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Piers Brown

Piers Brown on the quality of quantities

By Piers Brown

Senior Quantity Surveyor, PBA Construction Consultants

Finding his foundations for Quantity Surveying 25 years ago, Piers Brown has developed the classic QS skills he learned in the 90s to become the USP of his own practice today.

With a suite of experience in Quantity Surveying accumulated from working for the likes of Linden Homes, Willmott Dixon and Kier, Piers now has his own specialist QS business excelling in the measurement aspect of quantity surveying and the calculations of construction.

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Your business specialises in the measurement elements of quantity surveying; what prompted you to focus on that niche?

We specialise in providing a document called the Bill of Quantities which is basically scheduling out and quantifying all the materials and labour required to build a project that then gets sent out to contractors for them to price as part of their tenders.

These are skills that I was taught back in the 90s. There aren’t many Quantity Surveyors that do this anymore; a lot is done on second drawings and left up to the contractors. Not many have the experience in how to measure properly using the standard method of measurement brought out by the RICS as a very specific way of measuring work to standard descriptions. For example, brickwork is measured in metres squared and concrete is measured metres cubed, but not many people know how to use it anymore. Measurement is my USP.

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"Trying to manage projects and manage client expectations are probably the biggest challenges in construction at the moment"

What are the biggest challenges for the construction sector right now?

The biggest challenge is the supply of materials. With Brexit, the crisis in Ukraine and everything else happening in the world, the supply of materials is dropping out. You now have to wait 4 weeks for concrete which used to be available within a week; roof tiles have gone from 6-8 weeks to 25 weeks. It’s causing a big issue with programmes and getting projects built to budget and on time. During COVID a lot of factories stopped manufacturing materials and they’re still playing catch up.

If it takes longer to build a programme, it’s always going to be more expensive because you’re going to have site managers for longer periods of time and you’re going to be on site for a long time and they’ll cost money in your prelims.

With lead-in times going up, prices are going up which is obviously causing problems with projects being built on budget, and making sure projects are built on budget is the main focus of a Quantity Surveyor. Trying to manage projects and manage client expectations are probably the biggest challenges in construction at the moment.

You’ve been in the business since the 90s; what have been the major changes that you’ve seen?

Everything used to be hard copy drawings that you would measure from. I obviously work from a computer screen now; everything is measured on the screen and straight into a computer package. Technology has played a big factor, it’s a great benefit because it saves a lot of time and money for the clients. I’m always trying to embrace technology and BIM and all these different things to get a better product for the client.

The industry is always evolving, there are new products coming out all the time that I’m looking into on behalf of clients. Solar street lights are a current example, enabling local authorities to be more sustainable and save money on the electricity for street light costs.

"Not many have the experience in how to measure properly using the standard method of measurement brought out by the RICS as a very specific way of measuring work to standard descriptions."

Piers Brown - Senior Quantity Surveyor, PBA Construction Consultants

How do you keep your finger on the pulse with what’s going on within the industry?

I’m a member of the RICS and they do a lot of CPD seminars. I keep my professional development up and do a certain number of hours of CPD every year.

I also read trade literature like Building Magazine and I do research online. I do my own investigations and talk to people to find out about developments within the industry.

If you could work on any dream project, what would it be?

Getting involved in a football stadium would be a dream project. Outside of work, football has always been my passion. I played to quite a decent level when I was younger and had to retire quite early due to injury so now I’m involved with coaching.

Who inspired you at a young age?

My aspiration has always been to build a business like my uncle had: he got me into Quantity Surveying. My uncle had a very successful Quantity Surveying practice in Birmingham. I aspire to build my business as he had; he worked with a lot of very good clients and he had a wide-ranging client base. My recent experience is in house building and that’s where many of my clients are at the moment; he did things like hotels, housing, schools and colleges and that’s really what I aspire to build in time. He’s definitely the inspiration.