Modular Housing – a Threat to the Quantity Surveyor role on Housing Projects?

15th November, 2020

We published this article last week about the increased requirement for modular construction to end the current UK housing crisis. Click the below link to view this article:

We wanted to create another article focusing on the impact and changes this would make to the Quantity Surveyor role on housing projects and would this diminish their role at all?

What would this mean for the Quantity Surveyor? 

Like any change in construction method or process, this is going to impact and change the roles and responsibilities of every stakeholder and design team member on the project, not just the Quantity Surveyor.

In terms of Quantity Surveyors, the introduction of more modular housing is likely to negatively impact a QS working on the housebuilders team, rather than a client side QS.

One of the Quantity Surveyor’s main roles on traditional housing projects is the measurement and pricing of materials for the house’s pre-contract. These houses will now be constructed in a factory on a repeated basis using standard quantities per house type, reducing the requirement for a Quantity Surveyor to be involved in the Pre-Contract phase of measuring off plans, repeatedly pricing projects etc. 

This would also reduce their requirement in the Post-Contract phase with the duration of projects reducing and the installation of the pre-fabricated house effectively becoming a tick box exercise when it comes to monthly valuations. There will be virtually no on-site variations to account for and the snagging of pre-fabricated houses is very limited due to the factory processes involved. The only snags that would be likely to occur on-site would involve things breaking in transport etc.

Will this spell the end of Quantity Surveyors on housing projects?

The Quantity Surveyor role has repeatedly been going extinct for much of the last 20 years, with BIM and other technological advancements meaning they are becoming surplus to requirements (NOT!). This has been the line from Architects and the like over the past two decades as their high tech BIM models are capable of exporting quantities at the click of a button, doing a Quantity Surveyors job for them and making them surplus to requirements, right? Another article for another time…… Back to prefabricated housing.

In reality, the Quantity Surveyors role will change on housing projects of this nature in some ways. I have personally been involved in pre-fabricated housing with a couple of the industry leading businesses within the modular housing field, they still very much need a Quantity Surveyors expertise to establish an initial Bill of Materials at the outset of the factory process to facilitate the ordering of raw materials etc. They also rely on the knowledge of materials and costs from a Quantity Surveyor to help them deliver their homes to as a high standard as possible for as little money as possible. This is the fundamental reason why a Quantity Surveyor will never go extinct on construction projects, Money is always the most important factor on a project, particularly in the development of housing. Some aspects of pre-fabricated housing projects remain exactly the same for the Quantity Surveyor as a traditional project; they will still need to measure, procure and price the Groundworks contract for the houses comprising drainage, siteworks and foundations for the houses. Thankfully, we aren’t at the stage yet where you can dig foundations and drainage channels in a factory and important these to site!

The Quantity Surveyor will also continue to play an integral role on these projects around the implementation and administration of the construct contracts, handling payments and delivering cost advice to clients. 

The biggest concern for the UK construction industry with pre-fabricated housing isn’t for UK Quantity Surveyors. UK House Builders face the biggest threat to their existence as many of these pre-fabricated houses are timber framed and imported from countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as they are extremely cheap. The previous article linked within this piece gives details on how UK Housebuilders and the UK Government could potential adapt and ensure the protection of UK construction jobs.

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