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Watts Service Focus Bulletin - Quantity Surveying

The market for quantity surveying consultancy services has been characterised during the last 12 months by consolidation among the major firms, with a number of high profile mergers and acquisitions. Cash flow issues and tight margins continue to squeeze smaller firms which are having to work hard to reposition themselves and maximise opportunities in sectors such as food retail, infrastructure and shopping centre development that remain relatively buoyant. For independent QS and project management firms, success in a market that has never been more challenging continues to hinge on the ability to deliver tangible value to clients via an efficient, professional and high quality service.

In this QS-focused issue of the Watts Bulletin we address a selection of topics affecting the consultancy landscape. These include improvements to cost data gathering, new best practice guidance and a look into the future. We also include some informed opinion, looking at how funding and investment sources are expected to change during the next few years.

We hope you will find it both interesting and informative.

Tim French, director, Watts Group PLC

Watts Service Focus Bulletin - Quantity Surveying

BIM: The quiet revolution

Building information modelling (BIM) is changing the way project teams work. Quantity surveying uptake of this new approach to design and construction has been slow to-date, but there may be opportunities for cost consultants further down the line.

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According to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), almost a third of construction consultants are now using BIM. In a recent article in Building magazine, Michael Beaven of  Arup Associates claimed that, aside from the practical implications of putting projects together using a digital platform shared by each of the parties to a project, “the real lesson the industry has learned from BIM is just how disconnected we have become as an industry”. BIM may finally be achieving what successive industry initiatives have failed to do: bringing consultants, contractors and designers together to work collaboratively and transparently with clients, sharing information in a way that will inform future projects and improve efficiency.

So far, contractors have been at the forefront of this new way of working by establishing information share online, usually on major projects. Construction consultants are some way behind in adopting BIM, probably due to the fact that quantity surveyors do not themselves generate the model being used but simply work with the information provided by others (source:

Despite slow take-up, there are a number of important aspects that impact quantity survyors including, crucially, the contractual framework within which BIM projects are delivered. In America new contracts are starting to emerge. However, to-date in the UK no contract has been designed specifically for collaborative BIM projects, although the NEC is claimed to be considering developing one. The JCT Constructing Excellence Contract incorporates a partnering approach and refers to the use of “any agreed building information modelling (BIM) protocol”. For the immediate future this is likely to be the way BIM projects are arranged in the UK: using a standard building contract plus an additional ‘protocol’ to take care of the BIM-related issues such as coordination and ownership of information, model requirements and responsibility for management.  The amendments contained in the protocol would then be incorporated into the employer’s requirements in a JCT contract or the works information document in an NEC3 (source: Building).

Rather than making projects more complex, the disciplines employed by BIM makes the design and construction process more transparent. Individual input can be clearly identified and rights to that input are clearly defined, protecting the intellectual property of the parties to the project. This creates a clear audit trail both for client and insurers. For those quantity surveyors taking on a management role, this should make projects easier to administer and may ultimately reduce the potential for litigation. The new role of BIM ‘manager’ or ‘facilitator’ is also emerging, which cost consultants with their strong track record of project and information management should regard as a an opportunity, rather than a threat to their traditional role.

For more information on BIM contact David Massingham, associate at Watts Group PLC, on 0161 831 6180.

Do you think BIM is the future of design and construction or should quantity surveyors be wary of this new ‘miracle’ tool? Let us know your thoughts on Watts’ Twitter page @Watts_Group or join the Watts Bulletin group on LinkedIn.

The Watts Bulletin is the technical companion to the Watts Pocket Handbook, the essential guide to property and construction, as used by professionals since 1983.

Watts Bulletin editor: Trevor Rushton.