I still need a QS though, right?


Paul Heming

March 12th, 2021
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“For construction management, I still need a QS, don’t I? Are there any scenarios where I don’t need one? How would I get one? Do I have to employ them?”

There are different ideas around how you should set up a project management team on a construction site. O’Reilly, an online learning platform for construction, describes the management team of large projects as being led by a Project Manager who has the following resources working under them:

  • Planning Manager
  • Site Manager
  • Project Surveyor
  • Procurement Manager
  • Services Coordinator
  • Site Engineer

The project organogram described is shown below (source Oreilly.com):

still need a qs image 1

The lines of communication between the Project Manager and the team leaders are shown below (source Oreilly.com):

still need a qs image 2


All the critical functions of a project team report back to the Project Manager. Therefore, you will understand why I’ve continually spoken of the importance of employing a Project Manager for any developer looking to adopt the Construction Management procurement route.

The original question posed in this article was, “with Construction Management, do I still need a QS?

The focus of the question is solely on the QS role. Despite that, as per the organisation chart shown above, I believe it’s better to explore the entire project team under the Construction management procurement route. Let’s take a look at the three critical roles, as there are several different ways you can do this.

The Site Manager

My suggestion for the Site Management role is that your Project Manager does this. The majority of construction Project Managers will have site experience, managing subcontract trades and “getting their boots muddy.”

This is imperative to clarify before employing them as it is the most critical aspect of their work under Construction Management.

However, what’s important to consider alongside this is that your Project Manager will be taking on many other responsibilities. Therefore, we need to provide them with a support network. A simple, cost-effective way to do this is through procurement and requesting key contractors (e.g. Shell and Core, Envelope and M & E) include management in their tenders. They usually do, but perhaps asking for named managers in your tenders could further support your Project Manager.

The Site Engineering Team

This one is simple. I’m proposing that you subcontract this responsibility the same way a Main Contractor does. To cover the site engineering responsibility, include this in the Groundworker’s and other subcontractors’ scopes of works, or employ an independent setting out engineer.

Procurement & the Surveying Team

Turning to the original question – so do I need a QS?

Procurement is fundamental to the success of your scheme, and you need to get it right. On large schemes, it’s usually a function shared between the Project Manager and Quantity Surveyor. My view is that each project is unique, and you need to consider them in two days. Still, I believe a Project Manager can successfully procure SME sized developments if provided with the tools to do so.

The most apparent ‘tool’ is a measured pricing document for each subcontract package (a bill of quantities for each package). The typical process for quality procurement is having a measured pricing document created by the Quantity Surveyor, which is then included in an Invitation to Tender document, with a Scope of Works, and the relevant drawings as defined by the Project Manager and Quantity Surveyor together.

To make the procurement process high-quality, a Project Manager needs a measured pricing document. From there, they should be able to manage tender creation using specialist software, like C-Link (sorry for the plug, but it’s true!) to access a supply chain of contractors and issue tenders and contracts in a professional format.

Once procurement is complete, there is the subcontract management and payment, which is also a challenge – some Project Managers may be uncomfortable with this. Management of subcontractors includes issuing instructions, managing applications, and creating payment notices, which is specialist work. Some Project Managers will be able to manage this process for you, and some will not.

This is the key point when interviewing for a Project Manager, “where are your strengths?” The three key construction roles are the Site Manager, the Project Manager, and the Quantity Surveyor.

  • The Site Manager is your ‘boots on the ground’, construction-focused resource.
  • The Quantity Surveyor manages the commercial aspects, financials, and procurement.
  • The Project Manager acts as the conduit between the two, providing a balance between getting the job built and getting it made at the right price.

So, when interviewing, it’s essential to ask:

  1. Are you happy being on-site?
  2. Do you have experience procuring subcontractors?
  3. Do you have experience managing subcontract payments?

In asking these three questions, you should gain clarity on exactly the level of Quantity Surveying support you need on your scheme. As explained above, my view is that the minimum support your Project Manager needs is a measured pricing document which should cost £1,500 – £2,500.

I’ve talked at length about the benefits of a measured pricing document before, so don’t skimp on this: pay the money, reap the rewards.

Further expert Quantity Surveying support may be needed if you’re unable to recruit a Project Manager who answers yes to question 3 above. If this is the case, you could employ a freelance Quantity Surveyor for 2 to 3 days per month to manage the issuing of instructions, variations and payment notice to your subcontractors. The reality is you’re likely only to have 2 or 3 subcontractors on-site at any given time, so this isn’t masses of work, but it’s essential to get it right.

A consultant or freelance Quantity Surveyor is the way to go: Constructtuts.com suggest you’d be paying somewhere between £300 and £500 per day, which may be a better solution than paying for someone on a salary. Taking the middle of that range and assuming you have a 12-month project, you’d need to budget just under £15,000 for a Quantity Surveyor to manage the subcontract payment process.

I’ve written this article from the perspective of having only one project running and having a Project Manager focusing just on that project. As your business grows, and perhaps you start running 2 to 3 developments per year, at this point, it may be worth supplementing your team with a full-time Quantity Surveyor. Randstad recently classified Quantity Surveyors’ salaries and suggested that for an Intermediate Quantity surveyor, the UK starting salary is £52,000. For a Senior Quantity Surveyor, you are looking at more like £66,000.

Final takeaway thoughts

My view is that on a single project, if you identify the correct candidate and budget for £78,000 as described in previous articles, you should find a Project Manager capable of managing the three key project roles: Site Manager, Quantity Surveyor and Project Manager.

To give your Project Manager the best chance of success possible, I would further invest in employing a Quantity Surveyor to create a measured pricing document for each subcontract trade (£2.5k max).

Beyond that, and only if necessary, you could budget to employ a Quantity Surveyor 2 to 3 days per month to manage the subcontractor’s accounts. In total, therefore, I’d say a £15,000 budget for Quantity Surveying to cover both the pricing document and subcontractor payments is about right and only needed if your Project Manager is uncomfortable managing subcontractor payments.

Feature Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

About Paul Heming

Paul was a Quantity Surveyor who gained 10 years experience of managing £200 million worth of flagship UK projects, including 20 Fenchurch Street and Battersea Power Station. In 2015, Paul founded C-Link with the intention of sharing his expertise of managing major projects with the SME market.

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