In any property or construction project, the biggest concern is often cost: predicting it, planning for it and monitoring it along the way. Prendos Cost Consultancy Manager Craig Irons tells us how a professional quantity surveyor can help, and why he loves what he does.
As Cost Consultancy Manager at Prendos, Craig looks after a team of quantity surveyors who work with clients to manage their project costs. Originally from South Africa, Craig graduated from the University of Pretoria with an Honours degree in Construction Management. However, he says he was always drawn to the cost side of construction.
“After graduating in 2004, I moved to London and found there was a real demand for quantity surveyors. I started working for a medium sized construction company in a dual project management/cost management role. I’d always enjoyed the cost and contractual elements of the industry, so it fitted well with my skillset.”
Craig’s next role was as a Junior Quantity Surveyor with Henry Riley. While there, he progressed through the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) programme to become a chartered, professional quantity surveyor (MRICS).
“Being a competent professional quantity surveyor (PQS) requires a real mix of skills,” Craig explains. “You obviously have to be fairly good with numbers, but you also need to be detailed and consistent – especially when it comes to reviewing values and figures, and have a good understanding of various building methods and materials. Having a basic knowledge of the construction industry in which you are operating and being contractually savvy also helps – you need to understand your contracts, particularly the ones you work with on a daily basis. It’s also important to be ethical and professional.”
Craig moved back to South Africa in 2010 and spent the next nine years working for a number of large consultancies in Johannesburg and Pretoria, including AECOM, RLB Pentad and Henry Riley Construction Consultants. Then, in 2019, he and his family made the move to New Zealand, joining Prendos as a Senior Quantity Surveyor before moving into the role of Cost Consultancy Manager in January 2020.
“The South African construction industry is facing significant risks and challenges at the moment, and the opportunities just weren’t what we were looking for any longer. At Prendos I was able to secure a role in the profession I love, at a company that supports the growth of the cost management and QS industry in New Zealand.”
The Benefits of Using a PQS
Craig says that, when compared to the UK and South African industries, Quantity Surveying is relatively new in New Zealand. This means there’s sometimes an element of education required to explain the benefits and services a quantity surveyor can bring to the table.
“People often ask why they should spend money on a quantity surveyor when the architect or contractor can manage the project costs. The reality is that it’s simply not their strength. You wouldn’t give a QS the brief to design a house, so equally you shouldn’t expect an architect or a contractor to manage costs on the client side.”
A professional quantity surveyor, when engaged at the right time, can make a real difference to a project. As Craig explains, this is because they have the specific skills and knowledge required to fully manage a project’s end-to-end costs, mitigate contractual cost risk and avoid incorrect contractor claims.
“Ideally, a PQS should be brought in at the concept stage of a project. This allows us to help the client through the design process – offering cost advice and ensuring they understand what their design will cost them right from the start.
“It’s also where we can assist with value engineering. We take an architect’s initial design and complete a high-level cost analysis to give the client an immediate view of whether the design fits their budget or not. If not, we work with the architect and client to recommend product replacements or design changes that will help bring the project into a favourable budget position.”
Once the contract is underway, a QS can manage ongoing costs, ensuring each stage is running within budget and that any cost variations are managed correctly.
“Our forte is being able to offer a client cost certainty during each stage of the contract,” says Craig. “We can help with putting the contract together, tendering the contract and then managing the financial side of the project throughout the duration. We have a clear understanding of what is in the tender and what the contractor should have allowed for, so we can make sure there are no cost surprises.
“We also understand the contractual side of the project, which can be helpful in navigating the often complex world of construction contracts. As quantity surveyors we are there to assist both the client and the contractor in making the correct contractual decisions, ensuring risk is evenly spread between both parties.”
As a multi-disciplinary consultancy, Prendos provides quantity surveying both as part of a wider offering or as a stand-alone service for external architects and other clients requiring cost management. Either way, Craig says, the team brings a wealth of project experience to the market and adheres to the highest levels of professionalism and impartiality.
“Quantity surveying is an important part of the construction process, and one which is often overlooked by clients. When we’re brought onto the project at the right time and able to operate as an active part of the overall team, the benefits will be noticeable to all parties. The ‘make or break’ of a project very often lies in its cost, and we believe every client needs to understand that as early on in the design process as possible.”