experience, and we work closely hand-in-hand.”

Sharing his thoughts on BIM, Allan is heartened that it has been increasingly adopted over the years, thanks to the government’s drive and the initiatives of individual firms in the industry. He believes that BIM has provided many tangible and intangible benefits to the industry. On a macro level, it has helped in the design and construction of more efficient and better buildings. At the same time, on a process and organisational level, it has enhanced workflow, increased productivity and reduced the time taken for some of the conventional, tedious and time-consuming tasks.

From his perspective as a QS, he believes BIM will become an integral part of the built environment workflow, and bring about a paradigm shift to increase the efficiency of work processes. There will be new ways of communicating, new methods of designing, and new tools for them to perform design reviews.

Qualities of a Quantity Surveyor

Because they deal with managing costs, it is second nature for a QS to be thorough, and he finds that his work habits have also benefitted him in his personal life too.

“I must say my job as a QS actually trains me to be more meticulous and detail-oriented in my personal life. We are trained to keep our documentation tidy and traceable, and this has cultivated good habits in me, in keeping track of my personal documents such as bills and expenses. Being familiar with various contract forms and procurement strategies. I have also been trained to scrutinise terms and conditions carefully, so as to make informed decisions”, he shares.

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It is said that if you want to learn the secrets of success, copy someone successful. You couldn’t do much wrong emulating Seah Hsiu-Min Eugene, Group Managing Director for Langdon & Seah. If you are wondering if the name Seah is coincidental, it isn’t. The company was founded by Eugene’s grandfather, and Eugene followed his father into the firm.

Eugene joined the company at ground level after graduation, starting as Worker-Up, Assistant Quantity Surveyor and working his way up to Executive Director (ED) in only ten years. Was his rapid promotion due to family ties? "Not at all," insists Eugene. "In fact, it meant I had to work even harder than the rest to prove myself." A firm believer in lifelong learning, he explains that each promotion requires the acquiring of new skills sets. From leadership, strategic management to finance, he has put himself through courses to ensure he can play at his best. "It’s all about working smart to achieve your goals. I learned this the hard way. As my Dad always say, "Pray Hard, Work Hard!" he laughs.

So just what does Eugene do in his work? "Basically we take care of the primary costs and contracts of a construction project, estimating and planning costs, preparing tenders, advising on procurement and taking care of the finances." 

"We face many challenges as technologies develop. Today, as sustainable construction becomes more widely adopted and green building technology is brought in, there is no past data on which to base our cost estimates. Luckily we can draw on the global presence of Langdon & Seah International’s network, and through teleconferences, we can quickly get the information we need based on green projects we have done abroad." What keeps Eugene going? "The construction industry is very diverse, so everyday I wake up to new challenges. It’s great!"

Job scope

Some responsibilities a quantity surveyor has include:

  • Advising project team on the various construction costs involved
  • Producing a document called the Bills of Quantities which details every item of construction needed in the design. This document is given together with the design to potential contractors for them to submit a bid for the job
  • Monitoring actual construction vs contract work quantity
  • Ensuring that the cost is ideally managed within budget throughout the project
  • Advising the project team on contractual rights and arbitration procedures when disputes arise

Qualities

Here are some qualities that a competent quantity surveyor should have:

  • Good with figures
  • Knowledgeable about construction materials and, procurement methods
  • An eye for details
  • Good oral and written communication skills

SALARY GUIDE FOR
POLYTECHNIC GRADUATES

The salaries below serve as a guide for graduates in Property Development & Facilities Management and Quantity Surveying

Median monthly gross starting salary
Fresh graduates

$2,000
 

SALARY GUIDE FOR 
UNIVERSITY GRADUATES

The salaries below serve as a guide for graduates in Project and Facilities Management

Median monthly gross starting salary
Fresh graduates

$3,000

Source: MOM report on wages in Singapore, 2015 and other sources.
*Median monthly gross starting salaries includes basic wage, overtime pay, commissions and allowances. Bonuses are excluded.

Education route

Your education roadmap to becoming a professional quantity surveyor:

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* The above chart is intended as a guide for general reference only.