Chartered Surveyors & the Construction Industry
In the UK, chartered surveyors are professionals with many varied roles across a wide variety of industries and specialisations. Essentially, all chartered surveyors are members of RICS; the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, based in London SW1, and are entitled use the suffix MRICS or FRICS [Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors]. To the public in general, the chartered surveyor is someone who works in the construction industry, and indeed the majority are specialists in building, property management and similar fields. However, many other areas require the services of a chartered surveyor, including fine art and antiques, mineral surveying and auctioneering.
Within the construction and property fields, chartered surveyors are involved in performing surveys for homebuyers, valuations for mortgage companies, full surveys of buildings, consultancy on construction developments, as well as land surveys, management of estates and various other areas relating to land and property. Chartered surveyors tend to specialise within these fields, and frequently form professional partnerships with those working in different areas within the same industry.
RICS & Construction Contracts
Construction contracts are at the heart of every building project undertaken in the UK, and are designed to be legally binding agreements between the building owner [developer] and the contractor(s) who will be performing the work. Labour costs, the supply of labour for the project, costs and supply of materials, and the time frame for the completion of the project are all covered in the contract, as are the specifications, design plans, and agreements regarding any potential changes during the build.
The RICS is closely involved with construction contracts, and issues both statements that outline best practice guidelines for surveyors, and mandatory practice statements that cover all aspects of the varied roles of chartered surveyors during construction projects. These roles include not just building and quantity surveyors, but also valuers and project managers. Many of the mandatory and advisory statements produced by RICS relate to the role of chartered surveyors with regard to construction contracts, and RICS members are required to follow them.
Building contracts in the UK fall into a variety of subcategories. Some of the most common are as follows:
• International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC)
• Public Procurement Contract 2000 (PPC 2000)
• The Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT)
• New Engineering Contract (NEC)
Chartered surveyors working on building projects are therefore called on to deal not only with contract administration, but also with areas of project management that can include material and labour costs, initial planning and feasibility studies (including site surveying and legal issues), site and building safety, preventing and resolving any disputes that may arise, and building control.
Contract administration is critical to the successful completion of a construction project, and chartered surveyors have an important role to play. As well as overseeing the fulfilment of the agreed contract, and being involved in its termination, issues arising before the contract is agreed can include insurance for both the contractor and the project owner, warranties and guarantees, and adequate provision to cover any potential time overruns, payment difficulties, and defective work. The role of surveyors in relation to building contracts can include working with and managing the use of non-standard contracts, as well as those outlined above.
The Role of the Employer’s Agent
On a design and build contract a chartered surveyor will often be engaged as an Employer’s Agent, a role which can vary greatly depending on the specific needs of the client or the project itself. The role can also be affected by the amount of time which is available, but essentially the Employer’s Agent acts for the client on any matters relating to the construction contract. Typical projects in which an Employer’s Agent might be engaged include large commercial or public property building contracts. RICS provides guidelines explaining the full range of services and activities which may be undertaken by the Employer’s Agent.
These will often include, but are not limited to, picking or recommending contractors following the creation and agreement of the client’s brief; ensuring that sustainability goals are achieved; advising on adherence to CDM or Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, updated recently with new legal duties for clients, designers and contractors amongst others; and the planning and management of costs and risks. Analysing tenders from contractors is also an important part of the role, and running meetings and ensuring smooth progress on the site itself are frequently involved.
The Role of the Project Manager
Project Managers have a key role in construction projects, which includes responsibility for overseeing the successful progress of the build, from the initial planning stage to completion. A good PM will be able to spot and resolve issues and problems before they arise, partly by having the breadth of specialised knowledge necessary for asking the right questions. Conflict and dispute resolution will require good diplomatic skills.
At the heart of the Project Manager’s role is good communication. In order for a project to be completed within the allotted time scale and budget, while satisfying the original brief, a PM needs to think several moves ahead. It’s essential, for example, for the PM to ensure that the design has been fully understood by everyone working on the project, that the client understands the cost implications of the work they have requested, and that the contractors are fully conversant with both the client’s requirements and the legal requirements involved. These can, and do change, and can frequently affect the success of a build. The creation of clear guidelines understood by everyone involved on the project is the first responsibility of a PM; making sure those guidelines are adhered to is equally important.
Targets must be set that allow for cost, time scale and safety concerns to be met. Those targets must be agreed by both client and contractor, but the PM must also be able to maintain the good working relationship between them in the event that unforeseen circumstances – for example, a rise in the cost of materials or labour, or revised legal duties – arise during the lifetime of the project.
Finally, the communication skills of the PM will be vital in producing progress reports as the project runs. These reports will include monitoring the completion of various parts of the build, as well as ensuring that costs are in line with the budget.