It’s arguable that 3 April 2015, was the bicentenary of the birth of the modern quantity surveying profession.
The origins of the modern quantity surveying profession are difficult to determine. It has developed from the ‘Sworn Measurer’ (on 25 April 1688 the Town Council of Edinburgh, Scotland appointed John Ogstoun “to be the good town’s ordinary measurer”) to the present day chartered quantity surveyor.
It is believed that the ancient Egyptians used a system of quantity surveying but it was not until the 17th century that Quantity Surveyors developed as an occupation.
The firm of Henry Cooper and Sons of Reading was established as early as 1785. Prior to the first recorded usage of the term “quantity surveyor” in 1859, the terms “measurer”, “custom surveyor” or “surveyor” were used.
In those early days the quantity surveyor acted for the master tradesmen, measuring the work after completion and frequently submitting partisan Final Accounts to the building owner. As a direct result of these activities it increasingly became the practice of building owners to have work executed under contract and to call for tenders before any work was undertaken. A procedure therefore developed whereby building owners would approach an architect to design a building. Drawings and specifications were distributed to selected master builders, who would then submit tenders for the total price rather than a collection of prices from master tradesmen.
The task of arriving at an accurate estimate of cost or tender can be carried out in only one way – that of measuring the quantities of all materials and labour necessary to complete the work, i.e. preparing bills of quantities. As each builder had to prepare his own bills of quantities for each project, they realised that it would be more economical for them as a group to employ one surveyor to measure quantities for them all. They would thus share the cost of the surveyor, obtain an identical Bill of Quantities which ensured that they would all be tendering on the same basis.
The building owner subsequently realised that it would be to his personal advantage to appoint and pay the fees of the quantity surveyor. Thus the independent professional quantity surveyor gained consultant status.
The quantity surveying profession today has greatly evolved. Today’s Quantity Surveyors are a key part of the construction and financial management process, including cost estimating and forecasting, cost management, construction techniques and management, procurement processes and contractual matters.
With the uncertainty of today’s market conditions, the movement towards “green” buildings, and the use of non-traditional procurement methods, the quantity surveyor’s role continues to evolve.
Quick Estator specialise in one aspect of quantity surveying – Estimating. We are finalising our web-based estimating application which will allow users to perform instant and accurate estimates for new developments or replacement valuations for existing buildings under 3 minutes
Information sources for this article:
If you need more than a high level estimate of replacement valuation we recommend you contact MLC Quantity Surveyors:
+267 395 1310 / +267 71 203 743 / lholder@mlc-group.com / www.mlc.co.za

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