Archive for the 'QS' Category

CSA’s – They’re a waste of time!

The government, and most of the private sector too, is very committed to reducing costs in the construction process. The thing is most of the effort, quite rightly, focuses on site performance and delivery. But has anyone looked recently at the estimating and pre-tender stage? And in particular the amount of time the estimating teams put in to following some ridiculous CSA documents.

Here’s a few recent examples of ones I’ve come across and the first one gave me the reason to write this.

Example 1

Contractor sends the usual information by email, attached are some innocuous looking attachments labelled as section 2, section 3 etc.

Open the section 2 document and it’s a schedule for that part of the contract works (the project is in phases, and by the way it’s a school refurbishment project), so far so good.

Start reading

Room G01, stripping out items, several of them over 3 pages, that’s a lot of items for a small room. Keep reading…..Room G02, stripping out items, several of them over 2 pages, that’s a lot of items. Keep reading…..Room G03, stripping out items, several of them over 3 pages, this is getting repetitive now. Keep reading……….Room G04, more of the same………..


100 pages later I’ve reached the end of the stripping out section!

Now start all over again for the re-instatement works, room-by-room element in detail by element in detail until we get to page 224.

The END.

For section 2!

Then we have a repeat for sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. A whopping 945 pages long!

The brief for the contractor price every single item in full on the CSA please otherwise we won’t consider your tender.

Our brief measure every single item out in the CSA in full in that order.

Now I’m all for keeping busy and working hard, but this is just beyond me as to why someone would want this…………….unless of course you have

a) a lazy consultant qs who cannot produce a cost plan in the first place for his client, and is therefore using the tender document from the contractors to work out what the client can afford or,

b) a consultant qs who quite simply does not comprehend the inordinate amount of work and effort required by the contractor to price such a document, or

c) please insert your own answer here

Example 2

Same story, contractor sends the usual information via a portal website this time, result much the same. Innocent looking information arrives. 5 sites this time in separate locations. Need I say more. Please price the same scope of works (all houses and flats of very similar nature) 5 times over please keeping the costs for all sites separate.

Example 3

I think you get the gist…………I could go on


The thing is how does the supply chain react when receiving such documents?

We all know the answer to that, as we aren’t exactly quiet right now are we?



Some things never change…


Some things never change do they?

I was just looking back at some old postings and re-read with interest my thoughts on
‘time to tender’, and I really can’t believe that nothing much has changed, or has it…..

Probably, as back then I was referring mainly to cds and dvds.

Now they are a thing of the past too and its all shared files/folders and portals.

Was it only 5 years ago that I made those comments?

The thing is despite everyone’s best endeavours (like that phrase – well the legal boys do) we are still in much the same place. Well us on the receiving end of what is churned out by professional design teams that is.

You see there still is no standard way in which information is distributed, filed or catalogued on any project, let alone two projects that might even be the same!

Why can we not get our act together and issue things in a sensible and logical fashion?

Everytime I receive a link to a download I click to get the information wondering how long its going to take me to understand what I’ve been sent, let alone what might be missing.

Will BIM give us some form of structure, will the professional bodies get together and put some order to things. I just don’t see it………….. I’d just better get on with it I suppose and deal with……………it’s just that it’s such a waste of time and resource, and that’s what irks me!

If you’ve time take a look at the Government Construction Strategy document for 2011 that I referred to, and then look at the 2016 version. Apparently we are now going to make 33% savings as opposed to 20% savings!



Two stage tendering with a twist

Here’s a variation on a theme for two stage tenders………..

How many have you been used to the traditional way of two stage tendering, simply price the prelims and give a percentage for profit and overheads.

Two stage tendering

Well maybe no more.

How many of you have seen this, or variations on this of late? Two stage tender, first stage is for the usual priced aspects of prelims, overheads and the like but now here’s the twist….

A large element of the project is to be priced and fixed at the first stage.

Other elements are to be budget costs, although in reality a design does exist and is provided with the tender documents.

I’ve seen this twice in the last month having never seen this before.

What do you think to this, a good way forward?

Is this the start of clients being able to avoid getting the run around after months of negotiations with a contractor only to find their budget has been blown?

Or is it something Contractors will shun viewing it as a risk not worth entertaining in the current economic climate for them?

Oh and by the way it’s a design and build project too, but you guessed that anyway.

I’m back

Well it’s been a long while but I’m ready to start to write again, apologies for the delay. It feels like I’ve had a long period of writers block!

What’s happened since I was away?

Well I joined the corporate world to work at Driver Project Services and what a great experience that was. There are some good people at Driver and I wish them every success for the future. The thing is the corporate world just isn’t for me.

So here I am on my own starting out again and wondering what to write about, and my minds gone blank, or vacant, or just rusty…………however some things never change do they? Or is it just me getting old……..probably, I hear you say.

But here are the themes I’ve heard from some of the senior people that I’ve met in the recent years:

  1. Why don’t they teach measurement anymore?
  2. Why don’t they teach measurement?
  3. Why?

Then theres…….

  1. Why aren’t there any good qs’s anymore
  2. Why aren’t there any good qs’s
  3. Why?

Followed by……..

  1. Why do we rush to start things half baked?
  2. Why do we rush?
  3. Why?

Lots of Why’s and not much action by anyone to do too much about it I hear you say. True. And we are guilty of that.

So what to do?

I don’t have the magic answer it’s been a series of small incremental changes to get to where we are now. Is it for the best? Us old folks don’t think so much. But younger folks think what’s all the fuss about, move with the times, use the technology, be brave, be adventurous, be collaborative, embrace technology and……………….be BIM


Better stop there, don’t get me talking yet about BIM and what I’ve seen and heard of what’s happening in the real world with this………I’ll save that for later!

Bye for now, more another week……………………….

The Cash Flow is Your Friend

Ah, the power of social media! This week I have a guest post from Stuart Petrie-Tootell, who approached me on Twitter after reading my blog! You can follow Stuart on Twitter here and read his own blog here.

Stuart is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, and has spent the last 10 years working in the Consulting side of the business. He has spent the last 3 years working in the United Arab Emirates, mostly on projects in the property sector. During his free time he has his hands pretty full with looking after his three children and enjoying all that the UAE has to offer; beaches, malls and 4×4 driving in the desert.


We’ve all seen the standard shallow “S” curve, the one you find located somewhere at the back of your monthly cost report, and if you’re lucky you receive an “updated” cash flow with each contractors payment application, which shows a variance so wide between “forecast” and “actual” that you would be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at the spend profile of two different projects. Sound familiar?

It shouldn’t be like this, in my view the cash flow forecast should be the most important tool in the PQS’s kitbag and should be looked at with the same level of scrutiny and frequency as a Project Manager does with the programme, after all – isn’t this what it is based on? Too many times I have received a contractor’s cash flow, which comprises a single line item; construction works, and when challenged on how it is built up you get a feeble “it’s just based on a standard “s” curve”. Not good enough guys, as this is the barometer for performance.

These days with pretty much every contractor and probably most sub-contractors having access to software such as Primavera and the like, there shouldn’t be any reason why a project programme can’t be resource and/or cost loaded. Then, it should only be a matter of a few clicks and a nice bit of wizardry in your spread sheet to produce a nice curve, ok so it may be a typical “S” curve – but at least now there is some detail behind it that you can get into and interrogate and you should be confident that the two documents; programme and cash flow are actually talking the same language.

Detail is another key…..I’m not saying we need a cash flow that details right down to every last screw, but let’s at least have the cash flow broken down into the same level of “elemental” or “works package” detail that the programme is; in fact let’s make it a key deliverable under the Contract, detail the requirements in the preliminaries and make it an item for the pre-start meeting agenda.

What I want is not so much a “cash out” schedule, making allowances for payment duration times, retention deductions, advance payment recovery etc (although I acknowledge how useful this is for the Client trying to work out his bank draw down requirements etc), what I want is a tool where I can sit down with the PM, Construction Manager, Architect and say “look guys, in 3 months time we’re due to spend $m on floor finishes; has the “equal or approved” stone type been selected? Has the sample mock-up been signed off? Have we resolved the RFI over screed thickness?”, or “we start to spend on internal doors next month, it’s half way through this month, so why can’t I see any door materials on site? Are you having supplier procurement issues?” etc etc, you get the picture.

Very quickly you can see that it moves away from being something that gets updated once a month when the valuation has been agreed just to show you just how much you missed the months spend target by, to a tool where you as the PQS or PM can actually have a pro-active involvement in steering the Contractor towards the common end goal. Sure, there can be a few difficult details to work out, like; do variations get put below the line or loaded back in to the elements/trades – my view is that it depends on the extent of the scope of the variation – whether a figure has been agreed and an idea of timescale has been considered prior to the VO being signed off, but the main focus is on being able to manage the base contract works.

So to wrap up, the cash flow forecast is something that you should be looking at on a weekly, if not daily basis. Get in there with the Contractor’s QS, find out whether all approvals have been obtained, find out whether orders have been placed, and be looking 3 months ahead to what is going to be needed to complete the project. It is something that sadly some of my PQS colleagues in the past have been less than enthusiastic to embrace – believing that programme and progress is purely the territory of the PM….. (just wait to see the Contract Managers reaction in the next progress meeting when he’s telling you all that the design, procurement, deliveries and physical progress are all in tip-top shape and then you pull out your cash flow which shows things differently!).

Made in Taipan?

Photo courtesy of pdphoto (it's not a real picture of a Taipan though)

Well it’s the Grand National weekend and I was looking at the names of the horses and thinking do I place a bet on a horse? So what are some of the names I could place a bet on …. Character Building??? Niche Market??? Or how about Tricky Trickster??? But then Made in Taipan caught my eye with odds of 309-1. A Taipan apparently being a venomous snake found in Australia: Oh the joys of the internet, Wikipedia and Google, where would we be without them? But who thinks up these names? There are never really that memorable are they? Okay well apart from Red Rum, Nijinsky, Desert Orchid but there aren’t that many others. Sounds like I know a bit about horse racing… but I don’t, I think I’ve got more chance with the lottery this weekend.

Speaking of a lottery, I’ve recently come across several subcontractors not being able to get their retention monies on previous past completed projects. The trouble they are finding is that Main Contractors are not giving them the relevant information about the facts of the project. Has a making good defects certificate been issued? Is there a latent defect? Is another subcontractor holding up things? Or is the design team and end client just frustrating everyone in the process? Hard to tell somedays, one things is for sure cash is still king, and if you’ve got it keep it seems to be the order of the day. Oh the joys of the contracting world… Perhaps I shouldn’t have that bet or maybe what about Black Apalachi, seem good odds…

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About Me

I’m now the Managing Director of Mynott Associates Limited my own specialist measurement business. I’ve been in the industry all of my life since I left school. My first job was with Bovis Construction as a management trainee where I trained to become a quantity surveyor. I’ve worked for contractors all through my career, I am FRICS, FCIOB and MCIHT qualified and act as an RICS assessor. I’m also a keen Arsenal supporter having followed them from a young boy

For more information, please click on my photo.

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