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#019 Day in the life of a QS (pre-contract) 🕛

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Hello folks 👋🏽

I was at a family wedding recently and I had a few kids asking me what I do for work. If I think about it, when I was in school I had no idea what a QS was. It’s a shame because as a career it would probably suit a number of my friends who went on to other fields.

I’ve had a look at my APC diary and tried to pull out some of the work I was involved in when I was doing mainly pre-contract work. By pre-contract work, I mainly mean estimating!

Estimating is an attempt to predict the potential costs associated with a project as accurately as possible. When you work with experienced estimators it’s fascinating how closely they get to predict the costs of work. This will be evident when you have a look at the tenders and how close they come to the estimates!

Without further ado let’s have a look at one of my days as a QS working on pre-contract projects.

7:30am-9am - APC Studying

During COVID I had some extra time due to the glorious lack of no commute! I spent this time in the morning making notes on specific competencies and trying to learn more about specific activities that I had not yet worked on (at this point it was mainly understanding the process of undertaking valuations.

9am - 10am - Prep meeting with supervisor

Normally we would start the day with a preparation meeting with the person in charge of the project. This would generally be the senior QS or the project director. I was working on a mega-project which meant that the entire job was broken down into packages and allocated to teams. I was working on one of the packages supporting the senior surveyor with measurement and pricing. The senior surveyor would usually prepare a take-off list based on the latest design drawings issued by the client. This take-off list would then be distributed to myself and other QS’s who were supporting that package.

10am - 12:30pm - MEASUREMENT

This time would usually be spent measuring up whatever the Senior QS had allocated to me. The software we were using at the time was CostX. It was good because it was open and transparent - i.e. the senior could always have a look at what we were measuring even if they were not in the office. The other benefit of CostX was that we could link our measurement into the estimate. This worked well because as the measurement was updated the estimate would update automatically.

12:30pm - 1:30pm - LUNCH

1:30pm - 3pm - DESIGN MEETING

I would often have to attend meetings with the design team in order to clarify certain points of the design. Throughout the entire measurement process, a query sheet was populated. This query sheet would form part of our assumptions register. During the early stages of a construction project, a number of assumptions are made about the nature of the final asset. In the early stages, some information is not known. This may refer to ground conditions or the specification of certain works.

The meetings generally go quite well, we ask for clarification and the designers respond. If they can’t respond straight away they usually get back to us within a few days.

3pm - 5:30pm - MEASUREMENT and PRICING

This time is usually spent finishing off any of the measurements required from the morning. I also supported the pricing of work. When pricing construction work you’re usually dealing with four sources of information. You have 1. IN HOUSE information which is essentially your firm’s database of cost information. If you can’t find the prices in here I usually go 2. Direct to Potential Suppliers. This generally only works for really specific items e.g. for the hire of a certain plant or the design and construction of bespoke roofing elements. This may differ when you’ve got a framework of suppliers who readily can provide you quotes for certain works - but we will cover this in the post-contract post!. Other sources of information I have used include 3. PRICING BOOKS like SPONS or 4. BCIS which gives you benchmark rates for certain activities.

Once I get these rates I have to adjust the base date to ensure it’s in line with the estimate, and I also have to adjust for location.


When working on estimates the above is a pretty common day in the life. You might have the odd day where you are doing a site visit to have a look at the proposed project area which may give you additional information to incorporate into your estimate! It's also not uncommon to work later than half 5 ... This generally happens when the designer issues last-minute drawings which need to be measured and priced up for the following day!

My biggest advice to QSs involved in pre-contract estimating is to try and get experience at measuring as many elements as possible. Use the NRM as a guidebook and tick off the elements as you’ve learnt to measure them. Also, if you are stuck and can’t picture how certain things are constructed, YouTube is your best friend!

If you have any questions on the above please let me know!

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