Cumming employs a proven construction method to raise accountability and keep building costs under control

Construction Today

By Timothy O’Connor, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Building a major project such as a new corporate headquarters or a cutting-edge hospital requires the coordination of dozens of stakeholders, each of which has their own agenda. That’s a recipe that often leads to cost overruns, delays and dissatisfaction for the project owner. For many projects, it’s better to have an independent voice that can consolidate several disciplines and efficiently manage construction on behalf of the owner. On an increasing number of jobs, that role is being filled by quantity surveyors such as Wayne Selby, the regional managing director of the East Coast at Cumming, an international construction consultancy that focuses on cost and project management. Quantity surveying takes the functional roles of a project estimator, accountant, engineer and conscription lawyer and puts them into the body of one person who has experience in all four disciplines.

Traditional construction methodologies often include multiple people or companies who all have influence over the direction of a project. This increases the possibility of miscommunication, missed or unassigned responsibilities and even overall project failure. The multi-disciplinary expertise of a quantity surveyor, on the other hand, transfers all of a client’s risk and exposure to one person. “Project delivery is more robust and reliable through every phase when you have a single point of responsibility delivering all aspects of technical, legal and commercial risk around your project,” Selby says.

Although relatively new to the U.S. construction market, quantity surveying’s roots date back to the mid-17th century in Britain. Over the past four centuries, it has become a common component of successful construction management for most of the world outside the United States. “It’s something that’s practiced heavily internationally,” Selby says. Cumming box

U.S. companies are finally beginning to appreciate the advantages of this approach, and an increasing number of Cumming’s clients are requesting quantity surveying services as a way to better control project costs. They’ve seen the process deliver strong value and predictability on their foreign construction projects and want to replicate those results back home. Over the past three years, many large U.S. corporations have started requiring quantity surveying in their project RFPs; this shows a major shift from 10 years ago when the practice was mostly unknown domestically.

“That shows the pace at which these services are growing in the United States,” Selby says.

Investing in Quantity Surveying

Selby is among the early wave of leading quantity surveyors bringing their knowledge to the U.S. construction market. He came to the United States 12 years ago, first working with Gardiner & Theobald and later as the lead quantity surveyor for the East Coast at Turner & Townsend, a construction consultancy firm. After finding success at Turner & Townsend, Selby was recruited by Cumming in 2015 to operate in a similar role and to lead its San Francisco area office. “The overall directive for me when I joined the company was to really start rounding out the service line and expand our portfolio in the Bay Area,” he says.

In two years, the San Francisco team grew from seven to nearly 30 people. During this time, the team transformed its cost-related service offerings from pure estimating to full quantity surveying, which it now provides to many of the leading tech companies throughout Silicon Valley. Cumming was so pleased with Selby’s achievements that it relocated him to New York at the beginning of 2017, with a mission to replicate what he’d done in California for the company’s East Coast business. Today, Selby is responsible for seven East Coast offices and roughly 30 employees.

“I think the one thing that sets us apart is the progressive way that we approach our daily tasks and service delivery,” Selby says. “We’re not just taking the mold that’s set out for us by the market. We’re really trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible, to make sure we’re giving the best service to our clients.”

Cumming’s investment in Selby is representative of how the company sees quantity surveying as an important part of its future. In the three years since Selby joined the construction management firm, Cumming grew its quantity surveying and cost management group from 80 to 130 people. “We’ve got teams of people who are taking these unique practices, unique workflows and unique skillsets and impressing them on projects on a day-to-day basis,” Selby notes.

Adding Value

Having an independent voice overlooking every element of the project helps to reign in excessive spending and costly decision-making. Cumming is moving away from milestone preconstruction estimating toward a methodology that implements target value design. This approach enables the company to better hold designers accountable for the allowances that fall within their design, ensuring that they stay within agreed-upon price points. On the contractor side, it helps Cumming home in on procurement costs to ensure all costs remain in line with expectations. “We’re really trying to bring that down,” Selby says. “We’re trying to drive procurement to the values we set in preconstruction services.”

Cumming’s advantage is that it looks closely at local, regional and national market conditions to project pricing throughout the life of the project. If it’s working in a market where it knows there is a shortage of steelworkers, the company can anticipate a related increase in steel prices and nudge the client toward considering a more cost-effective material such as concrete.

“Where we’re really adding value to our clients, and where our clients have benefited from this, is we’re guiding their requirements through best practice processes,” Selby says. “We are taking the early elements of preconstruction and tying them into the procurement process to drive results. Too often people concentrate on the deliverables of preconstruction and forget that it’s the management of the process, and all things that influence it, that truly brings a successful project. This is what a quantity surveyor does.”

The other major benefit of Cumming’s approach is the comprehensive knowledge that quantity surveyors have of the project. Under the traditional building method, the client works with different personnel at every stage: first the preconstruction professionals, which are traditionally architects, then the contractors and each of the other individual stakeholders. But by combining quantity surveying with construction management, there is no handoff between the stages of Cumming’s projects. The same surveyor oversees everything, so when a change happens they have the history and knowledge of that project to understand where the change is coming from and to develop plans to mitigate risk.

Even for jobs that do not require a quantity surveyor and cost management, Cumming has begun to implement some of its methodologies into its everyday activities simply because they’ve proven so effective. “The beauty of it is that we’re delivering this at no extra cost to our clients,” Selby says.

The company is preparing to open more offices in the coming years, each of which will have a quantity surveyor like Selby. “The nature of our industry is that we’ve got to constantly keep improving, we’ve got to constantly keep delivering,” he says.

“The reason why we are one of the largest independently owned consultancies is because we’re aggressive and we adapt to change as we continuously grow.”

2018-04-02T15:51:13+00:00 April 2nd, 2018|East, International, News, West|