The Construction Cost Expertise Evolution

Emma Woods
All clients want best value from their construction project, but do they all make full use of today’s cost expertise?

The traditional role of quantity surveying, with its focus on measurement and bills of quantities, has undergone global change in the 21st century. Once a largely reactive role, delivering a standard set of tasks, the cost management profession (as it’s more usually known these days) now offers much more diverse commercial management skills.

Today, clients can benefit from invaluable commercial guidance from project inception, together with advice on design economics and project cost monitoring throughout the pre- and post-contract phases. This entails a robust value management strategy, challenging any design deviations and ensuring the budget is maintained through strict change control procedures.

So how is the Middle East region faring in its uptake of these skills? Are clients taking advantage of the full range of commercial and contractual advice, and achieving the expected best value? Certainly the expertise is available from the many qualified professionals operating in the region, but our experience at Faithful+Gould demonstrates some delay to embracing the full benefits.

Today, clients can benefit from invaluable commercial guidance from project inception, together with advice on design economics and project cost monitoring...

This is perhaps to be expected in a less mature construction market: the UK and US, for example, moved away from the more reactive and commoditised service many years ago. Those countries are now embracing a value-driven approach, and the good news is that the Middle East is also now heading in that direction, albeit at a slower pace.

A value-driven cost management service is much more proactive, and hinges on professional advice from qualified surveyors – not just producing a list of deliverables. Not just capital costs either – the whole life perspective is very important and is gradually becoming a Middle East driver. Clients are beginning to realise that a project that appears cheap at the outset may be prohibitively expensive to operate ten years later. It means looking beyond the upfront cost.

Getting cost managers involved from the earliest stages of a project pays huge dividends, and this is where our region still has some way to go. Maximum value is created through early appointment. There are considerable efficiencies to be achieved, in cost, schedule and quality, when advice is provided at feasibility/pre-design stage.

As the Middle East cost management approach evolves, we can expect to see clients requesting competencies that suit today’s construction industry. We anticipate that the use of traditional bills of quantities could eventually diminish, for example. These are a costly service for the client, require significant production time to be factored into the project programme, and don’t make best use of cost management skills. In other parts of the world, bills of quantities have long been superseded by a robust detailed cost plan, which can add value in both time and cost.

Getting cost managers involved from the earliest stages of a project pays huge dividends, and this is where our region still has some way to go.

Contracts and measurement standards have historically presented challenges here. Cost data comparison can be difficult and often lacks transparency, where measurement standards are localised. The introduction of the International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS; currently undergoing consultation), which govern the way construction project costs are calculated, classified and reported, should bridge the gap and lead to greater confidence and understanding.

The use of technology is revolutionising the construction industry and the cost management profession and, true to form, the Middle East won’t want to be left behind for long. It’s perhaps the industry’s biggest challenge here. As we embark on the digital era, there are significant opportunities for built assets to benefit, but we need to embrace, adapt and promote digital solutions throughout the industry and the region. Clients can inherently be reluctant to move away from their comfort zone, but we are seeing progress as more projects benefit from the technology available to support procurement and delivery.

For example, Faithful+Gould has invested in developing a central electronic platform for cost management and project management, giving clients an up-to-date, transparent, accurate view of project status. We are also using our global BIM experience to lead multiple-sector projects in other regions and we expect that this too will become the norm in the GCC.

As we embark on the digital era, there are significant opportunities for built assets to benefit, but we need to embrace, adapt and promote digital solutions throughout the industry and the region.

Our professional status in the region is of course underpinned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and, here, clients have embraced the value this brings. The RICS is recognised across the region as the benchmark of best practice. The Institution promotes an ethical, transparent environment in which clients can have confidence. This is especially important, to ensure that practitioners uphold the highest standards, and for the avoidance of any conflicts of interest on projects.

The RICS provides numerous training opportunities for chartership and for ongoing professional development. It’s now possible for young graduates to follow the chartership programme entirely in the Middle East, and this is key to embedding the changing skills and expertise of the profession in the region. Faithful+Gould has been supporting candidates in this way for some years.

These evolutionary changes allow the region’s cost management profession to innovate and stay ahead of the game. At Faithful+Gould, we’re confident that we lead the field – bringing best value, maximum efficiency and real commercial benefits to our clients’ projects.

Written by