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Quantity Surveyor

Quantity Surveyors take care of the purse strings and legalities on huge projects.

If you like working with money, the this is a great job for you! The role of the Quantity Surveyor is very important in a construction project as you are responsible for analysing, managing (and minimising!) the costs of the building from its inception right through to its from the completion.

You need to be very organised and methodical as you would be managing budgets and ensuring that the projects meets legal and quality standards. You may also be involved in preparing tender and contract documents and creating profitability reports, and also allocating work and arranging payments to subcontractors.

Find out more about a career in Quantity Surveying >

Story of a real Quantity Surveyor

Where it all started…

I always had an interest in Technology and how things were made – the mechanics of things fascinated me and I was always dismantling things. Probably where it all started really was at Oxclose School in Washington.  I enjoyed Technology, didn’t really understand Physics or high end Maths – this was always a mystery to me despite doing A levels in them!

Unemployment was really high in Washington in the late 80s – most of my mates were on Job Seekers allowance or working in the Nissan car plant.  I never really knew what to do with myself, so I stayed on to the Sixth form to do A levels in Physics, Maths and Design & Technology.  Didn’t really fancy it, but the choices were between that or bolting doors to cars!

My A levels didn’t go so well, apart from the Technology one – so decided to join the Royal Navy like my father as University was unattainable and unaffordable.  We didn’t go to University in my family – you got a job and grafted.  I was offered Communications, and it seemed to be the most ‘techy’ job on offer at the time so I jumped at it.

A couple of years later, I became an Aircraft Controller  – close co-ordination, real time warfare using awesome kit. Six years passed quickly and I began to realise that this was not a long term thing for me and decided to leave. The ability to deliver Stingray torpedoes to target wasn’t really useful in the outside world so I took a chance – my dad had been an Engineer in the Royal Navy and when he left, he had found a career in Building Services.

I figured that I could take the same route – buildings and systems fascinated me, but those A levels came back to bite me.  No Maths or Physics A levels or even a Marine Engineering background – how could I become an Engineer without A levels in Maths and Physics?

Building on Experience

I decided to do a bit of research – the Royal Navy had a careers service for resettlement, so I went and looked.  Surveying jumped out at me – in particular Quantity Surveying.  I get to work on all types of projects, in every aspect of construction – but don’t need to be an engineer with A levels?  Perfect.

The degree was still a problem though.  I rang round the Universities and discovered that as a mature student I didn’t need the A levels for entry.  Northumbria University was happy to help me – the admissions interview was good, the military prepared me well for formal situations.  QS’s deal in ‘real’ maths – percentages, areas, volumes, trigonometry, not the abstract maths formulae I hated in Physics.

Contract law, commercial negotiations, building technology – practical stuff I could understand and do.  This was it.

I did my sandwich year with Turner & Townsend in the Newcastle office – good people and projects.  My confidence grew, and I took an offer from Carillion to finish my degree on day release.  My military training came in handy, I understood data systems installations and ship mechanical and electrical systems.  This translated well – I moved to Crown House Technologies as a commercial manager dealing with complex M&E installations in Hospitals.

Projects and People

A chance conversation led me back to Turner & Townsend – this time I got to apply myself in both quantity surveying and project management.  BIM popped up now – Crown House were leaders in 3D design, and electronic measurement was relatively new so I started learning again.  I became a chartered surveyor.

Over the next few years I got to work on many different projects, including working alongside Roma Agrawal on the feature bridge at Northumbria University as Cost and Risk Manager – spanning six lanes of motorway and a rail track!

I delivered supermarkets, data centres, schools, even the largest bio-ethanol plant in Europe as a cost manager, managing risk and assuring value as part of the client team.

After Vivergo, I accepted a position teaching Quantity Surveying at Northumbria University, determined to give others the same chance I had – and quickly realising that BIM was the way forward. My research time was spent with the BIM Academy developing the tools and techniques for QS’s in a BIM environment.

Another chance conversation led me back to Turner & Townsend.  This time I am using BIM on a company wide scale with clients such as Shell, BP and Morrisons – helping clients to get the most out of BIM. I use technology, apply my knowledge and manage complex construction projects – not bad for someone who isn’t an Engineer!

Think like an Engineer…

What all this rambling is leading to is that there is always a route, always a way to get to what you want to do.  Sometimes you have to take a gamble, mind.  I now have a career that takes me all over the world, with good people alongside me, delivering the best in engineering and construction in some of the most challenging environments.  I’m not an Engineer – but I have to think like one and understand what they do every day.

I still get to dismantle things to see how they work, just like when I was little – difference is I do it with BIM now, then get to help the teams putting it all together for real!

Career Pathways - Quantity Surveyor

Dave Monswhite

BSc(Hons) PGCert MRICS

Associate Director
Data and Systems

Turner & Townsend
Cost Management

Over the next few years I got to work on many different projects, including working alongside Roma Agrawal on the feature bridge at Northumbria University as Cost and Risk Manager – spanning six lanes of motorway and a rail track!

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