Is Quantity Estimation just length x width x thickness?

Quantity estimation by Gem Engserv Pvt. Ltd...Master planning, Architectural planning, design of structures & services and Project Management are some of the highly ‘professional’ services in the value chain of a Real Estate Project. Having cut our teeth in the Structural Engineering and Management profession we, promoters of Gem Engserv, surprised ourselves by agreeing to start an Engineering Consultancy Services which had QS as its core service!

Gem Engserv started as a company providing Quantity Take Off services to ITSI [now Gilbane Federal], which focuses on construction for the US Government’s federal projects. Based on the success of providing quantity take off to an International client, we soon decided to provide similar services to the Indian Real Estate sector.

In the course of our efforts to market the QS services in India, we came across some questions and comments that has promoted the title pf this article!  Some of the comments and questions that we faced are given below to highlight the prevailing perspective [in this article, Quantity Survey and Quantity estimation are used interchangeably]

  • Why do we require a specialist agency for Quantity Estimation? Isn’t it as simple as length x width x thickness?
  • I don’t need to know the quantities as the contract has been awarded on a per sqft basis or a lump sum basis.
  • We expect the architect or the design consultant to provide us the BOQ, why should we engage a QS consultant?
  • What value would a quantity estimator add? The cost will be impacted by the designs and not by calculating quantities!
  • How would you measure your performance as QS, we expect the quantity estimator to ‘control’ the quantities and cost!
  • What is the accuracy of the quantity estimation that you will provide [this from clients who continually keep making changes in the designs and expect QS from ‘tender drawings’]
  • What value Engineering proposition would you bring to the table if appointed as Quantity estimator?

The situation would thus appear to be similar to the proverbial four blindfolded men groping an elephant and each differently asserting it to be a snake, a hose a trunk etc. Different clients perceive the role of the QS very differently and some deem it a waste of time and money!

Well, one should respond to these comments with the attitude that “there are no silly questions” and “everyone is entitled to her opinion, however different it may appear to be from your perception of reality”!

Thankfully, with growing professionalization of the Real estate business in India and exposure to International best practices, the majority view is now to treat QS and cost planning as an essential element of Project/business management. The QS consultants are seen as one amongst many experts that contribute to the success of a project. Multi stage cost planning / budgeting is now widely adopted as a good practice to control the costs, design changes and ensure commercial success of the project.

Cost plans are developed and refined at concept, schematic, GFC and contract award stages, the last one being used as a benchmark to monitor the project execution team’s performance on the cost parameter.

While these are welcome improvements in the business practices in the real estate sector in India, what we still lack is an industry standard format for allocating/apportioning costs [such as Uniformat or Master Format]. As a result, allocation of costs is not uniform across different owners / projects and it becomes difficult to use ‘benchmarking’ as a tool for improving business performance!

Let us hope that we quickly catch up on these missing links and take the QS profession to its rightful place in the value chain.