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Bridging the gap between the Architect and the QS on a project

by Judy Abi Rustom
Quantity Surveyor
DG Jones And Partners Bahrain

There is a sense of reluctance among architects to trust that cost consultants can bring anything positive to a project. Quantity surveyors are perceived by designers as building accountants who have no understanding, or sympathy for architecture. This deeply rooted perception comes from the segregation of tasks in the construction process whereby the QS always comes after the design is set. This prejudice can only be changed by insisting on an integrative design approach and establishing the quantity surveyor as a key player in the design process early on.

Generally, designs start out great, and more often than not, the cost performance is increased at the expense of the project’s integrity, concept, and quality. 

Designers have the sensibility and technical knowledge necessary to understand that the key to the project’s success is its concept, quality, and functionality but usually have difficulty in balancing creativity and cost. Architects need to remember that the financial scope is as important, design-related, and valid as any other variable and has a major impact on the design feasibility, and should never be left for last. 

Mostly, the project process seems to be linear, the project is designed, then sent over to the cost consultant at various stages for cost assessment, only to find that the design is over budget and that design and budget cuts need to be made to meet the client’s financial requirements. This generally results in less than optimal results, with design integrity and intent being jeopardized because by this point time is running out and the main focus is shifted to the budget rather than the design. This linear process proves to be problematic and generates missed opportunities as well as additional work for both the architect and quantity surveyor. Rushed redesigning and last-minute adjustments and amendments to the project financials, often repeatedly, is time-consuming, creates unnecessary frustration between architects and quantity surveyors, and leads to a lower quality of outcomes. 

An alternative approach would be for the architect and quantity surveyor to work closely together from the predesign phase. The integrative approach produces much better outcomes, eliminating the linear process's downfalls, and creating a much better relationship with the architectural profession. The relationship should have mutual respect and an open mind should be kept from both sides, with neither party undermining the role of the other.

This integration also results in the client having a very realistic idea of the investment intrinsic to what he is trying to achieve throughout and in each phase of his project, resulting in very consistent projects without any major budget deviations, avoiding the lengthy revisions that have to be made to meet the client’s budget.
Architects and quantity surveyors truly working together also means that quantity surveyors must learn to take the time to understand the architect’s viewpoint, and what they are aiming to achieve. It is important for quantity surveyors to identify the essence of the project and ensure that whatever constraints to budget or time, they should work on retaining that vision, and this can only be done in real collaboration with the design team.

Good design should not necessarily be more expensive, but it will be unless quantity surveyors understand the architect’s intentions on a project.
It is important that architects and engineers realize the value of cost professionals and their know-how and understand that they should be participants and key assets in the development of the project’s design, contradicting the usual stereotype in which projects should only be designed by engineers and architects. It is equally important for quantity surveyors to understand the architectural value and vision of the projects in which they are involved and work on preserving that vision while managing the financial aspect. 

Bridging this gap is the specialization of some engineers and architects in cost consultancy, integrating both disciplines and encouraging the process in which designers and cost consultants work collaboratively in conceptualizing, developing, and delivering a project.