Road Surfacing and Quantity Surveyors

Quantity Surveyors (QS) are professionals working within the construction industry.

A Quantity Surveyor manages all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures. Surveyors seek to minimise the costs of a project and enhance value for money, while still achieving the required standards and quality. Many of these are specified by statutory building regulations, which surveyors need to understand and adhere to.

The professionals services carried out by Quantity Surveyors have traditionally included the planning of costs, management of projects from start to completion together with risk analysis and assessment.

The construction industry is a very broad canvas and a great responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the QS in providing accurate and reliable cost assessments for project funding and control.

This article concentrates on a specific sector of the construction industry and focuses on the factors a QS has to take into account in relation to road surfacing.

Road surfacing – a brief introduction

Having well-maintained road surfaces with good skidding resistance delays the need for major structural maintenance and reduces high maintenance costs. Quantity Surveyors have to look at the considerable range and amount of surface treatments available as well as the variables such as road type, location and volume, speed of traffic, labour and time estimates to ensure the best quality is sourced at the best cost.

Whilst road surfaces and pavements are made to be durable enough to sustain vehicular or foot traffic, surface deterioration will eventually happen, generally due to fatigue. It has been suggested that heavily loaded trucks can do more than 10,000 times the damage done by a normal passenger car.

Other reasons for road deterioration include aging and surface abrasion, as years go by the wearing course of the upper layer of the road becomes less flexible, and once the road is old enough the surface starts to lose its aggregates, leading to the dramatic increase of macrotexture depth. If maintenance isn't arranged quickly at this stage then potholing takes place. However if the road is structurally sound a bituminous surface treatment can prolong the life of the road at a lower cost by restoring the waterproof surface of the road and preventing water seeping into the base layers where it can freeze and swell, which also causes potholes.

Pavements are designed for an expected service life or design life. Generally in the UK the standard design life is 40 years for new bitumen and concrete pavement. When a pavement lasts longer than its intended life then it may have been overbuilt and the original costs may have been too high. When a pavement fails before its intended design life, then the owner may be looking at excessive repair and rehabilitation costs.

Research by University College of London into pavements has led to the development of an indoor, artificial pavement of 80 square metres at the research centre, Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA). It is used to simulate everyday activities from pavement users to pavement conditions in order to ascertain durability.

Road surfacing and Health & Safety

One incredibly important role a Quantity Surveyor has to analyse is the health and safety of the procedure to ensure the protection of those working on the project. Competence and safety on road surfacing projects is vital as working on the road network can be hazardous, therefore requiring good working practice to ensure the risk of the workers and drivers are reduced.

Road surfacing and sustainability

With ever growing traffic weight and volume, as well as shrinking highway budgets our roads are under increasing pressure to ensure sustainability. Solutions that enable roads to last longer without the need for reconstruction are also called for as a result of local government sustainability agendas.

Another disadvantage is the ongoing and expensive natural resources needed to reconstruct roads, suggesting that repair and renewal is the way forward.

There is a whole range of advanced surface treatments now available that can significantly lengthen the service life of roads by restoring skid resistance, filling pot holes and sealing pavements. As mentioned before, early intervention with these treatments can substantially reduce the frequency of structural reconstruction.

Advantages of surface dressing

  • Provides good resistance to skidding
  • Prevents water from seeping into road foundation and weakening it, reduces chances of potholes developing and the need for complete road restructure
  • Up to four times cheaper than other methods of restoring road surfaces
  • Traffic can be allowed to run on the new surface almost immediately, avoiding lengthy closures and disruption
  • Speed in which it can be laid reduces delay to traffic

Disadvantages of surface dressing

  • Drivers need to travel very slowly on the newly laid surface to prevent chippings from being dislodged
  • Short life

Inconsiderate drivers travelling at speed can cause chippings to be thrown up, damaging other vehicles and property.

What a Quantity Surveyor needs to look for in a road surfacing contractor

Probably the most important thing for road surfacing contractors to grasp is the understanding that Quantity Surveyors are driven by cost, service and quality.

It shouldn't really need spelling out but very basic steps taken by road surfacing contractors will really help out QS's. These steps include:

  • Submitting quotes in a timely fashion – preferably an easy to read document that addresses the requirements.
  • Providing clear and concise terms and conditions – a one page document preferably
  • Ensuring reliability – the QS's nightmare is contractors not showing up (believe it or not it happens!) or contractors not returning to complete remedial work
  • A quality road surfacing contractor will give assistance with the all important risk assessment work for a potentially hazardous environment
  • Most QS's appreciate contractors that have professional, uniformed staff that can work alongside others

7 Quantity Surveyor factoids

  1. First reference to QS is claimed to be in the bible: Luke 14:28 which says "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower, will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it".
  2. Profession developed in 17th century during London's restoration after the Great Fire of 1666
  3. 3Before 1666 English craftsmen were paid by the day, but due to the large amount of labour needed to reconstruct the City of London after the fire, it was decided that each craftsmen be paid for the "quantity" of his trades work – QS arose from this humble beginning
  4. One of the earliest QSs was Sir Henry Arthur Hunt who was involved in work after a fire in the Palace of Westminster
  5. During the 19th century the quantity surveying profession became widely recognised as a specialised trade
  6. The professional institution with most English speaking QSs is UK based RICS
  7. RICS has 9 core values: to act with integrity, always being honest, be open and transparent in any dealings, be accountable for all actions made, know and act within your limitations, be objective at all times, treat others with respect, set a good example and have the courage to make a stand.