New Rules Measurement 2 - are the Bills of Quantities still relevant?

Ben Wakeling
As an experienced producer of such documents and an advocate for the increased standards and use thereof, my answer will always be yes.

There is no doubt however, that we have seen a decrease in requests from clients asking us to provide Bills of Quantities (BoQ) following the RICS New Rules of Measurement NRM2 (detailed measurement for building works) in the UK compared to, say, 10 years ago.

This is due to numerous reasons including concerns over risk ownership, upfront time and cost pressures and the proliferation of design and build forms of procurement.

Although regions such as the Middle East predominantly use BoQ in their processes, it should be noted that these predominantly follow the Principles of Measurement - International (POMI) standard. This is a simplified approach and not comparable with NRM2 in respect to the standard/quality of design information input required, the experience level required to prepare or the level of detail produced.

However, the BoQ, if afforded the time and provided with the level of design detail commensurate with requirements to enable the preparation of a quality document, is a powerful output for use in the both the procurement and post contract administration phases of the construction project lifecycle. As such, the BoQ should be considered as a genuine option when providing advice to clients in respect to procurement routes, thus enabling them to make fully informed decisions based on their own individual and complex situations.

Apart from providing an alternative approach to both the procurement and post contract phases, it also provides the cost consultant/quantity surveyor with an added value cross selling opportunity, as well as being a fantastic mechanism for the teaching and learning of apprentices, etc.

As the industry moves out from what has been very much a buyers’ market since the recession hit in 2008, I feel there is now more than ever, a growing need for the consultant produced NRM2 BoQ.

There is increasing difficulty encountered with attracting significant contractor interest to tender for schemes, as building activity increases and contractors are seen to be more considered in their approach to tendering. The preferred tendering route from a contractor’s perspective is a two stage process due to the reduced tendering costs. However, despite the intent, recent experiences are simply not achieving the perceived value for money for clients, with Stage 2 figures consistently increasing from Stage 1 proposals.

Contractors obviously wish to reduce their tendering costs. The cost for individual contractors’ to undertake their own builders quantities documents whilst still being in a competitive environment and assessing the inherent risks involved, are inevitably passed on to the client in tender responses, or deemed not worth the risk and as such declining to tender altogether. The bottom line is that the client will pay for these cost/risks either way within tender responses. With some common-sense approaches to risk allocation and management of such risks, these costs that return little to no value to the client can be significantly reduced or even negated.  

Recently we were involved on a scheme whereby the framework contractors had declined to tender for the opportunity unless a two stage procurement route was used. This was avoided by providing a client prepared NRM2 BoQ (prepared by Faithful+Gould) under a single stage traditional tender route. This decision resulted in several competitive tenders being returned within budget.

This situation did however highlight the lack of understanding and difficulties faced by designers in respect to the vital role they need to play under a traditional design scenario and the level of detail required to enable the preparation of an NRM2 BoQ. Lack of experience and understanding of the process did lead to push back when requesting information, that would not normally be required if undertaking a design and build contract. However, just as having the relevant experience necessary for the cost consultant/quantity to undertake an NRM2 BoQ, so too should the design team if the process is to be as efficient as possible and avoid delays in the process.

The experience and skill required by the cost consultant/quantity surveyor cannot be underestimated and although being perceived as a dying art in the UK, there are still numerous individuals in the Faithful+Gould business that possess the genuine experience and ability necessary to prepare robust documents that follow the NRM2 guidance.

The NRM2 is very similar to the previous standard followed in the UK being SMM7, however, there both are some vastly different and very subtle differences that require an in-depth knowledge of the guidance document.

As such, when clients are looking at undertaking a BoQ, genuine experience in NRM2 BoQ production is essential and this is where Faithful+Gould come into their own.

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