Quantity Surveyors: What do they do and why aren't more of them women?

Posted By

Cathal McKeever


The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) is a marvellous organisation, and I am proud to be a member. But if the Society has one failing, it has been the inability to communicate to school leavers what chartered surveyors do, in order to attract more people into the property business - and particularly women.


Despite advertising campaigns and much hard work, careers in property are not well understood by students. Specialities such as quantity surveying are even more of a mystery, so I sought out a female quantity surveyor to learn about her career.


Kim Hegarty is an associate director with Linesight. She was attracted to property because her father was a house builder and the dinnertime conversations were all about building.


Of the nine siblings, five are involved in construction. Indeed, this family connection is frequently the reason why many women work in the industry.


She has a "mathematical bent" and pursued a construction studies course in Carlow IT, and then a construction economics course in Waterford. She joined Bruce Shaw in 1991, "when there were only two or three women in the firm, finished her degree on a part-time basis and graduated from Bolton Street in 1993".


Chatting with Kim, I noticed that she used the term "construction management", which she explained is a US term which is creeping in here, partly because accountants, and other professionals involved in the business may not be legally entitled to describe themselves as quantity surveyors.


She told me that "the job always starts with the site". Clients approach the firm with an idea for a site, and often ask: 'What should I be paying for it?' Most large sites come to market with a feasibility study prepared by an architect, and she has to advise if that is the best use of the space and money. Earlier in her career, architects appointed the quantity surveyors, but now, she said, the clients often come directly to the quantity surveyor.


"It's critical to have a senior quantity surveyor in the room at an early stage, because that's when the key decisions are made. It's all about the project and the service we provide. We have to be the client's right-hand man. They come to us with any problem with the contractor or the programme," she said.


The quantity surveyor then prepares a full estimate of the cost of the development, before the planning application is submitted and the budget tested.


"Then you are into detailed design, which runs alongside the procurement route. You are always weighing up time, cost and quality," she explained.

"You get the greatest cost benefits for your client at tender time, with a final design, when you get a competitive edge. Changes afterwards cost money."

The quantity surveyor then reviews the tender documents, to make sure that they have been properly completed and once on site they manage the cost aspect of the construction process. This usually involves fortnightly meetings with the architects, engineers and other relevant parties.


The contractor submits a monthly application for payment, and the quantity surveyor inspects the works and approves the value of the work done.

The quantity surveyor also monitors the cash-flow aspects of the building programme and will cost variations and applications for extensions of time.


The penultimate task is to agree the final account with the contractor, and then, 12 months later, to release the final half of the 'retention' payment, once the contractor has completed 'snagging'.


Hegarty is enjoying a varied and successful career. Her first major project was managing a team of five quantity surveyors on the development of the IBM campus in Mulhuddart, Dublin 15. She worked on six residential schemes as part of the Ballymun Regeneration Scheme and acted on the development of the Valesco Building in Dublin - now occupied by Google.


While she is currently working on several office schemes in Dublin, she told me of a period she spent in Australia, where she worked on the development of the $200m Barangaroo Headland Park, overlooking Sydney Harbour.


She enthusiastically encourages students into surveying as a career and said that "there is no more of a glass ceiling than in any other business". She added that globally, 24pc of Linesight's professional staff are women, and it's 50pc in London.


Kim Hegarty does a great job of bringing quantity surveying to life. The SCSI, however, has lots of work to do in this regard. To put that in some perspective, of the 42 first year students in DIT Quantity Surveying, just two are women.


Source: https://www.independent.ie


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